Interview: Julia Jacklin on L.A., becoming a full-time musician, In N Out Burger

Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin’s life has been a whirlwind the last six months since her fantastic debut album Don’t Let the Kids Win dropped last October via Polyvinyl.

She went in that time from — in her words — being someone who wrote songs to someone whose job it is be a songwriter. I wasn’t too familiar with her until I caught her opening up for Julien Baker at the El Rey last October, one of the best top-to-bottom bills I saw in all of 2016. Her voice is hauntingly beautiful, as is her songwriting. I immediately went home and ordered her record online, and it certainly fits the vinyl medium quite perfectly. It quickly became one of my favorite debut albums of the year.

When I saw her, I couldn’t help but get an early Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins or Angel Olsen vibe. We spoke with Julia over the phone prior to her show at the Bootleg tomorrow night, April 14. I highly recommend catching her if you want to feel some feels. If you’re at Coachella this weekend, you can still catch Julia Jacklin in Los Angeles, as she’ll be playing FYF Fest in July. Don’t miss her!

PASS THE AUX: How have things been since you were last in Los Angeles late last summer?

JULIA JACKLIN: It’s been pretty nonstop I guess. I’ve kind of been on tour for most of the time since then. It’s going really well. It’s nice to be back. I feel a lot more prepared this time.

I remember when you were here you posted on Facebook about shooting a music video and you were looking for extras. You ended up shooting it right? How did that go.

Yeah I did. Didn’t end up using it actually. We shot it.  It was cool. It was kind of classic, over-committed, trying to squeeze something in last minute on my one day off and it just kind of ended up not what I had envisioned. But it was really fun, I got to meet a lot of people, which was really nice. Like a lot of local people came to be extras.

When I saw you open at the El Rey for Julien Baker, I couldn’t help but hear a little early Jenny Lewis and Angel Olsen in your sound. Who are some of your influences?

I think they’re extremely varied like most people. But probably an early influence to my songwriting was Fiona Apple actually. She kind of changed my idea of how to write about the common themes, like love and loss and stress. She’s a very interesting lyricist. Leonard Cohen like most people. He’s the person I go to when I’m struggling with how to get myself across. He obviously is someone who just really knows how to put humor into dark subjects in a way that not many people are able to do.

What was that experience like opening for Julien Baker? She seems like the sweetest girl ever.

I actually only did that show with her and then I played a festival with her in Australia. But she’s kind of like one of those people that I’ve met in the crazy touring world that’s just so incredibly friendly and genuine and you immediately are just friends and there’s none of that kind of awkward keeping your distance banter with her. It’s kind of like all-in, straight to the good stuff. She definitely makes a real effort to keep it real. She’s great, I really like her.

I was blown away by your debut album Don’t Let the Kids Win, it was one of my favorite debuts of 2016. The title track “Pool Party” is my favorite — I’m curious what your favorite song from the record is?

It kind of changes a lot but right now it would probably be “Lead Light” just because — I’m not sure, I think it’s one of the earlier ones I wrote for the record, so when I recorded it and I released it I didn’t really think too much about it, because it was one I kind of had for a while. But now after a long time I’ve kind of come back around and really enjoyed playing it and now I can see the song from an outsider’s perspective, now that I’m so far removed from it I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a good song.’

Photo courtesy of Nick McKinlay

Oftentimes, a debut album for someone is a summation of their life experiences up until that point and then writing for a second record could be a totally different experience. You said you’ve been touring nonstop since the album dropped — I’m wondering what your experience has been writing songs since then and if that’s been any different than writing the first record?

It’s something that I want to speak to more musicians about because I think it is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced. Suddenly going from someone who has just happened to write songs in my spare time, and then over a long period of time — really, like five years I just kind of accumulated the best 11 songs and was like, okay cool I’ll make a record, I wrote enough songs. It wasn’t really — I didn’t really think about it much. Then it completely changes to the point where you’re called a songwriter and that’s your job and suddenly you’re expected to be able to write songs on cue in the midst of crazy touring. I don’t know, I’m not really sure yet. I’ve definitely been writing and I’ve recorded demos recently but I don’t know, it’s a very odd experience to be going through.

You mention going from someone who wrote songs to someone whose job it is to write songs. How did that transition actually occur, when did this become your full-time gig?

I think it was around August of last year when I really started touring and it was like, oh I can’t really work at my job anymore so I guess I’ll have to quit that. And I guess because I quit my job, my manager was like, woo-hoo, I’m gonna build this timetable up until there’s no time left. So I’ve been touring ever since. And now I’m being asked about the second record, which is not something I thought about when I wrote the first one. So it just kind of happened in the last six months really, where suddenly I’m not really doing anything else but being a musician and here I am.

You have a song “L.A. Dream,” I’m curious if that song was written before you came out here and what your opinion of L.A. is in general?

I wrote that about an American who I actually met in San Francisco. It’s a bit of a lie, you can’t really — “San Francisco Dream” doesn’t really work. But I really like L.A., I find it interesting. I’m still figuring it out. I’ve been here a few times now but it’s so hard to get a grasp of what it is and I think that’s what I like about it. It seems to change with every different section you go to. When I first got here when I was 21 to go backpacking, all I saw was Hollywood and I was like, ‘Okay, this is L.A., rad.’ It’s quite bizarre and rundown and very nostalgic I guess. But now I’ve been to Echo Park and met some people now who take me into their homes so L.A. has become a bit less of this mystical wonderland which was what you kind of imagine when you’re back home in Australia, and it’s more of a place with lots of interesting people and cultures.

Now my last question and maybe the most important one — have you had an In N Out Burger and what were your thoughts?

I have. I actually had never had it and kept saying I had to have it. Then I was at LAX and had a massive layover, so I walked down the highway in my layover to find an In N Out Burger, which is directly under the flight path and it was really good. It was definitely worth the walk.

If Julia decided to shoot a music video in Los Angeles again, perhaps it could just be her walking to In N Out Burger on a layover from LAX. Don’t miss her at the Bootleg Bar on Friday, April 14!

Top photo courtesy of Shervin Lainez