Like many 28-year-olds, Julia Jacklin is wrestling with success, love, heartbreak and adulthood. Her honesty and compelling songwriting make her songs feel relatable. Coming from the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Jacklin has had quite the journey in the past decade working in an essential oils factory, taking a gap year, and traveling to America for her big break. In 2016, Jacklin began her musical venture with a few friends adventuring to Austin, Texas to perform at South By Southwest. Her first LP, Don’t Let The Kids Win, impressed many notable listeners including Bob Boilen, creator of NPR’s Tiny Desk.
Since then, Jacklin has supported several artists including Andy Shauf, Calexico, and Mitski. In addition, she released an album with a project of old friends, Elizabeth Hughes, Ryan K Brennan, and Tom Stephens called Phantastic Ferniture.
In early 2019, Jacklin will be debuting her second album, Crushing, and going on a headlining tour.
Over a Topo Chico at the Moody Theatre, I caught up with Jacklin while on a North American tour with First Aid Kit.
ET: What was the moment that you initially knew you were made to create music?
JJ: I think you have these realizations all the time. Then they’re taken back, and you have another one. I never knew it was going to happen. I was doing music in every moment I could find. I have always been pretty good about putting my head down and doing it. Not really looking up and waiting for validation. You do kind of need validation to get a manager and all the boring stuff.
I knew I had something, but weirdly enough playing SXSW was a moment for me. It was unexpected, and I mean that in the most honest way. My manager at the time said I shouldn’t go since I didn't have hype or buzz. Everyone was telling me you need hype or buzz for people to even come to your shows at SXSW. I was like ‘whatever I just want to go. I want to travel in America. I’ll do it solo. It’ll be a funny story to tell back home.’ Some friends wanted to also travel too, and so they came with me to play. I came here with no expectations. Everyone talks to you like you’re going to war.. ‘It’s insane. Everyone is going to push you around.’ It wasn’t like that. People came to shows. I remember seeing Bob Boilen seeing us play. He was the person that you wanted to see at a show. I remember him filming us, and that was a moment for me.
ET: I read you were hoping to be a social worker, traveled on a Gap Year, and worked in factory for Essential Oils.. What ignited you to pursue music? What kind of sacrifices did you have to make to pursue this dream?
JJ: You have to make sacrifices in anything you do. I don’t see it as a sacrifice. I think to me being a touring musician, you sacrifice relationships and health. In the beginning, I tried to maintain all of it. If this is the life I want to choose, I realized I had to let go of it. Sometimes I am going to be away from those who I love, and I’m not going to feel great physically. You add things in -- like I was skipping rope earlier and trying to FaceTime my family.
ET: I greatly connect with ‘Don’t Let The Kids Win’ because it feels like it gravitates towards those just figuring out life in their 20s. I am feeling similar anxieties about navigating life at this age and about getting older. What’s something you really hope drives home for this audience?
JJ: I can see sometimes especially when I sing that song that I am really lucky that I have a skill and platform to express the way I feel. It hits home how a lot of people don’t have that. They don’t know how to collect their thoughts and push them into art, which can be so cathartic to get through the human life. Or they don’t have a platform to express those things. People can take whatever they want from it. This is for people who can just hear certain words, and someone else feels the same way. A lot of people say ‘I sent my mum that song after I watched you play’. Sometimes being able to talk about things with people you love is really difficult.
ET: The Phantastic Ferniture record has been a favorite for me this year. It’s so playful and fun. I also love seeing you be so natural in the role of a female front-woman in a rock band. What’s are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in this journey with this band of close friends?
JJ: I’ve learned many, many, many lessons. The agony and ecstasy of working with close friends. I mean that in the greatest way. It’s wonderful to be able to do, but it can be very difficult. Friendship comes first. That’s what is great about that band. We have all been through a lot together. Coming out on the other side of this record, and we are all really proud. We’ve all played together for many years, especially me and Liz for ten years. We’ve been in many bands together and have grown together as musicians. We’ve taught each other and learned from each other, so that band means a lot to me.
It has also given me a lot of confidence on stage. If you watch early footage of me in that band like four years ago, I’d just kind of stand there like a soldier and feel really awkward. Now, it’s really fun to just let go. I’m 28 now, and I don’t really care about that stuff anymore. Whereas before I’d be like really aware, now I don’t give a shit about how I look or what people think. People respond to when you genuinely let go and transcend all that stuff. Especially, that stuff you feel as a teenager or in your early 20s that a lot of people feel, and I felt very hard.
ET: I love the ‘don't overthink it’ mentality of Phantastic Ferniture. It’s inspiring because it’s about leaving what’s comfortable and discovering who you are. Can you tell me more about that idea and what’s it looked like for you?
