The songs that made Julia Jacklin
March 9th 2023
- Julia Jacklin :: Out of the Box with Mia Hull
Julia Jacklin spent some time standing alone outside the station before her interview on Out of the Box. She’s instantly recognisable. A mid length denim dress and work boots. Long, red hair kissing the sun. She could be from a different time.
I watched another person approach her. They were wide eyed and oozing sincerity – hands moving through the air as if to describe the height and breadth of the emotions they’d felt listening to Julia’s music. I couldn’t hear them, but I knew exactly what was being said. Something about how the music connects, how she’s an artist who can make unique experiences feel universal, how it’s music for happy times, tough times, and tender moments. Julia Jacklin gets it.
Her third record PRE-PLEASURE dropped last year. For the first time in her musical career, Julia stepped away from the guitar and wrote at her keyboard, nestled in an apartment in Montreal with walls covered in butcher paper, sprawling with lyrics and ideas. It’s a quintessential Julia Jacklin album; filled with private moments we’ve all shared. And in many ways, it mirrored the interview she gave on Out of the Box: an earnest and intimate look at the defining pieces of her story. Both drew on Julia’s relationship with her parents, religion, her friendships, and her life’s great loves.
PRE-PLEASURE also differs from Julia’s previous albums in the effort it took to bring it to life.
“I felt like it was the first time I really had to like go to work. The other two records maybe came from a bit more of an organic, natural place, whereas this record was very much like, ‘Ok, we have to do this, we have to show up and make songs.’”
This moment stuck out to me. I thought about the times I’d laboured over a creative task because it didn’t flow from my fingertips, and I thought about how in those moments, my belief in my work lost its footing.
“I think that’s always been my fear too and I think it’s a creative fear that we all have. Like if we try hard, we’re going to make bad stuff. I don’t know where that comes from because I think we also want our artists to not work hard. We’re always taken by stories of people who wrote a hit in five minutes. We want our artist to be full passion and we’re driven by this desperate desire to make art. And it doesn’t come from a place of work.”
This isn’t to suggest Julia’s debut, Don’t Let the Kids Win, was a walk in the park. As someone navigating the music industry at that scale for the first time, she struggled.
“My first album tours were really… That was probably my least favourite part of being a musician. Absolutely. That was by far the worst bit. Because you go from having a local community support, and suddenly that kind of dropped away. And I was just really scared of not living up to whatever hype had surrounded me. Even though it wasn’t even that much. It just felt like a lot of pressure”
“Also you do get a sense of just how disposable you are once you kind of step into the industry. I felt this immense pressure of like, ‘If I don’t live up to this, if I don’t do a good job, there’s like a thousand people who can.’”
The song ‘Motherland’ is on that album. It begins with Julia casually strumming an electric guitar and crooning lyrics about nostalgia and homesickness. It’s a gentle song. Julia called it “a nice song and it’s super chill.” She also said that on her first album tour, it was the song she feared the most.
“I just became really scared of performing live. Really terrified of it. And Motherland was just, for whatever reason, the one song where my brain would just freak out. I think because that was the song I’d had my first panic attack on stage during, so it was almost like my kryptonite or something. I just thought like if I play, I’m going to have another panic attack. So I kind of avoided playing that song for years.”
Julia said it took about three years to mentally recover from her first tour, and she feared the challenges she’d faced would follow her to her acclaimed sophomore record Crushing. They didn’t.
Crushing was simultaneously more surefooted and vulnerable than Don’t Let the Kids Win. Julia attributed this to a shift in the recording process.The goalposts moved, and where her first album sought to capture the perfect sound, her second caught the perfect emotion. We heard it, we loved it, and we connected to it deeply.
“Young people talk to me about this record and how much it made them want to make music. And write songs and I get tagged a lot in young people playing these songs in their band sets and that is just so cool for that to have that kind of effect. Because some of the songs I picked today, they were those songs for me, and they were so important to me. So the idea that any of my songs have the same effect on people… It just makes you feel like, not to be cheesy, but that your life has meaning. Even if that’s all my life amounts to, that’s enough and that’s really cool.”
In our chat, we walked through some of the defining moments in Julia’s life, including the radio stardom she reached at six years old, her classical music training, growing up in the Blue Mountains, a one-way ticket to Bath in the pursuit of love, the evolution of Phantastic Ferniture and the importance of open mics in Julia’s early career. We also talked through the songs that soundtracked those moments, including Avril Lavigne’s ‘I’m With You’.
“If I’m being truly honest about the songs that kind of changed me and made me, especially musically… This song was huge… It definitely wasn’t a time where being a girl felt like a cool thing to be and I think that she just kind of just made it seem like it was cool to be a girl and to also play music.”
Even though our interview, the songs she picked, and even the reflections on PRE-PLEASURE look back across her life, Julia Jacklin is an artist with her eyes set squarely ahead. 12 years and three albums deep, she said her future feels more exciting than her past. Even though “we all love that stuff. I love it too. The actual work stories aren’t as romantic I guess.”
“I am at a really good place and I feel like I finally understand music now. And it took me a really long time. I feel a bit relaxed about it. And I don’t feel as much in the spotlight. Once people have made three albums, the pressures off a bit. I don’t feel like I have to prove myself as much anymore. And I’m just excited to music. For the first time in years… It took me a long time to not feel scared about it, and I just feel really relaxed.”
But if you want to hear more of the the early stuff (plus the late stuff (and everything in between)), you can listen back to our full interview up top. You can also stream PRE-PLEASURE here: