On Friday, Jillian Jacqueline released her brand new album – Honestly. Here, we interview Jillian on release day about the album, its importance, the evolution of the record and just what it means to her. Stream Honestly now here.
Congratulations on release day! How are you feeling? It must just feel overwhelming emotional and all the things.
All of the things. It’s been a long time coming and a lot of pent up excitement.
I can imagine. You’ve got a child now and this is different – this is the first full length album. You’ve done releases before, but this must just feel another layer of special and meaningful and all the things.
Yeah, well, especially because it’s really the first album, the full eleven tracks. I’ve never gotten to do that before. I mean, we spent so much more time on this than I’ve spent on any music that I’ve ever made and there’s just so many people involved that have worked really hard – my husband and my best friend included, it’s not just mine, it’s all of ours. It feels like this very collective excitement.
I do think that must be very special. You obviously created the record in the weird pandemic time when we all were locked up. Do you think that it would have been the record it was, if that hadn’t happened? Do you think you would have consciously kind of gone away and had that moment to create the record? Do you think that was just like, a kind of a product of the time?
I think you’re absolutely right – everything that we went through in the last three years, massively influenced where the record is today. There’s this whole long story that, you know, we have yet to kind of talk about, but Brian and Topher and I had half the record done. Then, when the pandemic happened, we basically just scrapped everything and started over, so we had all this time. I think there’s something to be said for having the luxury of time. If it had been a normal year, and we were touring and writing, I probably would have just started putting things out and not really made it what I wanted it to be. Full disclosure, I was listening to the record this morning in the kitchen and I don’t know if I had actually listened to the entire thing front to back like that. I was so overcome with like, ‘wow, I think we made something that transcended what I had hoped for it’. I really wanted to make a record that people would listen to all the way through and it feels like one sonic thought.
I mean, I’ve always loved your music, but it was amazing to listen and delve into your world a little bit more. With the full length project, it feels very intimate and I know that there’s a lot of songs on there that you performed back in your London show a few years ago, I remember ‘The Ocean.’ From that show til now so much has happened in your life and so much has changed, so do you feel the meaning of those songs has changed as well?
Not necessarily. What I really value about the fact that I did play them three years ago, is it feels like a return to probably what people did in the 60s and 70s, artists that were heavily touring and then making records and they made like one record every five years. It is your time to really vet the songs and also to let them breathe in different iterations. The way I played ‘The Ocean’ when I was playing it back in London in 2018, or whatever year it was, is absolutely different than the way it is recorded. that’s because we had so much time to really sit with it. I think meaning-wise they just had time to take on more meaning in a way, because making this record has been a very unique challenge, I wouldn’t necessarily advise it. What’s really powerful is, as we were going through some challenging trying times, and having a baby as a whole other layer into marriage, I had these songs that I was working on, and they were really good reminders of the fact that I’m with my person.
‘Honeymoon’ is that on the tin. Obviously some of the songs you have had for an extensive amount of time, but I can imagine there were a few that were created during this time where you weren’t able to get that immediate response. Do you feel that there were some songs that snuck in that were almost more personal to you because you hadn’t tried them out and you hadn’t had people coming up to your shows afterwards and going ‘oh, that song meant so much to me’. It’s kind of like a leap of faith.
Oh, that’s such a cool way to put it. I love that. Yeah, ‘Hummingbird’ and ‘Honeymoon’ are definitely those songs for me where I really didn’t let anyone hear them. It felt purely selfish – this is something that I believe in and I don’t really care if anyone else gets it. Those songs are maybe a little bit less down the middle country than a lot of stuff. I didn’t worry, I just knew they spoke to me on a very personal level. ‘Hummingbird’ feels like the most introspective and self-reflective song on the record, and then ‘Honeymoon’ is that beautiful closing moment.
You know, you’re going to listen to that at some point in your life and it’s going to have changed in meaning.
Oh my God, I know, because it almost can speak to just phases in life too. It doesn’t even have to be a partner or love necessarily. Last night, when I was doing this Instagram Live, I was holding my baby – and I recorded the vocal when I was holding him and thought ‘this song is about my baby now’ I love when songs can be interpreted to mean whatever you need them to mean.
I guess that’s the magic of music. At the beginning of ‘Iconic’ you have this tiny whisper of Paris in the background. Can you talk about that story?
