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Interview: Julia Jacklin Talks With Nadia Reid

Interview: Julia Jacklin Talks With Nadia Reid

Annabel Kean / Tuesday 21st January, 2020 11:20AM

Melbourne pop-folk songwriter Julia Jacklin once again takes the stage at Auckland's Laneway Festival this year, a welcome return since she was last here in 2019 touring her delectable sophomore album Crushing. After a massive release year packed with tours and video drops, Jacklin's had a well deserved rest and is ready to kick off a summer of Australia shows and festivals with her Tāmaki Makaurau Laneway 2020 appearance this Monday. Fellow folk star Nadia Reid, whose highly-anticipated album Out Of My Province is out this March, kindly took up the task of quizzing Jacklin about her journey as a songwriter and where she sees her relationship with music heading in the future...

Julia Jacklin 
Monday 27th January - Laneway Festival 2020, Auckland

Nadia Reid
Friday 6th March - Blue Smoke, Christchurch
Saturday 7th March - Wallace Arts Trust, Auckland
Sunday 8th March - Wallace Arts Trust, Auckland
Thursday 12th March - Shed 6, Wellington

Nadia Reid:  I sort of just dived into your record yesterday and today, I’m really enjoying it and now I’m humming along. It’s so good. I thought of some things to ask that I would like to be asked, and I was reflecting on the last time — when you were in Lyttelton making your first record with Ben Edwards and we played that show together and I guess I’m interested in, other than the obvious, what has changed from then to now?

Julia Jacklin: Well, I guess I feel like I don’t recognise that person from Lyttelton. I have a lot of love and I feel a lot of tenderness for that person, but I feel like such a different person, because when I was there I didn’t see myself as a musician yet, you know? I just saw myself as a person who works some casual jobs and is studying and is trying really hard to make an album. I’ve never really listened to my first album because — it was a beautiful time, but I was so wrapt with self-doubt. My ability to say what I wanted was really squished. I kind of knew what I wanted but I didn’t know how to communicate it when I was still in that really timid stage, worried if I said something wrong I’d be laughed at. Whereas I’m completely different now, making my second record was completely different in that I realised — I think when I was in New Zealand I thought I didn’t have any value. I always felt like I was the least — which is so crazy because I was the person making the record, it was my songs that were the reason we were all there. But I was like “I’m the least talented person in the room, and everyone else is kind of doing me this favour.”

I can relate to that a lot. For me, I always felt like I was in the back seat and I was happy to just let people drive the car. Do you think it has something to do with gender? Do you think it’s personality?

I think it’s just a horrible big mix of all of that. I think it was definitely about gender, in ways that I didn’t fully understand yet, and I had experiences where I broached the subject that my feelings were based on being treated differently because of my gender, and I was hit back with “don’t be ridiculous”. Whereas now, I know I was 100% right, I just didn’t have the confidence to stand my ground and trust my instincts. I think it was that, and I think it was just not having great people around me at the time and then I think it was also this mentality I had that I didn’t feel like a very good guitarist, or I wasn’t technically good enough, I didn’t really care what amps I was using, I just had songs and a voice and I thought that wasn’t a valuable enough contribution in the studio. I thought I needed to enter that space with all of my knowledge already, I wasn’t seeing it as a learning space. Whereas now I see it as a learning space and I see that other people have strengths that I don’t have and you’re all there to help each other and you’re all useful, important.

So you made that record in Lyttelton, did you have any idea what was going to happen in terms of your trajectory?

No, I don’t think so. I made the record there because I love the first Aldous Harding record and then I started to listen to your first record and then Marlon recorded there, it became this musical mecca I guess, in my head. I remember getting a lot of push back from my friends and stuff at home because — no one was making albums unless they had things set in place, like management and labels or whatever. Everyone at home was just making singles and EPs and thinking that if you kept putting out little bits you’d get a bite from like “The Industry.” That’s when you would throw a lot of money into a hat and you’d make the big step of making the album. But I was like, “na, I’m just gonna work really hard and make enough money to make an album,” because I had this body of work and I just wanted to have it anyway, I wanted to make [in Lyttelton] because it felt like this place I needed to go to. It was all very naive and just romantic in my head, and I remember people being, I dunno, being a bit embarrassed for me, like “yeah cool, go and spend all that money on making a record when you don’t have anyone interested in you”. I didn’t really see it like that. I was like, this is just something I want to have, I want to print it, and I want to have it in my house.

Where do you think that drive comes from? For you was it this internal drive?

