Julia Jacklin was ten years old when she first had a crisis about wasting her life. After chancing upon a Britney Spears documentary on a family holiday, the pint-sized Jacklin was intimidated by how much Spears had accomplished before the age of 12, and swiftly insisted she needed music lessons.
“It’s something that was always on my mind as a kid, you’ve got all these milestones you’re supposed to reach, constantly. When are you going to have sex? When are you first going to get drunk? When are you going to get your L-plates? You should get it by this point. When are you going to do that travel where you go and find yourself overseas; where are you going to squeeze that in? And when are you going to go to uni? When I was thinking about this record, that really started screaming at me.
“I was 24, I wasn’t sure if music was going to work out. I decided if I give myself two years to give it a real go – a year to create an album, a year to really put it out there, then I’ll know.”
Born out of the pressures that come from simply existing, Don’t Let The Kids Win examines what it means to be alive, and the measure of what makes a life well lived. Jacklin deftly handles the universal issues of identity, who she is and may become, and the questions and doubts that plague young adults quickly growing older.
“It’s about that transition from childhood to adulthood, and how you realise you’re not as important as you thought you were. Not in a bad way, but when you’re young you can feel like the world owes you something, and then as you get older you realise you owe the world a lot, and that you need to work pretty hard to be interesting, as a good musician or a good person. Things aren’t just going to be given to you. That was the headspace I was in when I was writing. Realising that I was going to have to work very hard at something.”
The Blue Mountains local was on track to be a social worker before giving herself permission to have a shot at her musical dream.
“I’d always known I wanted to be a musician, but I was embarrassed about it. It felt like a selfish pursuit. It was a conflicting thing being at uni every day, but my heart wasn’t in it.”
Taking her work ethic and incredible talent into account, it’s no surprise the risk paid off. The record has been critically adored and listeners have connected to the melancholic, relatable nature of the tracks.
“In the beginning when I was writing music, and I wasn’t really sure about what I should sing about, I just sung about what I thought I should as a folk musician, like nature and very broad ideas about love and loss that didn’t really connect to my experiences.”
Jacklin credits the likes of Fiona Apple, Anna Calvi and Angel Olsen for changing her perspective on songwriting, and empowering her to write in a way she personally connected to.
“I realised I didn’t have to write very whimsical, poetic sad stuff. That you can still write about very heavy topics like love and loss, but you can write it in a hopeful way, in a way that’s more significant to yourself.”
The success of her album has seen Jacklin touring internationally for the last three months. Despite her absence from our shores, a spot on the Queenscliff Music Festival lineup, a slew of sellout album shows, and nominations for two J Awards – for Unearthed Artist and Australian Album, respectively – affirm that Aussies are taking note.
“I miss the version of myself who is home writing. But I’ve always had the feeling with songwriting that a song’s not done until I play it live.”
Whether she notices it or not, Jacklin’s motivation is intrinsic. She’s constantly striving for better. “As soon as I finished the album, I was like, ‘Okay. Next album. Out by 27.’ And I’ve realised it’s quite bizarre to already be asked about my next album when I’ve only just released this one.
“I’m really putting an emphasis on enjoying this album, and this tour, and not to be thinking constantly about what I am going to do next, how I am going to up the ante. I know I’ll have to think about that eventually, but right now, I’m in Mullumbimby, lying on the grass, in the sun, and try to just enjoy it, because I think this is a very special time in my life.”
By Claire Varley