“I don’t feel any pressure at all for the second record … I think I had such big writer’s block after the first album that I was just so happy I could still do it that it overtook any anxiety about whether the songs were any good or better or whether or not I had improved as a songwriter. I was more like, ‘phew!’.”
Julia Jacklin’s songwriting is both direct and complex. Her voice somehow fresh and seasoned at the same time, crooning lyrics that are unequivocally about her but that strike the listener so profoundly they might as well have been written about us instead. Her craft is a nuanced embodiment of life’s ever-present dualities, and her second album Crushing, a deep dive into all the chaos and vulnerability uncovered before, during and after a breakup, is no different. The 10-song follow-up to her 2016 debut Don’t Let The Kids Win explores the themes of mind versus body, defeat and empowerment, insatiable crushes and emotional disentanglement, each track washed with her mesmerising vocals. The emotional core of the album reads like a private diary, and a second listen reveals devastating moments or finer details that might have gone unnoticed during your first. Like a film you want to see again it stays with you long after the set list has finished, the product of a woman who is both more self assured this time around and in many other ways still figuring life out.
Here, filmmaker Jordan Watton captures Jacklin on a recent visit to Sydney where she opens up on Crushing, life on tour and why she needs to be busy to create her best work.
What’s the difference in approaching a second album as opposed to the first? Do you come at it in a different way?
It’s like two totally different beasts. The first album you’re not even thinking about it. None of the songs I wrote were for a ‘first album’, I was just playing around Sydney for five, six years and writing songs as I went. Eventually thinking ‘Oh, I should probably make a record’. I already had the songs so I just sort of picked 11 of the best songs out of probably 50 songs that I’d written over the last five years. But with the second record, you have to write it in a shorter space of time, you’re thinking about a lot of different things, like about how they’re going to sound different from your first songs. It’s hard to even explain because I think the person who wrote the first album and me know who wrote this album feel very different.
In what ways are you different?
I don’t know, back then I wasn’t a full time musician, I was just studying and working and didn’t feel like a songwriter or that this was my job, because it wasn’t. But now I’ve been doing this full time for three years and it’s a very … I’ve grown up a lot.
In press for your first album you mentioned you had hidden any personal references well, and no one would be offended or know a particular song was about them because you’d found ways to hide it in the music. Do you take the same approach now?
Yeah, I don’t care anymore. I feel like the people I write about are all my friends, and so many of us are songwriters and it’s just like … it is weird now because I’ve been doing press for this record and a lot of people are asking me a lot of questions like ‘do you think it’s weird now that all these personal stories are out there’ and I’m like ‘I am now!’ I definitely wasn’t before the record or leading up to it, but I don’t know. The funny thing is … they are personal but it’s not like I’m ripping out my diary and letting people see every side of me, it still is curated, and it’s still versions of the truth that I’m willing to share. And it’s not like I’m talking about stuff that is too heavy to be honest, it’s just about heartbreak. You think these experiences are so unique to you, but you realise ‘I’m pretty generic aren’t I?’. These experiences are very normal and not very special, and there is something quite nice about that.
What do you hope to get out of the album and what do you hope other people will get out of it?
I never want to say too much in that direction, because I never want to be a preachy person who’s like saying what I want to happen, because I guess you just put it out there and hope things happen. I’m definitely not a preachy persona and I hate any sort of hallmark caption about life or music, but I really like the songs and I think that’s a really difficult thing to say in this industry. Humility seems to just be super self-deprecating which is just annoying because I like my music and that is why I keep doing it, and it’s what motivates me to write songs that I like. I hope people like them, that’s one, and if it makes people feel something, that’s good.