After winning our hearts three years ago with her stunning debut album ‘Don’t Let The Kids Win’, we’ve been eagerly anticipating new material from Julia Jacklin - and she delivers with sophomore album ‘Crushing’, which has just been released.
Where ‘Don’t Let The Kids Win’ delved into nostalgia around growing up, ‘Crushing’ feels more intimate and honest than ever before - with songs like ‘You Were Right’ and ‘Turn Me Down’ showcasing the depth of Jacklin’s songwriting talents.
We caught up with Jacklin in Auckland a few weeks ahead of the album’s release to discuss the honesty found within the ten songs, having control over her music videos, and more…
...I love it when a friend of mine will just be honest about not liking something I’ve made, or something I’m wearing, or just call me out if I say something a bit dumb, or say something that’s not backed up by facts. It means that people are actually listening to you and care about you.
COUP DE MAIN: So the last time we properly saw you was in January 2017, and we did an animal spirit tarot reading with you! I remember that your future self was The Rabbit, which is a card that signifies a fear of something, and you were telling me about how you were planning to move to Europe over their summer, and that a lot of things were changing for you. How do you think you’ve changed over the past two years?
JULIA JACKLIN: I loved that! I remember that. My life is very different now, I moved to Melbourne. Back then, I think I moved to Barcelona for a little bit. That was just a hectic summer, because I was living in Barcelona but I was playing every weekend, it was so hot, it was just a very intense time. I didn’t really spend much time in Barcelona, my Spanish did not improve, so I was just very lonely and hot.
CDM: I feel like every time you want to go to Europe and speak another language they’re just like, ‘Mmmm, you can’t speak our language, we’ll just speak English!’ And it’s kind of annoying! When did you move to Melbourne?
JULIA: About eight months ago. Lots has changed since then! I feel a lot better than I did back then, I just feel a lot stronger and happier and more sure of myself. I understand this business so much better. I think back then I was just kind of like learning on the road, and you’re kind of making a lot of concessions and really taking a backseat because you want be the nicest, most accommodating person in the room all the time, and that’s just the most exhausting thing to do. Especially when it’s your project. Now I’m just way more happy to call stuff out.
CDM: ‘Head Alone’ is such a beautifully honest song, and to hear it as a fellow woman I feel like there’s a kinship in that song, even though it’s such an isolating kind of song. How did it feel when you wrote those lyrics for that song?
JULIA: I remember taking it to the band, and I did feel a bit self-conscious about the line, ‘I don’t want to be touched all the time, I raise my body up to be mine,’ because I was just like, 'Is that a bit cheesy?' I just thought maybe it was a bit too direct. I think with the first album I was definitely more inclined to try and cover up my direct feelings with metaphors or a bit more poetry or whatever, because I thought that made you a ‘good songwriter’ if your language is a bit complex and confusing. There’s something really nice about this whole album process, where I wrote so much of it on tour that I think I was too emotionally exhausted to even try and cover up how I was feeling, and so I think that came through in a lot of the songs. It feels so great to sing [‘Head Alone’], you feel like you’re having a bit of a personal, emotional, isolating time, and then you sing something like that and it’s just such universal feeling - the need for space and the annoyance at having your space be breached a lot.
CDM: Do you think it’s important for people to understand that, “You can love somebody without using your hands”?
JULIA: Yeah, I’m an affectionate person, but when you’re touring a lot, it actually starts to mess with you if you’re constantly being touched by anyone - by friends, by your team, by fans. I think being female as well means that there’s just this acceptance that you like to be hugged and kissed and coddled more than male musicians? You can see it in very cliché obvious examples - like, getting introduced to people and all the guys in the band get handshakes and you get the kiss on the cheek.
CDM: It’s weird how that’s still a thing as well, and no-one ever really questions it.
JULIA: Totally, and it’s annoying to talk about because I’ve found that if I talk about it too much on tour, the men around you can’t see how those little micro-aggressions, or not even aggressions, but just those different ways of interacting with you, they just all kind of build up into this like, ‘ARGHHHHH!!! Just leave me alone!’
CDM: The music videos so far for ‘Crushing’ have been so excellent, and you’ve been super involved in them, co-directing each one so far. Do you like having that level of control with your videos?
JULIA: Yeah, it’s really important to me, and I’m lucky that I found such a great collaborator in Nick [Mckk], who’s just like my best friend, and such a wonderful human being who has been so great at helping me express what I want. It’s really hard, because for that music video we’d already done a whole other version and it just didn’t feel right, and that’s really annoying for him. But he’s just like, ‘Okay, yep, I want you to feel okay.’ Especially because the music is quite personal, I just can’t imagine off-handing the creative aspects to somebody else because it just doesn’t make sense to me.
CDM: Yeah, I always wonder how it works when someone else directs your video and you send them the song and they’re like, ‘This is what we’re doing!’ What if the artist is like, ‘But I don’t like it!’ It’s seems like a tricky thing.
