There’s nothing wrong with setting simple and realistic goals in life, something that Julia Jacklin has been working hard to do since the February release of her rewarding sophomore full-length, Crushing.
“I dunno—I just don’t want to be a shitty person,” the Australian singer-songwriter says, on the line from a Colorado tour stop. “And I’ve had many times in my life where I have been a shitty person. I probably spend too much time in my life assessing the way I behave and making sure that I’m being fair to those around me. Being fair is important. It’s okay to be angry and to not like people, and it’s okay for me to say passionate, opinionated, and strong things as long as it’s coming from a place of fairness.”
Jacklin indeed has plenty to say on Crushing, an album that delivers on the promise of her impressive 2016 debut, Don’t Let the Kids Win. Proving as winningly comfortable with swaying folk-country as she is with brokenhearted MOR and distortion-punched indie rock, the 28-year-old draws heavily on her personal life for inspiration.
Before seemingly arriving out of nowhere with Don’t Let the Kids Win (she started seriously playing live six months before the album’s release), Jacklin was planning to become a social worker. The album’s success turned her world upside down, something that had its decided pluses, and undeniable minuses.
One of the positives, the singer says, was that she was put into a situation where she was forced to challenge herself.
“I love change—I’m a creature of change,” Jacklin says. “I don’t like things to stay the same, and I think that’s because I’m very ambitious in everything that I do. That can make me a really difficult personality to live with—it’s hard for me to sit and be content with things. But on the other hand it can be really beautiful, in that it can make you a better person that is willing to reflect on life.”
That reflection coloured the songwriting on Crushing in a big way. The whirlwind world of touring led to the guitar-driven anthem “Head Alone”, with the lyrics “I don’t want to be touched all the time” rooted in countless meet-and-greets where people hug, kiss, and invade personal space as a way of displaying their fandom.
A breakup sparked by the singer would also provide no shortage of inspiration. The honeysuckle country sleeper “Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You” drips with pain and regret thanks to lines such as “And every gift you buy me/I know what’s inside.” The album closer, “Comfort”, meanwhile, shows that sometimes things can come to an end in a way that’s respectful and loving. Over skeletal acoustic guitar, Jacklin hauntingly sings “Don’t know how he’s doing, but that’s what you get/You can’t be the one to hold him when you were the one who left.” As tender as it is devastating, it’s a departing gift lovely enough to dispel any idea the writer is a shitty person.
With Jacklin, “deep and thoughtful” is a better descriptor.
“Heartbreak is sad, obviously, and it can be very difficult and hard to process,” she says. “I’m lucky, though, in that I have the ability and the platform to process that kind of thing in a really tangible way. A lot of people don’t.”
Julia Jacklin plays the Fox Cabaret on Friday (May 17).