The day I met Julia Jacklin, she’d committed some major faux pas’. First, she’d failed to wear her signature white trainers; I was expecting some inspiration about how to appear ‘edgy and chic’ while sporting white Reeboks, because I’ve tried it, and I can’t not look like a grandma returning to a punk phase. Second, she was in double tartan, DOUBLE! But it wasn’t horrendous; actually the opposite – it only enhanced her charm.
I suppose this fearlessness is a product of her return from Europe, where the 26 year old folk singer-songwriter toured her debut album ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’, her first headline circuit overseas. Although initially intended as a classic heartbreak record, the album doesn’t quite smack you hard in the chest as much as it niggles quietly around the edges of your heart, creeping up on the bits that hold the memories. Sepia-toned nostalgia consumes you by track three ‘Coming of Age’, so by track seven’s, ‘L.A Dream’, you’re sorting through photos of your high school bangs and reading the letters your first boyfriend would hide under your windscreen wipers while you were at work.
“I feel very different about getting older depending on the day, and depending about how everyone in my life is doing. I think that there’s times when I feel super fine and I’m where I want to be right now. But then one moment you’re lying in bed and you can’t breathe…if I hang out with the older people in my life I just get very worried that they won’t be around.”
But what’s more enchanting than Jacklin’s wistful hand in thrusting you back in time, is the way she can capture these feelings in relatable quips that sound like she’s singing from your own night-time journal.
“It’s all definitely my own experiences for sure…I didn’t feel like it was a problem before, but when you’re playing those songs every night you do kind of feel like ‘Whoa, I’m just laying it out there.’
“I think I wrote better songs when I was myself and I could write better rather than trying to make up stories and try and hide things behind flowery metaphors.”
Her lyrics are anecdotal but direct, and make it clear that the sound of poetry doesn’t have to be full of ornamental imagery and inspired embellishments. One line of particular magic, and will likely be re-written in the page margins for years to come, is from the title track ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’ which goes: “We’re gonna keep on getting older, it’s gonna keep on feeling strange.”
“It’s funny when you’re younger you think that you’re the only person who thinks about that and then you realise, everybody does.”
Couple this lyrical vicariousness (Jacklin said she probably thought of that line in the shower) with her voice of enduring strength and you’ve found yourself an artist who will struggle to go out of fashion, no matter how old she gets. Inspired by Princess of Pop Britney Spears at age 10, Jacklin urged her Mum to enrol her in singing lessons, and classical lessons were the only ones around the Blue Mountains in NSW where she grew up.
“I think I have a better voice because of it. The biggest thing is just knowing my voice quite well so I don’t ruin it and now that I tour all the time and I’m playing every single night, I know how to look after it and I know when not to push it.
I know now that doing training like that you just get to really know your voice and what it needs and when to pull back, which is so valuable. I’ve been pretty lucky these last couple of months because I haven’t lost my voice.”
Despite listing the admirable Fiona Apple, Doris Day, Lenny Cohen and Gillian Welch among her chief musical influences, Jacklin – like all artists of great ambition – inevitably went on to perform pop covers in a band in her late teens and early twenties.
“Avril Lavigne and Good Charlotte I thought were very cool. They were, like, punk and then I realised that they were definitely not actual punk, but I think that was just a good avenue for me to just get into performing because I was young and it was easy and I definitely sung Alicia Keyes at talent contests.”
And we don’t hate you for it, Jules, because where would you be if you hadn’t, huh? Probably not supporting Marlon Williams, or performing at global high profile festivals like SXSW or The Great Escape, I’d say. Certainly not midway through a ridiculously extensive world tour, no?
“It was my first time having real sing alongs to like songs other than ‘Pool Party’ off the record that I was so shocked that people knew the words to and it was very surreal,” Julia said of her recent shows in Europe and the UK, to which she wasn’t sure if many people would actually come.
“It was my first headline tour over there and I was really scared about it…but it was just great pretty much everywhere we went.”
“I got through those really bad nerves as a teenager doing classical singing and in my early twenties when I did early gigs. But smaller gigs are just way more terrifying than massive crowds, it’s so much more ‘there’ and you can see their faces and you feel a lot more pressure in between songs to be engaging and funny and make it an intimate space, where as with a festival you’re just there to entertain and hope the sound works. It’s almost like less pressure.”
Pressure or not, Jacklin certainly has a knack for something, racking up a string of nominations in the APRA Awards, FBi Awards and J Awards for her debut record last year. Hell, Rolling Stone magazine marked her as their “Future Is Now” artist last year, and with an air of ‘wisdom-beyond-her-years’, I can see why.
“I think one of the things that can hold you back is to wait around until you think you’re good enough to start doing things. I used to say “Ahh no I can’t record an album yet because I’m not a good enough guitar player to record guitar so I’ll just like do heaps of scales and just practice and practice and practice.” But I was also working two jobs and I was at university (studying social work) so then that was just completely unrealistic to try and then dedicate myself to hours of guitar,” Jacklin said.
“I think for me it was just more important to just get something done before I’m 25 than for it to be just perfect, because it’s just never gonna be that.”
But as for being the leading lady in an industry with a penchant for labelling women labels as either chill ‘cool girls’ or overbearing fusspots, Jacklin pretty much has it nailed.
“I’ve just learnt recently that it’s really important – and it’s really hard and it takes a long time –to make sure you are like very strong with people about what you want and not be scared that people are going to think you’re like a diva or being bossy because that’s just classic what happens with women, we don’t want to make a fuss.
“But the people that don’t like that, you don’t want to hang around people like that, so who cares if some people push back.”
Not I, for one, Julia. Not I.