JULIA: Yeah, and I think I have a real love/hate relationship with music videos. I do love the art-form and I think it can produce incredible pieces of work, but a lot of the time I feel like music videos just distract from the song, and it’s just all these lame narratives. A song is already a story, and then you just pile on top another story with a lot of visuals. Sometimes you get to the end of a music video and you're like, ‘What am I feeling? What was the song? I don’t even remember the song.’
CDM: I find that the best ones are the ones that make the song even more memorable.
JULIA: Yeah, they pull the song up. So I just try really hard to make sure I’m never covering a song up, or distracting from its message and its sound.
CDM: How do you come up with the idea for your visuals?
JULIA: Usually the concept is always mine. I’ll come up with an idea, I’ll find an outfit, and then we’ll just give it a go. Me and Nick, we’ve started working on other people’s music videos, and it’s kind of shocking because it’s like, ‘Oh, actually other people need more planning and organisation and prep.’ With me and Nick it’s always been just, ‘Let’s give this one a crack.’ And that’s why we’ve done ones that we’ve never released, because with that kind of method it’s not always-- But I think it works for me. I don’t know how something’s going to look until we give it a go.
CDM: ‘Pressure To Party’ is another favourite song from the album for me - I love the lyric, “I don’t want anyone to ever take your place.” Do you think that moving on from a relationship is one of the hardest emotional experiences that people have to deal with?
JULIA: Yeah, and there’s so much advice out there as to how you’re supposed to move on and what’s going to feel better, but at the end of the day you just need to grin and bear it for a while. Because nothing really, I mean, unless you were just so keen to get out of there, but most of the time, even if you’re the one who ended it, it’s like you’ve shared so much of your life with someone, for sometimes a long period of time, and it can be completely world changing to suddenly not have that person to talk to and it can be really confusing, especially if you’re the person who’s ended it. I think a lot of people don’t really know how to talk to you, because it’s like, ‘Well, you ended it so you don’t really need as much sympathy as the other person, and if you ended it, also like… Go on! You’re free now! Go and let loose and be your single self.’
CDM: Yeah, there’s kind of an assumption that it’s not as hard, when you’re having to go through the same feelings.
JULIA: Yeah, but with less support I think. I feel like I’m a pretty rational, self-aware person, but then you go through a break-up and you realise, ‘Man, I don’t know what I’m doing.’
CDM: I feel like everyone does that, which is kind of nice. You’re like, ‘No-one knows what’s meant to happen.’
JULIA: Exactly. I’m saying dumb shit, I’m doing the wrong things, I am being an idiot! There’s something very sad but also humbling about realising that when it comes to matters of the heart, I think we all just lose our kinds a little bit.
CDM: How do you personally deal with internal and external pressures in your life? Do you have strategies to deal with them?
JULIA: I just have really good friends, I’m very lucky with that. I mean, it’s changed a lot in the last two years with who those people are, it’s just changed because I’ve stopped having a home-base I guess, and I’ve gotten older. I make sure that I’m talking a lot to people, but not too much! I think for the first two years of touring I kept everything in, because I was trying so hard to be the captain of the ship and make sure that everybody was happy around me, and it didn’t matter if I was miserable because everyone was doing me a favour, because they were all coming on the road with me.
CDM: It’s hard when they’re your employees.
JULIA: Exactly, they’re your friends, they’re your employees, it’s just so complicated - and nobody tells you how to do it, so you’ve kind of got to figure it out yourself. I just make sure I’m communicating and trying not to be as hard on myself if I have a bad day. Trying not to think that everyone’s going walk away from me if I have a bad day or whatever. I’m still figuring it out. I think that a huge part is that I have great people around me who I know have my back. That just changes the game really.
CDM: That middle section of ‘Turn Me Down’ is so raw - what was it like listening back to the finished version of that song after recording so many takes of it?
JULIA: I really like that song and it’s really nice to play live because it feels like you’re going on a bit of a journey on-stage. I remember recording it and I felt kind of embarrassed, because it wasn’t a thing I could just sing without feeling what I was singing about.
CDM: Yeah, you can’t really detach from that.
JULIA: No, and also that big note at the end is just like-- Every time I just didn’t know what was going to come out of my mouth. So a couple of times it would just be like a weird yodel or something!
CDM: Country Julia Jacklin!
JULIA: Yeah! <laughs> You’ve got this whole room full of people all listening to every vocal take you do. I’m really glad and happy I’m in a headspace where I wasn’t really thinking about people listening to this record. It’s only now that I’m going like, ‘Oh god, people are hearing this now!’ But at the time, we made the record so far from the industry part of this world, and I didn’t show the songs to anyone before we went to the studio. It was just my band and my brothers, it was just very ‘us’, so I didn’t think about it too much.
CDM: Yeah, I feel like that’s the best way to make it, without the music industry being like, ‘Okay! Now’s your time to make an album!’ Then you’re thinking about it too much. I feel like that’s what makes it tricky sometimes.
