Love. It’s the ever constant subject of books, films, poetry, and of course, songs. But in the current climate of swiping left and right on people, televised marriage experiments, and the aversion to ‘catching feelings’, would it be fair to say we are a little lost and confused? Cynics of love even? SHANNON FOX spoke to Julia Jacklin ahead of the release of her second album Crushing on Friday, about casual dating and how modern love influences her songwriting. Just don’t expect anything casual about Julia’s romantic side at her performance this Thursday, February 21 at Chevron Gardens, alongside Jess Ribeiro.
You’ve been fairly open about Crushing being a post break-up album. Do you think that heartbreak and/or heartache is a great source of your inspiration?
Yes, definitely! I think that heartache and heartbreak is, but even more so just the changing nature of relationships around me, whether that be with someone romantic or with friends, I think it’s something that I gain a lot of inspiration from. Especially in your 20s where I feel like those kind of changes are quite apparent. Everybody starts to shift and change and come into themselves, and move into what they want to do and priorities shift. It’s definitely been something that has inspired me over the last few years.
Is the title of the album in reference to a kind of romantic crush? What sort of crushing is it?
I think I called it Crushing because I couldn’t think of what to call it for a long time! That word kind of kept coming to me because I wrote the record at a time when I was experiencing a lot of intense things. You’re doing really well with your career but then you’re also going through a very emotional time, a heartbreak time, but then also the feeling of crushing on someone new and how intense that can be. It was just a very intense, intense time. I felt like the word crushing just kind of encapsulates all the different facets of those times in our lives when we have a huge shift.
I’ve always thought it’s really interesting, the physical pain that comes with having a crush…
Oh, it’s so painful! Your chest just aches so much!
So, what are your views of modern dating with apps and people keeping their options open and that sort of thing? When I was listening to the lyrics in Good Guy and it says “tell me I’m the love of your life even though you don’t mean it” I thought it was really interesting and something that pops up a lot at the moment…
Well I think yeah, that’s something I struggle with and I’m sure a lot of people, especially our generation do. On one hand I’m like a hopeless romantic who wants to believe and buy into true love, eternal flames, monogamy and all of these things that I was fed as a child, that I aspire to and I thought was the pillar of success in terms of being a well-rounded human being. But as I’ve gotten older I just don’t know any more if I’ve just been fed some sort of unrealistic lie that makes everybody reach for things they won’t ever really get and that’s why we’re all a bit unhappy. I feel like I fit right in the middle of that now and I don’t particularly know which.
I don’t want to become cynical, so at this point of my life I can’t see myself being a casual dater. I think if anyone listens to my music I’m definitely not a casual person (laughs), but then also my lifestyle means that having some sort of full on relationship with somebody is also incredibly difficult. I think that the album is me struggling with that.
I remember being a bit hesitant to put [Good Guy] on the album because I’m like “ahh sounds like I’m a bit weak” but then it’s like “I am weak a lot of the time!” Some days I’m feeling really strong and I want to call people out and I want to fight for my space, then other days I just want somebody to care for me, even if they’re just pretending they care for me. I think we all are a bit lost and everyone’s just giving out advice but nobody really follows it or knows if they’re giving the right advice because nobody knows what’s going on.
I think showing your vulnerability really helps people relate. I know I could relate to that one and the other song I was relating to a lot was Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You. I think it’s just that thing, people treat other people as transactions at the moment…
Yeah, totally. I very briefly delved into the tinder world for like a week years ago and I had some very odd experiences but I haven’t kind of done that for a long time so I don’t know. On one hand it sounds very liberating, on the other hand it sounds very dark.
Yeah there’s always that risk of hardening your heart and becoming that cynic you mentioned as well…
Exactly, I’m fighting so hard not to do that, I really don’t want that to happen to me. I don’t know what my next album would sound like if I became a cynic of love.
If you got onto tinder? “The Tinder Album…”
(laughs) Yeah, my tinder phase!
So, given the context of Crushing, is performing it quite cathartic?
Definitely writing and recording it was very cathartic, and playing it is. It feels really good but I don’t know how long that feeling will last. It’s weird with songwriting. Don’t Let The Kids Win, for example, I sang that so many times, I wrote it years and years ago, and sometimes I can be singing it on stage and I’m literally thinking about (and) hoping that the catering hasn’t finished backstage. But then sometimes, for some odd reason, I’ll just sing a line about my sister, and suddenly think of her and be like “Oh my God! I’m in Canada and I’ve been away from home for months and I’m so tired” and I’ll get really emotional. It’s always really strange how songs kind of shift and change, even for the performer, in how they can make you feel better or worse performing them.
Previously you’ve mentioned reconnecting your head and your body/ your mind and your body. Do you feel like you’re at that stage?
Yeah, I definitely think that would never be a permanent state of being! I think I’ve accepted that it’s going to always be that they move apart and then you have to learn how to shove them back together somehow. I wrote most of this album on the road and that’s a pretty difficult place for me to keep myself on the straight and narrow emotionally. It’s a pretty strange schedule that you’re on. I feel good now but if you ask me in town months ago I’ll probably be like, “I don’t even know where my body’s gone, I’m just a floating head”.
Was there any second album syndrome then when you were writing on the road?
Oddly, no! I think the only time I felt panic about the second album was when I had writer’s block after the first record. I just couldn’t write anything and you just get this feeling, which I now know is very common for some writers, where you think “oh, I guess I’ll never write another song again”. That was kind of scary. Once the songs started coming back I just remembered that I’ve always done this as a way to try and figure out how I’m feeling and it’s something that I just really enjoy doing, so it’s not like some chore for me to write songs. And I’m lucky I didn’t have some kind of deadline on my shoulders to get a second album out. My team toured me so hard I was just like “you guys can’t tour me this hard and also expect that I’m going to have a second album in a year and a half after releasing my first!” So, the whole time I was like “I just want to make sure I’m writing songs that I want to hear, I’m not trying to write songs for people who liked my first album” because that’s impossible, to try and predict what people want from you, that’s probably when you start writing shitty songs.
Totally! In your own words then, how is this album different to your debut?
It’s different in that as a singer and a lyricist I’ve matured. I’m not saying I’m more mature now, it’s just that I’m less scared of my own feelings and my own voice than I was on the first record. I didn’t try to cover up the lyrics too much with metaphors and poetry and whatever, I just tried to make sure that I was saying how I felt in a pretty unadorned way. Same with the vocals, I didn’t want to cover them with reverb; I didn’t want to push them down in the mix. I wanted to make sure they were front and centre, totally accepting of how my voice sounds, not trying to make myself sound like a smoother, cleaner singer. I think it’s just a little bit more exposed in an interesting way.