JJ: It has been really easy these days, because our lives are so curated online and in person. It’s easy to constantly like look at what you’re doing and analyze it too much. With Phan Fern, first thought go with it. First idea for the album cover. First idea for the music video. First idea for the lyrics I wrote were literally the first things that came out of my mouth. With my solo stuff, I agonize over the lyrics for weeks and months. I am impulsive in some ways. I put a lot of time and effort into it.
ET: What have you been listening to on the road?
JJ: It changes all the time. Today I was listening to SZA. I have listened to Grimes ‘Art Angels’ the most. That’s probably the album I’ve listened to the most in my entire life. I had a friend who’d be concerned and ask ‘are you listening to ‘Art Angels’?” It became some sort of home to me. That album.
I’m touring with one of my best friends from home, Nick. We have very different music tastes. He’ll put on Calvin Harris, and I put on Neil Young. I gravitate towards pop music when I’m touring. I like sad music. I write sad music. I play in sad bands usually. Very existential bands and music. In the van, I just want to listen to Troye Sivan or Carly Rae Jepsen.
ET: It seems like you really enjoy traveling. What are some of your favorite places you’ve traveled to? Any places you hope to visit soon?
JJ: I’ve always wanted to go to Mexico. I’ve always been so close to it too, and it’s been a dream for so long. I keep waiting til I have the time or finish US tour and go for weeks down there. Hopefully, I’ll do that next time I go on tour for my next record.
ET: What’s a song that changed your life?
JJ: ‘Suzanne’ by Leonard Cohen. To me, it is the greatest song that has ever been written. But did it change my life? I’m going to go with ‘Memories’ by Leonard Cohen. I remember hearing a band cover it, and someone told me it was Leonard. The playfulness in his lyrics and the humor mixed with the sadness is what I try to tap into when I write something. He is like a god floating in the sky, and I’m down below just trying to gain some of his wisdom. I think he is the most incredible musician ever.
ET: Growing up listening to music in the 90s, Michelle Branch was a revolutionary woman that I looked up to because she shifted from the ‘girl in pop’ idea and was one of the first to begin singing alt-rock. Do you have any women that did something similar for you that you looked up to?
JJ: Fiona Apple. I remember being on my boyfriend’s couch. He was my first love when I was 13. He put on ‘Extraordinary Machine.’ It was a sky-opening moment. Before that, I was listening to what my parents were listening to like Led Zeppelin, Doris Day, Deep Purple and that kind of stuff. I had been listening to top 40 like Aqua and Smash Mouth. You don’t really know what you like. You are following everybody else. That was the first piece of music that I thought ‘wow I really like this.’ It’s not because someone is telling me I should or I grew up listening to it. To me, I think Fiona is one of the greatest the lyricists ever. She taps into something rare, and it hits me straight in the chest. She’s not afraid to let it all hang out.
ET: Anything from America you have to bring back home each time you go on a US tour?
JJ: I am a huge snowglobe fan. I bought this incredible one in San Francisco when I was here last. It was the Golden Gate bridge. It had glitter in it, and it was really cool! I was really so in love with it. There’s something about snow globes that make me dream up this American TV life, that I know doesn’t exist but it’s some sort of weird comfort to me on the road. When I toured with this band called Calexico from Tucson, and it was a really wonderful tour. As soon as the tour finished, I hopped off the bus and it crashed in front of me. I realized this means something and I don’t know what. We’re going back to San Francisco, and I know where I bought it last so I’ll try to get another.
Bad Bad Hats, the three-piece band, from Minneapolis, Minnesota includes Kerry Alexander, Chris Hoge, and Connor Davison. Named after a trouble-making character in the children’s book series, Madeline, their band is a perfect blend of 90’s nostalgia rock and indie-pop. Their sophomore album titled ‘Lightning Round’ was recorded live in the studio allowing them to have honest, natural creative expression. Before their Austin, Texas set at Stubb’s Jr, I was able to get to know the band’s roots, musical background and stories from their tour.
ET: Bad Bad Hats is named after a trouble-making character from Madeline series of children’s books. Can you tell us more about that?
Kerry: I read those books when I was young. I also watched the VHS cartoon series quite a bit. The ‘Bad Hat’ is a troublemaker in the book. When I was causing trouble when I was younger my mom used to ask ‘are you being a bad hat, Kerry?’ and I was like ‘no.’ I don’t know why that came up or stuck, but here we are.
ET: I’ve read that Lightning round is more mature and confident. What does that meant to you and what do you hope the album really conveys? What would you say the theme is?
