Julia Jacklin: Crushing It
It’s been three years since your last record, and you're about to release your new album Crushing on February 22. Do you think this is a new Julia Jacklin era, or is it a continuation from the last album?
I don’t know. I don’t know how other people will see it. For me, it’s like, completely new.
Yeah, I’m just very different. I’ve just grown up a lot I think.
What’s changed since then?
Well, the last one I made, you know, I wasn’t a musician, really. I mean, I played music, but it wasn’t what I did for a living. I had never really been on tour before. It was all very fresh and green, whereas this one has come after touring for three years, and my whole life has totally changed.
You’ve been all around the world touring. What was your first tour like?
The first I did I was opening for Marlon Williams, a New Zealand artist, and it was okay. I don’t know. It was like six weeks in a van with a bunch of guys, and I was—it was my first experience touring. They gave me a bit of a hard time, kind of like—
Hazing the newbie.
Yeah, hazing the newbie. So, I didn’t have the greatest time. I love those guys but you know, it’s just like, I get it now. When you first start touring, you just have no idea how it works, and you have to kind of learn whilst doing.
The first three songs on the new album deal really physically with—I wouldn’t say body issues exactly, but just like seeing your body, and seeing how other people see your body. Did that come from a real experience? Is “Body” about a nude, or was I reading that into it?
Just the last line,.
It struck a chord with because I’ve had that experience where I’m like, ‘Please, please delete that picture. Delete it now.’
The song made me think about whenever women are shamed for sending naked photos, or whenever, you know, some celebrity gets their phone hacked, like Jennifer Lawrence, and it’s just laughable to me that that’s criticized—as if everybody hasn’t had something similar happen. Well, not everybody, but we live in a world where the way we communicate with each other is through images, and when you’re young—not even when you’re young, but especially when you’re young and you’re in love, it’s so beautiful how much you trust people, and how much you feel that you’re safe, and that you want to give people everything you have because it’s so beautiful to be in love. So, when that’s weaponized against people after the fact, it’s just sad and ridiculous. As if a lot of the dudes that are slut shaming Jennifer Lawrence haven’t received pictures themselves, or sent dick pics. Like, come off it.
And as if our senators aren’t doing the same thing.
Yeah, it’s just so annoying. So, I think that represents a lot of the record in a way of not just being in a relationship, but just how much you give to somebody, and especially if you mix that with a hectic touring schedule or whatever, it’s just like, ‘Where are we? What is yours anymore? What’s left for you when all your space is gone constantly?’ Also, the world I live in as well, it’s like you’re always going from small, shared hotel rooms, to small venues that are packed, to like small vans, and there’s never really—
Yeah, and I love meeting fans after shows, I love talking with people, but definitely the way that I am interacted with, compared to my male bandmates—it’s different. Just the way people want to hug you, and touch you, and kiss you on the face, and all of these things that just start to get into your head. Like, how much do I have to give people of myself before, you know? I want to give people things, but even just being on stage and singing about your life is giving a whole lot. So, over the last few years it’s just been me being like, ‘Where are my boundaries? How can I set them? How can I stand up and enforce them? How can I deal with any backlash that comes at me for enforcing them?’ It requires a lot of strength to ask for what you need and to deal with pushback.
Do you see your music as political in some way now?
No. I find that any time someone who isn’t a white guy sings about their life it’s labeled political, and I try not to read internet comments and stuff, but I have noticed some comments under my music recently saying like, ‘Oh, here we go, Julia’s gone political’ and it’s like, ‘What?’ I mean, yes, I am a feminist, and of course I care about these things, but why is me just singing about my life political, when it’s always been about that? Folk music, singer-songwriter music is about sharing your experience. So, if you want to label it political, sure. That’s definitely not my intention. I didn’t sit down and think, ‘I’m going to make a statement. This is my statement album.’ I never want to be preachy with my music. It’s just me singing about things I’ve gone through, and if people are interested, cool.
You have some amazing tracks on the new record. It’s such an evolution from the last. I love “Good Guy,” in particular—that’s my favorite song on the album. Can you tell me a little bit about what inspired it?
A lot of the record is songs about reclaiming myself or standing up for myself, or as I said, kind of trying to process the idea of drawing boundaries. But then it feels like these days you kind of have to be like this strong person all the time. And if you contradict yourself by just one night being like, ‘Actually I don’t really care about drawing boundaries, I just want to go and be held by someone, and even if they don’t really care about me, I just want to pretend like they do, because it’s gonna make me feel better in the moment, then that’s what I’ll do.’ I know it’s probably not good for me, but I’m only human. So, I think that song is just about how exhausting it can be when you are just trying to be one version of yourself, when you’re just trying to be strong and independent—like, I don’t need anybody and I’m working out my shit, and it’s great.
But then you just want to be the little spoon sometimes.
Yeah, and then sometimes you just want to be like, ‘I actually just really want to be looked after and I want to be cared for.’ Even if, you know, that’s not playing into this narrative that I’m trying to build for myself right now and I’m projecting out there in the world. “Pressure to Party” is also about when you go through something like a breakup—it’s like nobody knows what they’re doing, everybody's got conflicting advice. At the end of the day, it just feels terrible and you just have to wait until you stop feeling as bad. And if you have to, whatever you have to do, just do it. You know, don’t be a shitty person, but it’s just so easy to dish out advice to people based off your own experiences, and that’s just not always going to work for somebody else.
Has it been hard to have a romantic life while starting to become a popular artist?
I think it definitely adds a different element to it, which I’ve been a bit wary of. You just sometimes maybe question people’s—
Yeah, or I’ve noticed—and I’m not really famous at all—but I’ve noticed that even at my level of slight profile, that people are a lot nicer to me than they used to be. I used to have to work a little bit harder for people to just be accepting and warm. So, now sometimes when people are immediately really friendly to me, I’m a bit like, ‘Why are you being so nice?’ Because I definitely didn’t experience that for the first part of my life. I spent a lot of my teens and early twenties feeling like the most awkward person in the room, wishing that I had more friends. So, suddenly, when people latch onto you very quickly, it’s kind of like, ‘Hmmm.’ But then it’s shitty, because sometimes people are just really nice. I don’t know, it’s just something you’ve gotta get used to, I guess.
You told me that your videos aren’t necessarily narrative, but do you think your albums have a narrative through-line? Or is it—well, I’m always reading a protagonist or something into it, but I don’t know if you would see it that way.
Yeah, I mean, they were all just from my perspective. I don’t know. I think the themes, to me, always kind of appear after the fact—after I make it. I don’t think there’s much intention in the beginning. To me, it was just like, ‘These are the songs I’ve written over the last year.’ They all ended up having a theme because that was my life for a year. But listening back, I realized that I said the word body in the first five songs. So, it wasn’t an intentional theme or anything, but you can learn a lot about yourself.
‘Crushing’ is out now.