I tracked down some shade at Pickathon with Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin and dove into a discussion about quarter life crises, trying to stay in the present, exploitation, and also less stressful things like her amazing music and the bliss that comes with turning off your cell phone.
Check out our interview with Julia below, and be sure to grab a listen to her brand new 7″ out now on Polyvinyl.
VM: First of all, so “Don’t Let the Kids Win” you said was about being 24 and sort of a quarter-life crisis sort of thing—not feeling happy about where you were. I super relate to that…I had a panic attack about being 24, and I was like, “I thought I’d be so much further along than I am now!” Twenty-four seems really old in that time.
JJ: Oh, totally. I feel like it’s that time between leaving school and being 18, and you’re like, “oh, I’m 18, give me like four years, and I’ll fucking be made.” Then you hit 22, and you’re like, “wait, what? I am not here yet.” So I think 24 is the time when everyone is like “no no no no, what’s happening?”
VM: I’m always either looking behind or looking into the future…I’m never really in the moment, you know? How do you keep in the present?
JJ: I think it’s become a lot easier since I’ve made a record and released it, because that kind of felt like finally…I felt like making albums was the first time I felt really proud of myself and had actually done these things, like working really hard at this shitty job to pay to make this record, you know? Kind of lined it up all myself, and I had this piece of work, and then ever since, it’s done well. I feel a lot more relaxed in a way.
I definitely went through a stage where I was like, “fuuuck…what if I never write anything else again?” Now after this record, especially, I don’t know…just kind of seeing as well the more I’m in the music industry and realizing how hard it is to actually get to where I am…a lot of my friends are still slogging it away at home in Sydney, which is a really tough music scene. We just don’t have any venues and artist support. It’s hard to get out of Australia, because it’s so expensive, so I think that having a lot of my friends who are still working really hard grounds me and makes me think, “don’t ever take this for granted for one second.” I definitely worked hard to get here, but I’m also extremely lucky, you know? And when people are like, “no, don’t say you’re lucky, you worked hard” I’m like, “yeah, but I had an advantage over other people for various reasons.” So yeah, I just feel very lucky.
VM: You said you thought this was originally going to be a heartbreak record…
JJ: I just came out of a pretty big relationship with an American man. It’s tough when you live in America and Australia as well. So yeah, I kind of thought as I was writing the songs like, okay, this is going to be a classic, “every song is dealing with this one romance whatever,” but once I had written my body of work I was like, no, I think a lot of it is just me reflecting on this time in my life, which I was glad about. I didn’t want to have—I mean heartbreak records are great—but I didn’t want to have my first record to be all, “he left me. Why?”
VM: “Eastwick”—you said you were inspired by Dancing With the Stars?
JJ: To be honest, I don’t want to say the episode, because I don’t want to insult anyone. But it’s more that the idea of…you know, when those reality TV shows use people’s pain and suffering and past lives and pretend that it’s because we’re letting these people express themselves creatively through pain and grief. It’s fucking bullshit. You’re exploiting 100 percent. Everyone knows…that’s not the most obvious point…I mean, it’s a pretty obvious point but…
There was this one episode where someone was just really…I felt like exploiting the death of this person’s father, and I just remember thinking, “ugh.” It just made me reflect on a lot of things as well as being in the music industry with how much you want to say in interviews and how much you want to give out there, because everyone really wants a juicy story. You can’t just be a good musician. You need to make good music, because you’ve overcome something. There has to be an angle. That can sometimes feel a little like scary, because you think, “what if I don’t have an angle,” you know? What if I’m just doing my thing? Is that going to be enough?
VM: You directed the music video, can you tell me about that concept a little bit?
JJ: I just have this really great friend Sam Brumby who I make my music videos with who’s super patient with me. Basically all I had in my head was I just imagined me drinking a blue cocktail in the suburbs. That’s all I had. I got my mom to make me this outfit, this blue outfit which we got the material from a kid’s material shop. All the stuff I’ve done I’ve wanted to stay in the Blue Mountains where I’m from, so that’s kind of in. I filmed it in my sister’s garage and her house in the Blue Mountains. I guess it’s a pretty classic, just trying to show what it can feel like growing up in the suburbs as someone who wanted to have a creative life. I felt a bit stifled there, so that’s what I was trying to show.
VM: Are you in Barcelona now?
JJ: Kind of. But we haven’t been there for months.
VM: What inspired that move?
JJ: I had this really naive idea that I would go and stay in Barcelona and learn Spanish, because I learned quite a bit when I was younger…but learning a language is really tough. It’s a lot harder than you initially think…I’m using books and stuff, but so much of it is about confidence, and it’s so much about getting out there and being willing to humiliate myself in front of these people. I think that’s something I need to get better at. I think that being on tour, it’s hard to have enough mental energy to learn something like that…but still, it’s a beautiful city and I love it.
VM: Who are you excited to see this weekend?
JJ: I have already seen Andy Shauf who I am always excited to see. I’ve seen him play more times than anyone ever except like my best friend back home, because we toured with him, but I think he’s a musical genius. So I’m going to see him again tonight. I haven’t really looked…I really want to see Steve Gunn, playing right now, so hopefully we can catch a couple of his songs. Tank and the Bangas…I want to see them today.
VM: What’s next for you? Besides everything we’ve already talked about.
JJ: Then the day after I get off and finish the last show, I’m flying to this tiny island in Croatia where I’m going to just spend like two weeks with my phone turned off, by myself, by the ocean. I think I’m in the moment—I’m really enjoying this—but I’m looking forward to two months off where I’m gonna go to Croatia and then travel up through Bosnia, and then we do like another little tour [dates here], and then I’m home in November.
Click through to see Julia’s disposable camera tour diary below!
The shade cloth situation over the main stage area has to be the kindest thing I’ve ever seen a summer festival do for their audience.