Kerry: For me personally, this was my first band. I used to just play acoustic guitar in my bedroom. Then I started playing open mic nights then when we started the band, I got my first electric guitar. So this band has felt like a long, wonderful journey to me. Kind of a coming into my own as a guitarist and songwriter. I have always been a confident songwriter, but being a performer wasn’t as second nature to me. All the touring we’ve done and going into Lightning Round, I feel more confident as a guitar player especially. I never thought I’d be able to record an album starting the track and playing all the way through. It’s really cool to have those moments on the album.
ET: What do you each love most about being a musician?
Connor: For me, I write songs. I often get tongue-tied when trying to explain myself or I say too many things. Music has always been such a concise way to put an emotional standpoint out in front of me to see what’s going on. That’s my favorite thing about being a musician is understanding how I am feeling.
Kerry: I’d say the free food (laughing). Just kidding. Being able to say ‘thank you’ to the fans that make this possible. Performing the songs and seeing reactions is really amazing. Also like Con, the process of songwriting is a really special thing to me. It doesn’t feel like a hobby. It is a craft that I like doing and passing the time with writing songs. Growing up, I loved music and artists. I was the person who always read and opened up the CD reading the lyrics along. It’s cool to me to have people engage in a similar way to how I did when I was younger.
Chris: I’d say being part of a project that affects people’s lives in a positive way. People come up to us and say ‘your songs got me through a breakup or a hard time in my life.’ Traveling all around and shaking their hand or talking to them face to face is amazing.
ET: How did you guys learn you had a musical talent?
Connor: My brother started playing guitar long before me. He would go to a friend’s house or something, and I’d sneak in his room and learn to play Green Day songs without anyone knowing. I stumbled into it.
Kerry: I used to take violin and piano lessons. My instructors were never like ‘Kerry, you’re a prodigy.’ They were like ‘keep it up, Kerry.’ I bombed every single recital. I never made it through successfully. I really loved acting and being in school plays. That’s where my passion was and I realized I had a knack for performing, but maybe not music. It’s funny now to realize that. Around the same time when I was loving music and lyrics so much, Michelle Branch was everything to me. I loved pop music, and Michelle Branch was the first person I could see myself being like. All of those things came together, and I was captivated.
ET: I briefly listened to your ‘Be Cool’ playlist on Spotify. I saw a wide array of artists - Kacey Musgraves, Ratboys, The Beths, etc. Can you tell me more about your music taste individually or even as a group?
Kerry: There’s like a venn diagram for the three of us. It all comes to a point. Our core interests are different which is good. Our favorite albums of all time are not the same and don’t overlap. It’s cool because I’ve been hoping to put another playlist up, because when we’re touring we walk through venues and we’re wondering ‘what’s that song.’ I discover a new pile of music on tour. We’re all listening to Kacey Musgraves quite a lot.
ET: How have your experiences been touring with Hippo Campus, Margaret Glaspy, and Third Eye Blind? Any fun stories?
Kerry: We have been lucky to play with only nice and fun bands. They’re all super different. If we put a playlist together of all the bands we’ve played with, it would be very confusing and random. I kinda like that we adapt to different groups. The thread though is they are all generous to us.
Connor: I got a Margaret Glaspy story! At the end of our tour with her, someone took some nice polaroids of her and her band during the show. The fan gave them to her. Unfortunately, when they were cleaning out the green room the polaroids got thrown away. Margaret was so upset about this, and she was looking in all of the trash cans. Collectively, we all went out in the rain to dumpster dive unsuccessfully. I stuck my hand in a gross bag of something. We all bonded in that moment though.
Kerry: We really wanted to find them! It was also our last night of tour, so we were like ‘why not?’ Anything for Margaret.
ET: Any potential collaborations that you dream about or would love to make happen?
All: Kacey Musgraves.
Kerry: Sheryl Crow would be a dream. Kacey Musgraves. Letters to Cleo just started to play again. Margaret Glaspy. We discovered Margaret’s song, ‘Emotions and Math’ and ate kolaches listening to it over a hundred times when we were in Park City.
ET: How do you hope your listeners feel when they listen to your second album, ‘Lightning Round’?
Kerry: Joy. I always say joy, even though some of the songs are a little sad. People say they were in a sad place. It taps into sad, but I hope joy is what we bring to people. ‘Lightning Round’ is a little moodier than ‘Psychic Reader’. I want their to be a glimmer of hope.
Connor: Hope. This record is hope. There’s light at the end of the tunnel.
ET: When you’re on tour? What are your must-do’s or see’s of a city? Any places you haven’t been?
Kerry: My favorite song is ‘1-800’. The process we went through in the studio was an inspiring thing. ‘Nothing Gets Me High’ is my favorite to perform.
Connor: ‘1-800’ is my favorite. ‘Makes Me Nervous’ or ‘Get What I Want.’ We change them a little for the show. They’re pretty rockin’ and modulated slightly to have a new energy level.
