Interviews / Music

Jillian Jacqueline on Her New EP and Her Single “Prime”

When country pop singer Jillian Jacqueline was working on the single “Prime” off her new EP, she knew she wanted it to be an anthem for everyone. “[It’s] a reminder to enjoy where you’re at, and that youth is just a state of mind,” she tells us. The rest of her EP follows suit and gives off a sunny, youthful vibe, too. Here, we chat about the making of her video for “Prime,” her inspiration while growing up, and her Instagram-famous French bulldogs, Huck and Gus, who make a cameo in her video.

Cliché: First off, tell us a little about your life growing up. Did you always know you wanted a career in music?
Jillian Jacqueline: I started acting in plays and musicals when I was really young in my hometown in Chester Springs, PA before my mom took me to NYC to audition for a Broadway show when I was 9. I ended up landing a co-starring role in a Christmas play at the Beacon Theater in New York with Kenny Rogers, which turned into touring with him for 5 years after that. He’s still one of greatest mentors and influences in the music industry.

In our house, we pretty much only listened to country music when I was growing up, although, as I got older, my parents shared the music of Carly Simon, Jackson Browne, Carole King, James Taylor, The Beatles, and others with us (my three sisters and I) that expanded our tastes into other genres. But truly, the first artists that ever made me want to sing were Patsy Cline and Elvis Presley. I bought box sets of all their greatest hits and sat in my room for hours in the summer learning every nuance of every vocal. My sisters and I started a band when I was about 11 that became our whole lives; touring, writing music, recording, etc. for several years. We called ourselves The Little Women Band and mostly played gigs around New York City where we had moved in the early 2000s. We were probably the only kids wearing cowboy hats and boots singing country music in Greenwich Village. [Laughs]

For those who aren’t familiar with your music, how would you best describe your sound?
Someone once described it to me as “neon country” and I kinda love that. It’s a really cool thing to realize all of your influences and experiences with music growing up become this melting pot of sound and it’s something you can’t really control; it just comes out of you, and if you trust it, it feels real and right and genuine. So, as I began concentrating on writing songs for my first solo project, I found myself drawing from all my love of what Sheryl Crow, Third Eye Blind, Patty Griffin, and Patty Loveless had all done on records I learned from. I guess it’s just my version of country, but it feels very lyrically eclectic and sonically more pop-driven than most other country on the radio.

“Prime” is such a fun, catchy single! Was there something in particular that inspired you to write it?
YES! Feeling happy wherever you are is SUCH an important thing. I’m trying to learn and live every day of my life. It’s easy to get caught up in the ticking time bomb that life can be, worrying about what I wish I’d have done or what I want to do in the future, and forget that this moment is the most powerful and beautiful thing I’ve got. So, “Prime” is my anthem for everyone, including myself, who needs a reminder to enjoy where you’re at, and that youth is just a state of mind.

IMG_8593Tell us about the making of your music video for “Prime.” What inspired the production? We’re loving the retro look!
Thank you! Oh my gosh, that video was just a bunch of vivid colorful dreams I had. I’m a very visual person; I love music videos and how they tell the artist’s story through a mini-movie. When I first got together with the director, P. Tracy, we both brainstormed on ideas and looks and vibes and got on the same page with the perspective I was going for. I had this idea that I wanted it to look trippy and psychedelic, but also super grungy and fun and true to my life. It’s kinda like looking through a kaleidoscope and all of the weird stuff, like the Pepto Bismol lollipop and the paint being thrown on the stereo were all things that just came to my mind. I think being artistic is a huge part of being an artist. It’s a whole other aspect of creativity we can share with an audience. I love that.

You feature your two French bulldogs in your video as well—and I hear they’re pretty Instagram famous. Are they a big part of your life? Do you think they’ll be popping up in your videos more often?
[Laughs] Huck and Gus are my tiny adorable gremlins, and yes, they are slightly Instagram famous. Check them out
@huckandgus. Somehow their page has taken off and now has 50,000 followers. Not quite sure how that happened, but I guess puppies make people happy! And yes, I have a feeling they’ll be making many more cameos because, let’s be honest, I like my dogs more than I like most people.

Tell us about the EP as a whole. How did you select the songs? I’m seeing a bit of a “growing up” theme throughout, but did you have a particular theme or process in mind when writing it, or did it just happen that way?
Good question, and something I hope other people notice as well. My narrative for the EP definitely has a “growing up” aspect and also a direct, self-aware confidence because most of these songs came as a result of me becoming more comfortable in my own skin, moving through my 20’s and feeling more in tune with myself, more powerful than ever in being myself and being honest and feeling okay to say what I wanted to say. Also, I think there’s a storyline there about stereotypes that became evident as I was putting the EP together. With “Slacker,” “Birds and the Bees,” and “Kids These Days,” I wanted you to hear those themes and ideas in a different way, to shed light on the subject in an unusually bold way.

Which song means the most to you, if you had to choose one? Which song came to you the easiest?
Hmm… “Kids These Days” means so much to me because it encompasses a lot of different thoughts that I’d been wanting to get off my chest for a long time. It’s simple but feels sacred, and maybe that’s because everybody can relate to it, young or old, and it’s the song that resonates with so many and the experience of growing up and feeling generational changes.

I wrote “Birds and the Bees” with my producer Tofer Brown and a great L.A.-based writer named Fann and we wrote it in about two hours, pretty quickly, and didn’t overthink anything. It all just sort of fell out effortlessly and felt so fun the entire time.

If you could collab or tour with any artist, who would it be and why?
I would die and go to heaven if I ever got to sing with Bryan Adams, because he’s Bryan Adams. As far as touring, I think Sheryl Crow would be amazing, just to get to hear her sing those iconic songs every night. She’s one of the best and a huge inspiration to me as a female artist.

Since you are based in Nashville, what is your favorite thing about the city?
The people. There are some of the kindest, most interesting, creative, and driven people in this city that I have ever met. I’m blown away by the energy the people bring to this place and it’s such an exciting time to be living here making music.

Any plans or goals for the rest of this year?
Playing shows. So many more shows. And finishing my full-length record. I can’t wait for you to hear it! Stay tuned for that.

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Jillian Jacqueline on Her New EP and Her Single “Prime”: Photographed by Rob Norris

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