JULIA: Yeah, I just didn’t feel any second album pressure. I think I’ll probably feel third album pressure more than second. The second album I was just like, ‘Oh sweet, I’m still writing songs, thank God!’
CDM: I love the line in ‘Good Guy’, "Tell me I’m the love of your life just for one night / Even if you don’t feel it." What do you think it is about being a human, that makes us crave love and relationships?
JULIA: I think I struggle, and I’m sure a lot of people do, especially in my age group or just young people these days. I did an interview just before with a man who’s probably in his late fifties/sixties, and he was saying he’s been married for fifteen years, and he said about ‘Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You’, that "it’s a really mature way to think, I don’t even think that way and I’ve been married for fifteen years". I was like, ‘Yeah, but I feel like the difference between our generations is that with your generation it was just kind of set out for you - that you meet someone, you get married, you have kids, and there’s not ten thousand other options.’ Whereas now it feels like there’s so much awareness that maybe monogamy and long-term relationships don’t make us happy. But then for me, I’m a deep realist, and I spend so much of my time overthinking everything in my life and really trying to understand human interactions and relationships. But I’m also a deep, deep romantic. So I’ve really struggled to figure out where I fit in the spectrum of relationships, because I don’t know about these kinds of long-term, monogamous, just straight-down-the-line relationships, but I know I’m not this casual dating person either.
CDM: It’s harder today as well, because in pop-culture shows you see so many representations of relationships and dating, and you’re just like, ‘But what are you meant to do!’
JULIA: Totally! Exactly, it’s confusing as hell, and it just messes with my head a bit, because I struggle to relax into feelings with people because I’m constantly being like, ‘Is this real? Will this last? Who cares if it doesn’t last! Just relax, Julia! Oh no!’
CDM: You’re thinking about thinking about the feelings too much!
JULIA: Yeah, and I think ‘Good Guy’ is just about an unashamed admittance that sometimes romantic movie language is a bit of a turn-on! Even if it’s not real and it also just makes you feel, I totally just buy into all that kind of stuff even though maybe it’s not real - but I don’t know, that’s the thing.
CDM: ‘You Were Right’ is such a clever piece of songwriting! It was totally not what I expected. Why do you think there’s something liberating about making one’s own choices?
JULIA: I think that’s just a huge part of growing up, isn’t it? I’m 28 now, but in the last year I found that I’ve grown up so much. When you’re younger you’re so shaped by those people around you and you’re so confused as to what you actually like.
CDM: It’d weird when you actually start to think about things you like - is it only because someone told me I should like this?
JULIA: Yeah, you go through so many different waves growing up. When you’re younger you want to like things that nobody else likes, ‘cuz that makes you cool, but then you also want to like what everybody else likes, because you want to fit in. I remember being a kid and having an iPod with a whole bunch of music on there that I did not like nor listen to, but if some cool people scrolled through my iPod they’d be like, ‘Whoah! She’s cool!’ I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve really appreciated people who are just honest about what they like and what they don’t like. I think there’s this thing, especially for women, you just have to be so fucking nice all the time, and try and see everything for its good qualities. It’s fine to just be like, ‘That’s not my thing.’ Or like, ‘That behaviour is not okay for me, and I don’t care if it’s okay for you, it’s not okay for me and I’m gonna call it out.’ It’s so nice to get to the point where you’re like, ‘No, I have actually spent a lot of time working on myself, I have put a lot of hours into this, so I deserve to be able to like--
CDM: Speak your mind?
JULIA: Yeah. And if the people around you are good-- I love it when a friend of mine will just be honest about not liking something I’ve made, or something I’m wearing, or just call me out if I say something a bit dumb, or say something that’s not backed up by facts. It means that people are actually listening to you and care about you.
CDM: Musically, ‘You Were Right’ is one of my favourites too - the guitar in that seems so fun to play, I can imagine it being played live. Have you already started choosing which album songs you’ll play live?
JULIA: I don’t know, I haven’t started touring this record yet, so it’s my first experience of having two records and knowing how to mash them in a show.
CDM: And you’re like, ‘I can’t fit everything in!'
JULIA: When I was younger, you’d go to a show and someone’s got like, four albums, and I never thought about the difficulties about not only mixing the emotions of all the different songs, but also the styles because your style changes so much. You also want to create a show that's pleasing to everyone, but also not just this weird collage, you know? I’ve made this new record and I want to play it, but I also know that people wanna hear the first record, and so, I have no idea what I’m going to do to be honest.
CDM: Well you’re coming to New Zealand just after the album comes out which is exciting - it’ll be your first shows here in a couple years, aside from the showcase tonight. Are you excited to properly play New Zealand, going to three different cities?
JULIA: Yeah, I was saying today, New Zealand feels like my spiritual home in many ways, but I’ve never really gone outside of Christchurch, Lyttelton, and Auckland. I’m really excited to go to Wellington and Dunedin.
Julia Jacklin's new album 'Crushing' is out now.
Watch the 'Head Alone' music video below...