Chris: ‘Nothing Gets Me High’ is my favorite to perform. My favorite on the album is ‘Absolute Worst.’ It’s pretty special.
Keep up with Bad Bad Hats on Instagram.
Give their Spotify playlist a listen here too.
Molly Burch evokes an emotive, introspective energy that continues to be relatable for her listeners. Being affectionate for jazz music in college and pop music as a young girl, her sound is unique to the indie-pop scene. Opening for Courtney Barnett and Grizzly Bear over the past year and with an upcoming world tour, Burch continues to make her strides as an artist.
The Los Angeles native is now based in Austin, Texas where she calls home. This October, Burch releases her sophomore album, First Flower. She’ll perform a few special sets in Austin at Waterloo Records, Antone’s with Japanese Breakfast, and finally at Austin City Limits before her tour officially kicks off. Inspired by confidence and empowerment over anxiety, Burch tells tales of her realities of love and life on this record.
ET: What’s something you really hope drives home for the audience of your second album, ‘First Flower’? Is there a message or story that you hope resonates?
MB: I hope people enjoy it and find it relatable. I wrote this after I released my first album and toured a lot. This was the first time I was dealing with the aftermath. of a lot of life changes after moving to a small city outside of Austin. I wrote a lot about anxiety, and I hope people can relate to that.
ET: Who or what were your inspirations for this album?
MB: I was inspired by moving to a small town. I was feeling isolated. I’ve never been in that situation before. It was inspiring itself to have all of this time to work and create music.. I wanted to talk a lot about more personal stuff, but also I wanted the vibe of the record to be positive, fun and less somber than the first one.
ET: I greatly connect with your single, ‘Candy’ because it feels like it gravitates towards anxieties that we all do with especially as women. How did you cope with overcoming these anxieties as a performer?
MB: Thank you! I still struggle, but I think just like pushing yourself to do it and getting more experience. With time, I have just become more comfortable with performing. Pushing myself to do it while facing that fear and realizing I can do it. I still get nervous sometimes, but for the most part I have a handle on that.
ET: I love the woman in the artwork for the latest singles. Is there a story behind the artwork?
MB: Thanks so much! I appreciate you saying that. It’s art by one of my best friends since middle school in Los Angeles, Sascha Stannard. She did all of the artwork for my first album also. She does a lot of nude figures overall.. She painted a beautiful landscape for the insert. For the credit page, it’s a lot of naked women which felt like the perfect way to represent the songs. It’s very vulnerable, beautiful and female-focused.
ET: ‘Wild’ is such a gorgeous song lyrically and vocally. I’m curious to know what that song is about and what it means to you to say ‘I wish I were a wilder soul’?
MB: That song has a few meanings. That one is about feeling trapped with anxiety and wanting to idolize other people. The chorus is wishing you didn’t have anxiety and being free of that. It’s also about not comparing yourself to others and thinking they don’t have anxiety.
ET: I read you dreamt of being a pop star and Mariah Carey was a great influence. What about women in the pop scene were you drawn to?
MB: I would pretend I could sing like them growing up. I think I liked seeing a woman on stage singing. When I started to sing, I felt like I had a certain type of voice that I could sound like them.
ET: Where’s a place you feel the most energy to create art and write songs?
MB: I feel like it has to be where I live. My sentiment is rooting me back to Austin. It’s the perfect place to feel at home. When I write, I have to be alone at home and just comfortable. Austin is that for me.
ET: Being based in Austin, I would love to know what your favorite things are about Austin?
MB: There’s so many things. I love Barton Springs, the movie theatres like Alamo Drafthouse, Veracruz and Tyson’s for tacos and Flitch Coffee!
ET: When I watched the film, ‘Hearts Beat Loud’ , I was thrilled to hear ‘Try’ on the soundtrack, and I’m sure you were also. How was that moment for you to have your music be in a major motion picture this year? Any other noteworthy moments happen recently?
MB: That was super cool. I really love Nick Offerman and the whole cast. It was really cool to hear it in a theatre setting. I think the highlight of last year and a pinch-me moment was playing Moody Theatre opening for Grizzly Bear. I’ve always wanted to play there, and it was the biggest show we played. I was nervous, but it was so special.
ET: What’s your greatest dream for your music career in the future?
MB: It’s hard to see too much in the future. I hope we can continue to keep touring, and we can enjoy the record. I am hoping to really focus on the present right now.
ET: It’s so timely that your record comes out during the week of Austin City Limits. Who are you excited to see while you play for the festival?
MB: It is such good timing! I am very excited to see Sharon Van Etten play on the same stage after me in the day. Japanese Breakfast is another. Camila Cabello plays, and I love her! I am sad that we’ll be leaving for tour when she plays though. Paul McCartney is another I wish I could see.
Keep up with Molly Burch.