While Jillian Jacqueline may not be a name you know just yet, it’s time we introduce you to one of Nashville’s fastest rising stars. If you doubt us, just ask Vince Gill who has already lent his vocals to one of her songs and released a song she co-wrote called “Take Me Down” as his most recent single.
This March, Jillian released her debut self-titled EP to Spotify and when asked to describe its sound, she coins the unique term “neon country.”
As an artist, her influences range from Patty Loveless, Patsy Cline and Kenny Rogers to Third Eye Blind, the All American Rejects and the Smashing Pumpkins, allowing her to discover a sonic identity all her own. “It’s country at the core, but there’s definitely some of it that sounds shinier and maybe more cosmopolitan. I grew up in New York City for a lot of my teen years so a lot of my story has nothing to do with cows and back roads and trucks. I was on fire escapes and riding the subway and writing poetry in my mom’s apartment so there’s a different kind of side to me.”
When it came to releasing her debut EP, Spotify was the most logical place due to a relationship she’s forged with the streaming service over the years. “I really respected what they’ve been doing… I’ve watched them take a couple of artists that I really like and give them the spotlight and it’s given them this whole larger platform. I use Spotify and it’s kinda my way of discovering new music. I find that it encourages me to buy more music than I would if I didn’t have Spotify because if I like something, I go buy it…As a completely unknown independent artist, it’s a tool that I couldn’t refuse to use.”
While it would be impossible for her to choose a favorite song on the EP, she says that “Kids These Days” is definitely a standout track with a special place in her heart. “I cannot pick a favorite, they’re like my children. Maybe moms have them, but they’re not supposed to say. That song, though, is a really cool moment on the EP and it shows people a different side to me as a songwriter, being very introspective and lyrics-heavy… ‘Kids These Days’ is probably my most-prized track and I’m just really proud of what it says.”
In addition to that song, Jacqueline points to the EP’s first-single “Prime” as another standout track, admitting that she felt an electric “Oh my God, this is it!” type of feeling when she first wrote it. “It feels like me, but it also feels like it could be on the radio.” However, as is often the case in the music industry, not everyone on her team was immediately on board with the track, so she put it on the back burner. When it came to her live shows, people constantly approached her about and asked where they could hear it, and now the rest is history. “It’s a really important message that I wanted to say and I really wanted that to be one of the first things people heard from me,” she says. “Prime” is now her debut music video and she admits that she saw it all in her head before she started making it. “I think I was just beyond excited to make a music video.”
While Jacqueline is still promoting her EP, she admits that she’s already working on a full-length project to be released down the road. And when it comes to writing, there’s no set method to her madness, aside from enlisting her EP producer, Tofer Brown. “I’m a big title person and I love titles that jump out at me and sometimes I try to figure out how to get to that, but it’s always different. It keeps it exciting.”
On some of her earlier work, Jillian worked with the legendary Richard Marx, who ultimately introduced her to none other than Vince Gill. He lent his guest vocals to her song “Overdue.” “I just got lucky on that one,” she admits. “He heard it and was like ‘Sure, I’ll sing on it,’ and he put his unbelievable vocals on that song. I always have people asking me who’s singing the background vocals and they think it sounds like him, but are like ‘There’s no way it’s Vince Gill’!I want to somehow put that song in a little glass box with a light on it like in a museum…like this is the one thing in my life I’ve done.”
One of her favorite memories of Gill was at his house for a listening session of his new album, Down to My Last Bad Habit. “He opened the door in overalls and I was like ‘This guy cannot get any cooler.’ If I ever write an autobiography, that’s definitely going in it.”
While Gill may be the ultimate collaborator, Jacqueline has a few other dream partners. “Bryan Adams. If I ever got to sing a duet with Bryan Adams, I’d cry. I’d be crying so much I couldn’t sing. I’d just be sobbing. Obviously Tom Petty, just to be in a room with him, somehow, some way at some point in my life would be unbelievable. I’m a huge fan of John Mayer as a songwriter and a guitar player, I think he’s just brilliant. Bonnie Raitt is another huge influence…vocally and stylistically she’s just badass. Sheryl Crow is another huge one… When she came out with her music the way she did…I don’t know that any female could ever do what she did with those albums, just so cool. And Grace Potter. I want dance lessons from Grace Potter. She is probably one of the best live performers I’ve ever seen so just to share a stage with her would be really, really cool. I could go on forever.”
In addition to her music career, Jillian has a hobby that has blown up in a way she never expected, maintaining an Instagram account for her now Insta-famous dogs, Huck and Gus. The pair of French Bulldogs have over 50,000 Instagram followers and their account just blew up after a friend posted a picture of them with Doug the Pug. “People just love puppies and the more photos I posted, the more their followers grew.” However, despite the success of that account, she refuses to use their page to promote her music. “That’d be the lowest of low,” she laughs.
Over the next few months, in addition to posting adorable dog photos, she’ll be working on her forthcoming album and playing shows around Nashville , including a show at 12th and Porter on April 20th. We can tell you this, Jillian Jacqueline is definitely one country artist to keep your eye on.
Watch Jillian Jacqueline’s debut music video for “Prime” here: