As an interviewer, you tend to only encounter dodgy phone lines when speaking to musicians in the very upper echelon of commercial success, bands that you have to dial a phone card to chat to, only to then muddle your way through a conversation plagued by static, muffled responses and a godawful time delay.
Take the poor reception that dogs Julia Jacklin’s call with the BRAG as a sign of her meteoric shot to fame, then. Though the songwriter is Sydney-based, she’s currently on an international tour, travelling from radio sessions to sold-out gigs, cultivating a devoted fan base in the process.
“I don’t know where we are, actually,” Jacklin says. “We’re on a bus, on our way to –” A shriek of static makes her destination indiscernible. But regardless of where she’s heading, one thing is for absolute sure – Jacklin’s tour diary over the last little while has been intense, the kind of schedule that would have even the most road-hardened muso turning green at the gills. Doesn’t it get exhausting touring for months on end?
“It’s only been a month,” Jacklin says. “It just feels like months. I’m not sure how I keep the energy up on tour. It’s a mysterious thing. I think I’m just running on a general kind of energy. I bet when I come home I’ll probably just need a week to recover.”
Over that selfsame month Jacklin has played easily the biggest shows of her career, sharing stages with golden-voiced troubadour Marlon Williams and making appearances at renowned events like Turf, a Canadian festival where, adorably, her set was reviewed by a seven-year-old critic ‘employed’ for a one-off review at Noisey who gave Jacklin a perfect ten out of ten rating.
Given the sheer scale of the shows Jacklin is now playing then, does the spectre of stage fright still haunt her? “Yeah,” she says. “I still get nervous. It’s usually just the first song. That’s the one that I’m usually shaking a bit during. But it also kinda depends what kind of show it is. And it can come at really surprising times. Like, I’ll play to huge audiences and I’ll be fine, and then I’ll play to tiny audiences and I’ll get the head spin and I’ll freak out for a moment. I’m a lot better than I was a while ago though. There’s nothing like playing every night for a month to get you over the nerves, for sure.”
Ultimately, the feedback Jacklin has received from her shows so far has been ecstatic – her debut album Don’t Let The Kids Win isn’t even out yet and already fans have the lyrics memorised. Indeed, it’s that kind of reception that gives Jacklin life and allows her to survive her punishing tour schedule – though she admits it’s not always easy to get a sense of.
“It’s kinda what makes you or breaks you – whether or not people are responding well to it and are engaged,” Jacklin says. “That’s what makes a good show for me is that crowd feedback – like if people are loud after every song, I think. But it’s also about whether, for me, if I enjoy myself. Whether or not I’m out of my own head for the majority of the performance. That’s what I walk away with.
“Because you don’t always enjoy yourself onstage all the time – sometimes you’re too far in your own mind, or you’re stressing about everything. Or you’ve seen like, two people walk out of the gig, and that flares up your anxiety.
“Sometimes it is really hard to tell whether you’ve played well: sometimes you play shows and you think that everybody hates it, and then afterwards you get the best feedback that you’ve ever gotten.”
Though some of the songs that comprise Jacklin’s setlist are yet to be released out into the world in recorded form, she has been honing and playing them for long enough to know them intimately. “I’ve been playing these songs for a while,” she says, “but it feels good to have them in a place now, in Don’t Let The Kids Win. It took a while to find the right band, and have it sound exactly the way that I wanted it to sound.
“I mean, it took maybe a year and a half or two years to write. I wrote a lot of songs over that period of time, and I chose the best ones… I hope, anyway.” She laughs. “It was all recorded about a year ago. But it’s there now. It’s something I’m really proud of.”
And proud she should be – Don’t Let The Kids Win is a singularly powerful work, a mix of taut-wire melodies, accessible yet ever-so-slightly removed from the real lyrics, and Jacklin’s powerful, unabashed voice. Even on very first listen the record has the pang of the old favourite about it: there is something about the songs that seems to speak to you and you alone.
There’s a good reason for that too. When Jacklin is asked whether she wrote songs specifically for the purpose of releasing a record, at first, static drowns out her response. But after a moment, her voice clicks in, crystal clear. “I was very much like, ‘I have to make an album before I turn 25’. That was very much my life goal.” So there you go. Don’t Let The Kids Win isn’t just an album: it’s the sound of a talent doing what they’ve always wanted to do.