As you’re reading this, Julia Jacklin is hiking somewhere in the mountains of Slovenia. It’s a well-deserved break for the Australian singer-songwriter, whose 2016 debut Don’t Let The Kids Win won her the acclaim of many and rightfully hailed her as one of the breakthrough artists of the year, propelling her into a year of relentless touring. Ahead of her performance at End of the Road festival, quite aptly her last before taking a little time to herself, John Bell caught up with the Blue Mountains artist to reflect on her year.

“I turned twenty-seven a couple of days ago and it was the first birthday in my twenties where I was just like: ‘Cool. Twenty-seven. Sick!'” Though hooded and shivering a little, Julia Jacklin is in good spirits when we meet on a grey and drizzly Sunday morning, the last day of End of the Road Festival in the South West of England. We’re behind the picturesque Garden Stage where she’s due to perform in a few hours; in the morning haze it’s a dreamy sight, with peacocks pattering in between bands retreating to a country house for steamy cups of tea.

We’re discussing her recent birthday, an event she’s only just begun to enjoy, or at least feel content with. “From pretty much twenty to twenty-six I was like ‘oh no, how did that happen? I thought I was gonna be here by then’, or, ‘fuck I’m twenty-four and I thought this was going to be different’. I think this is the first time in my adult life where I’m just happy with where I’m at right now, and that’s a feeling I’m trying hard to hold on to.” Though it’s light conversation, it’s apposite given that her debut record Don’t Let The Kids Win charted the anxieties and lessons learnt of a twenty-something; ‘I’ve got a feeling / That this won’t ever change’, she sings on its closing title track, ‘We’re gonna keep on getting older / It’s gonna keep on feeling strange’.

Though it may be temporary as she implies, her calm is genuine if not contagious, and is worn with a tranquil but tired smile; the kind that shows exhaustion from a worthy cause. “I’ve kind of been on tour since the last End of the Road, so it’s been a year. This is literally the end of the road,” she laughs. After a year of touring the record, headlining shows and supporting the likes of Andy Shauf and Mitski, as well as playing almost every festival Europe and Australia has to offer, today will be Jacklin’s last performance for a little while. “I’ve got two months off just to reset and think back on this year. When you’re in it, it can be really hard to be like, ‘Oh my god I can’t believe this has all happened!’ I’m going to go travelling by myself. I’m gonna do Croatia and then hike in Slovenia for a couple of weeks and then go home for a bit.” Understandably, when you decide to take a risk and make sacrifices and it works out, you deserve a few moments to soak it in and feel proud of your decisions. This has been harder than it sounds, she explains, and has found the lack of privacy on tour most difficult. “When you’re at home you can kind of choose to interact with other people or socialise. But on tour it’s every day all day, and you usually share the same room with the band. Obviously we’re all really close, but I think it’s hard as a creative person to not have any time by yourself because that’s when I write and recharge.”

Somewhere in the cracks of tour confinement Jacklin has managed to keep on writing, and only days ago released a 7” single ‘Eastwick/Cold Caller’. Though she’s partly joking, a recent inspiration has been found in the surprising muse of trashy, airport fiction: “You’re just reading it and you feel sick, like it is horrific but I want to finish it. There’s something at the moment about reading those books that makes me think, ‘I want to write some good prose. I want to sit down and put some good sentences together because I need to cleanse myself of that love story set in the Tuscan hills between some American tourists'”.

Given that the songs that brought Jacklin to light were by that point several years old, did she find it different or difficult now exposing to a much larger audience a more current reflection of herself?

“I’d always written about quite personal stuff and now I’m writing about personal stuff but more people know are listening and know about me, so it feels different now, and I question my decisions lyrically a bit more.”

‘You are not in a garden / You are in a store / A single stemmed rose / Reaching out for more’, sings Jacklin in the lead single ‘Eastwick’; a blunt but poetic criticism of perceptions of reality and what really makes us happy. Where did these words come from? “I think sometimes I was feeling like my connection with social media was more productive than it was. On the road as well, you’ve got so much spare time, and I’d be flicking through Instagram and think ‘you’re drinking in the culture of your time, you’re absorbing art’. And then I realised that that’s total bullshit you’re not at all, you’re just mindlessly numbing your own creativity. That’s one feeling, but it wraps up a lot of other feelings about being young.”

Though her trembling voice and waltz-like folk rock recalls music of yesteryear, the singer’s lyrics are of the now, warning us of an unhealthy obsession with consuming content to supposedly better ourselves at all costs, something she like all of us has been guilty of. “I realised that actually you’re going to be so much more productive if you just walk down a road without your phone, or without listening to music or a podcast about World War One. It sounds so fucking cheesy but just like… let your mind wander to places on its own, don’t constantly try and force it to do things. It was in those moments when I started writing again.”

Throughout our conversation, Jacklin perhaps unknowingly shows signs of homesickness. For a start, all she’s found herself listening to recently are Australian rock bands from the early 00s, such as Something For Kate and Powderfinger (as well as a healthy dose of Shania Twain, but that’s beside the point). But most telling though is when discussing moments throughout the year that have made her stop and think ‘this is my life now’. Instead of bringing up signing a record deal with Transgressive or her ever-increasing crowds, Jacklin offers a lesson learnt about the importance of keeping in touch with friends and family. “Now I’ll call my best friend and we’ll just chat like I’m there. Not ‘I miss you, I’ll see you when I’m back’, but, ‘this is my job and I’m gonna be here and miss out on a lot of stuff and that’s just something that we have to work around’. At the beginning it was like, ‘I want to be present, so I don’t wanna be talking to my mum too much because I’ve gotta be here, on the road and making sure I’m drinking it all in and not thinking about home’. But then you start to realise if you don’t connect with back home you’re gonna lose people, or at least you’re gonna get back home and things are just going to be different.”

At twenty-seven years old, Julia Jacklin is still figuring out her shit like the rest of us. Though touring miles away from her suburban Australian home may have its constraints, it’s clearly helping to shape an artist whose maturity and insight only continues to grow.

Julia Jacklin plays O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on the 9th November.

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