Yeah, well, I have to say my husband is a particularly romantic guy. He definitely thinks about the most grandiose movie moment things. I love that about him. He’s just as much of an artist as I am. When we were in Paris, we were playing some shows – this was in 2018. We were in Paris for one night. The day of the show, we’re driving around Paris during the day, and I had no idea we were gonna get engaged that night. He pulled out his phone in a cab that morning, and he started recording on his phone – I don’t know what he’s doing. He’s recording the sounds of the city. Fast forward to midnight, we got engaged under the Eiffel Tower – so clichè, but you’ve got to indulge the cliche right. Almost two years later, we were working on the record. One day, he was in the studio, and he called me and he said, ‘Hey, I want to play something for you. I’m working on ‘Iconic.’ I sat down, and then he presses start and I’m hearing the city sounds from the day we got engaged – he had kept the voice memo on his phone for two years and thought it’d be the perfect intro to the song. I’m bawling. It’s a piece of our life and a piece of our story, in the track that will forever be immortalised and how beautiful to be reminded of that, that promise from the beginning and what it meant at the time, because marriage is hard, and relationships are hard, long term. Anything is hard, it’s a lot of work. I think you have to kind of remind each other – why did we start this in the first place? Oh, because we loved to just be in a cab riding through Paris together, we were blissfully in love.
Obviously Side A was very different in tone to this record – here it felt like you were putting out a statement of where you are in your life and not shying away from that happiness. It was nice having happiness juxtaposed with ‘Better with a Broken Heart.’ Can you talk about having TJ be a part of it? You both have such unique vocals so it was amazing to hear that trade-off.
His voice is one of my favorite voices because it has that warmth and that depth. I’m just a huge fan. Brothers [Osborne] are one of the bands that I put on and listen to the whole record. I just find that his voice is so emotive. You never know how two vocals are going to sound together, but there was no way I was gonna have them come in and be like, ‘You know what, we don’t like the way that sounds,’ I’m gonna make it work. He comes in, he started singing, and I got full body chills. I look over at Topher and Bryan, and they’re like, ‘Oh, my God, this is amazing, he sounds so good’. He had all these really cool, unique parts he had picked out – the harmony part that he does at the end of the second verse, he already had this whole thing done and then on the bridge, where he goes really low, I knew he could sing lower. No one else can do that, it’s so cool, it’s a dream. I mean, literally, it’s a dream to sing with TJ and at the time Brothers hadn’t won their Grammy yet. I’m just so glad that I asked him before that, because now he’s really busy, but he’s such a wonderful human being too. I feel like it’s very cool that as a duet, it isn’t necessarily the two of us singing to each other – we’re both singing about our own personal experience. I love that as well, I think that’s really cool.
I feel like you both bring something to it, you both pour emotion into your vocals in a way that I think a lot of people don’t. You can feel that pure emotion in every lyric.
Thank you, that’s all I could ever hope for someone to say about my record. I really appreciate you saying that, I felt it’s important to live life – ‘Hummingbird’ kind of speaks to that. For the longest time, I was so focused on my career that I wasn’t really building a life outside of music. I feel like it’s so important that you can feel that I’ve lived some life. When I was singing a lot of experience behind a lot of what these are,
Are you glad then that this first full-length record happened when it did?
Yeah, it’s interesting, in my mind, when I first moved to town, that was always my dream. It was intended to become a full length album, but you learn as you go through your career and your life, that there’s so many things that are out of your control. It’s more about managing what you can have control of and lowering, not getting rid of expectations, but lowering what you believe is the right way and just accepting that there’s a way that you maybe haven’t even thought of yet. What I think is so beautiful about ‘Honestly’ is that nothing was planned, nothing that I could have predicted. Here I am. I’m kind of embodying it and owning it, and accepting it and not fighting it anymore – that is a very humbling thing. It’s also a very liberating thing, at the same time.
You’ve got this amazing snapshot of the last few years and where you are now – working with your husband and working with your best friend. It’s kind of amazing that it happened the way it did.
Yeah, I believe that. And also, like you said, there’s this transparency – there’s an intimacy here that I haven’t explored yet, ever. That was very intimidating for me, because once you go there, you can’t really go back. Now you’ve seen me naked, so I can’t go back. I think life can be very powerful when you step into your most bare bones, honest self and let people see it. You don’t get to shield yourself from whether they like it or not, which is why it’s hard.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat. It’s always just a joy to speak to you.
Thank you. It’s so good to talk to you. I hope I get to see you in person very soon.