Yeah I think — if I have to say something I really like about myself is that I’ve always been like that. I’ve always been very blindingly ambitious. Not even ambitious, just had my head down and do the work regardless of what it is. I was like that in school. I didn’t do amazingly in school but I really enjoyed creating things and having them in my hands, whatever it was. I think with the album, I just couldn’t imagine this process of just drip feeding my creativity onto the internet, and hoping it would eventually — I was like “no no no.” I have this feeling and I just need it to be a physically reality as soon as possible otherwise I’m going to just die. [laughs]

You made album two while you were coming into your own as an artist, and you quit your day jobs, in the space of two or three years. And so you wrote on the road mainly for the second record. What’s your relationship with creativity? How do you keep creative?

Hmm. Well after I finished my first album I then didn’t write another song for about a year and a half, maybe two years and that was awful because I was like “oh, maybe I’m not a songwriter”.

[Laughs] It’s gone!

I was on the road and I was playing all these shows, just thinking I’m eventually gonna have to let everyone know that that was all I had in me. I felt like I was this cabaret performer, performing this version of myself that wasn’t actually real anymore. I think that once I stopped getting so caught up in who I had become, that’s when I started writing again, does that make sense? Once I started having regular human feelings again that were just based off being a human being and not just being this “up-and-coming singer/songwriter from Australia.” Because I would get this feeling like “oh, what would I write?” and I’d write something and be like “that’s not me, that’s not Julia Jacklin the songwriter.” I was constantly getting confused about my own identity. It wasn’t until I’d been on the road a long time and that early excitement and confusion of getting a bit of notice started to fade off, I started to just come back down into who I am as an everyday person. I started to go through things that I needed to process, and I started writing songs purely because I was like, "I just need to process these things, and I've been listening to records and oh my gosh I love songwriting."

Do you find — I remember the first couple of times someone said "you're amazing," you feel it. But do you ever get the sense that you’re feeling numb to it? I don't think as humans we're designed to be told we're so great all the time.

Absolutely, I think it's the most unnatural, damaging thing. You need to be really vigilant with recognising that it's starting to affect you. Because it does, it has this really horrible feeling, it builds you up to this unnatural level, and because it builds you up, you then panic that it's all a lie. Then you crash down. It's not natural to spend six weeks, every single night, getting on a literal raised platform and have people yelling that they love you and cheering at you, just because you're singing a song. That's crazy.

The comedown from that is something that needs to be navigated carefully.

Really carefully. I could never talk about it. I felt like if I said anything about how crazy it is and weird, I would feel I was bragging about the existence of it — I just couldn't talk about it in a nuanced way. It's really nice now to have friends, we can joke about it and I can talk to them about how incredible it can feel, then I can also say how ridiculous it is without feeling I'm ungrateful for saying that. Because sometimes people do come up to you and say "oh my god that was so amazing, you've really helped me" and I don't feel anything. It's not because that's not a beautiful sentiment, it's just because I've been doing it for weeks on end and I'm exhausted, and my capacity to give and take human emotions eventually is gonna hit the wall. I cannot take in or give any more, on that particular night. It's hard to say that without sounding like you're this cold, unfeeling person, because there's this person pouring their heart out to you. Not that I don't appreciate and care, but any normal person will hit a capacity for that kind of stuff, you have to.

What's your band dynamic? Have you kept the same band?

I have an Australian band and a Canadian band, which I really like, having two bands. I've played with both the bands for probably three years now. It's a different band from my first album. It's wonderful, they're all wonderful, caring people who I can completely lose the plot with. We all love and care about us deeply, in a way that you can have bad days and it's okay. A lot of talking, a lot of kindness. So grateful for that.

You've formed this little universe, right? Are you touring in buses?

We're just in vans.

It's a wonderfully intimate and beautiful thing and then on the other side — I remember one of my bandmates was like "I don't know how I can go from adoring you to wishing I could never see you again, in a day." It's so intense. How long do you think you're going to be a musician? Are you in it for the long haul?

I think I'll always be a musician, but I don't know in what capacity. I'm very interested in creativity and I've been kind of getting into writing and other forms in the last year and a half. I think right now it's so funny, you kind of finish a huge year and everyone's like "what next?" I think I just need literally six months to even process what just happened. I do sometimes have to check myself and pull myself back, from planning and figuring things out and trying to impose new goals on myself. I'm trying to do the opposite of that, at least for the first part of the year.

Just be. It's so nice to talk to you and I hope I get to see you again. I'm about to start that wheel again.

Please reach out.

Thanks I will, when I'm having a meltdown in the middle of Oslo or something [laughs].

'Crushing' is out now via Liberation Records. provides a free service to New Zealand musicians in need of support.


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Nadia Reid
Fri 6th Mar
Cassels Blue Smoke, Christchurch
Nadia Reid
Sat 7th Mar
Pah Homestead, Auckland
Nadia Reid
Sun 8th Mar
Pah Homestead, Auckland
Nadia Reid
Thu 12th Mar
Shed 6, Wellington