Jillian Jacqueline on the Art of Individuality

Rising Artist Talks New Single “God Bless This Mess” and Finding the “Guts in the Room”

It was a hot summer afternoon the day I sat down with Jillian Jacqueline, one of the most buzzed-about artists on the scene, to discuss her new music and her inspiring journey.

Dressed sharply in a red, floral print blouse and a pair of killer metallic Topshop boots, Jacqueline’s warmth and kindness entered the room before she did. But what began as a perfectly delightful chat quickly morphed into something of a master class with one of Nashville’s brightest rising stars.

Jacqueline’s road to this breaking moment in her career has been a long one — both rewarding and at times a little bumpy, but chock full of teachable moments that have made her arguably one of the wisest and most self-aware women on Music Row.

“I thought about it the other day, the timeline of my career,” Jacqueline told CMT.com. “It’s been twenty years that I’ve been doing this. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to be a singer. I’ve been doing this since I was seven years old. And sometimes I feel like what is taken as confidence is simply just me not knowing how to be anything else. It’s just who I am.”

But getting to that place of ownership doesn’t happen overnight. For Jacqueline, there was a lot of growing and growing up to do, and some of that has continued in her recent years on the Row.

“I think a lot of us have to try different things and in the last several years in Nashville I have,” she said. “You just have to keep doing what you do until eventually that energy begins to work in your favor and that window opens for you.

“I was just trying to be completely honest with myself during that time because I’m naturally pretty bad at doing things I don’t want to do.”

And there is a peace in taking ownership of who you are, and it reads all over Jacqueline’s face and in her body language. She has a very calming presence. She’s bright, real, honest, conversational — qualities all perfectly mirrored in her lyrics.

“I attribute a lot of what I do lyrically to how much I read as a child,” she said of her songwriting. “I read a lot of different types of books and I kept a lot of journals and diaries, because I was obsessed with words. So for me, when I approach songs, I want every single line to make me feel like, ’Oh, that’s so weird, I’ve never heard that before.’ And sometimes in writing groups that gets me into trouble, because they’re like, ’Nobody would say that!’ and I’m like, ’I would say that. So let’s say it.'”

And that right there is the essence of Jacqueline.

“I think I maybe just have a knack for wanting to be different. I think my mom encouraged that a lot.”

From day one Jacqueline’s mother has been incredibly supportive of her daughter’s talents and career, always encouraging her to be her own person.

“She would say, ’Do your thing. Do it differently than everyone else.’ And I felt that was really accepted.”

So it’s no surprise that the acceptance and celebration of individuality is at the core of everything Jacqueline does. From her style to her music, she truly marches to the beat of her own drum.

“I get the question a lot: ’What makes you different?’ I’m thinking to myself, ’I am just me.’ I think if everyone really sat down with themselves and did something that felt purely them 100%, it’s different.”

But individuality has universal appeal. As we talked about the songs on her new project, transparency became the word and theme du jour, because for Jacqueline, pure honesty will always translate.

“It’s your take on those bigger themes — love, loss, family, celebration — your take on those things is what makes you unique,” she said. “We’re all going to write songs about love, but you’re going to have a very specific experience that I want to hear about. What time of night was it? What was his name? What were you wearing? How did you feel?”

Painting a picture — that’s what Jacqueline does best. Songs like “Sugar and Salt,” “Reasons,” “Sad Girls” — they all paint visuals so vivid you can practically see the story playing out in your head as the song plays.

The same goes for “Bleachers” a song about just being where you are and blooming where you’re planted.

“It’s a little bit more anthemic than what I’ve done in the past,” she admitted. ’Prime’ was kind of that, too. And I wanted to write something that was just fun and easy to sing to. I’m not really good at the happy-go-lucky songs to be honest, that song was a quirky way to say something universal and fun.”

But at the heart of Jacqueline’s style in life and in music is the desire to get straight to the heart of the matter.

“A friend of mine describes it as the juice — she says ’I just want to find the juice in the room.’ Me too! I gotta feel the guts here, what’s really going on,” she said. “I think the reason music can be so powerful is because you’re sharing something that is so naked.”

Enter her song “God Bless This Mess,” her brand new single and possibly the most vulnerable tune Jacqueline has ever recorded. It’s another departure for her, but a different type of moment that changed and impacted her for the better.

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