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Jillian Jacqueline takes the reins of her career with ‘honestly’ independent release

Jillian Jacqueline takes the reins of her career with ‘honestly’ independent release

Jillian Jacqueline moved to Nashville 12 years ago to pursue a career as a country artist. Today, she releases her first album, Frankly.

A freelance artist, Jacqueline has partnered with Virgin Music for distribution. Previously signed to Big Loud Records, Jacqueline left her label deal in 2019 and says owning her music was important. She paid for the record on her own and sees a change in the industry where artists no longer need a label to release music.

“Your power as an artist, everything is at your fingertips now,” she tells me. “The power is in social media and TikTok and you build your brand on your own. When you sign with [a label] you give percentages but you get nothing in return and it’s just not good business. It doesn’t make sense to do that anymore in my opinion.

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As an independent artist, Jacqueline says it’s important to build your brand and your connection with your fans while continuing to release music. She says she has so much freedom knowing she can release more music on her own terms thanks to her partnership with Virgin.

“It was just really good,” she says of the partnership. “I looked at their business model and felt it really made sense for where I am now. They really want to be real partners. They want to be there for what you need and let you breathe. and stream music the way you want. It should be smooth like that now.

For Jacqueline, the journey to make Frankly was not easy. She had finished mixing another album around January 2020 with the songs she had been writing since leaving Big Loud. As she was about to shop the project, the pandemic put everything on hold, so she started reworking the songs to make them more exciting. She teamed up with longtime producer Tofer Brown, and the pair later enlisted her husband, guitarist and Tofer’s brother, Bryan Brown, to co-produce.

“I thought to myself, ‘What can we do to really make a record that stands up and stands up without needing anything more than four instruments and a vocal?'” she says. “It was exciting for me. I was listening to Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton and Brandi Carlile and I thought, ‘I really like this.’

Jacqueline says Bryan challenged her and Tofer’s musical instincts in the studio. She says he forced her out of her comfort zone in so many ways that new music still surprises her when she listens to it. She’s also been more open about her songwriting and has written some things that scared her.

“There was a lot of simplicity,” she says. “A lot of lyrics that I didn’t think about or guess too much about. I trusted, ‘It’s my first instinct’ and didn’t manipulate or try to go back and make something a little more edgy or interesting.

“I felt very stripped down. With the pandemic, we’ve been taken away from all the things that make us feel productive and important and seen and validated and with all of that taken away, you’re sitting with yourself and going, ‘OK, why am I here? What am I doing? What do I have valuable things to say about myself and share?” It became much more of a situation of introspection for me where instead of trying to tell people who I was, I was trying to tell myself who I was and it’s a very heartbreaking journey when you never look inside as well.

Songs like the vulnerable title track, “Sure” candid about the relationship with her husband and “Hummingbird”, which is about her parents and her own insecurities, showcase Jacqueline’s honesty and skillful songwriting.

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After writing “Sure”, she played the demo for her husband and left the room while he listened to the track. She admits to crying in the other room because she was afraid of being so vulnerable in the song.

“It’s so funny to be scared to say something like that, but it really terrified me to be so vulnerable,” she says. “What a lesson. You think you’re an open, evolved adult, and then you realize, “Whoa, I’ve got a lot to do.” I love the simplicity of this song so much.

“There’s a lot of tenderness there and I think that tenderness was something I was afraid to show and now I’m learning that and saying, ‘It’s OK. You can be sensitive and tender. You can let people know you’re fragile and that’s part of being human.

Jacqueline redeemed the master of ‘God Bless This Mess’, which originally featured on her 2017 In front of EP, when she negotiated her contract with Big Loud. A new version of the song will be included on the vinyl of Frankly with Lucius. She says she always thought the song had the potential to be bigger than it was.

“It was the song that people got tattooed with the lyrics on their bodies and it means a lot to me,” she says. “Someone put the lyrics on their body – it’s a really big commitment and I felt it meant something. It’s my way of taking something back and saying it really meant a lot to me and that it should have another life. If I had had my way, it would have been a single. It would have had a chance to really go somewhere bigger.

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Over the past three years, Jacqueline has come to know herself as a creative, independent artist and businesswoman. So what’s the best business lesson she’s learned?

“The best business advice, which I had to learn the hard way, is to trust your own instincts from day one,” she says. “It’s so hard when you’re just starting out not looking to others for feedback and advice, but there’s something to be said for someone who follows their instincts and understands that ultimately it’s the biggest defender of their career. No one else will die at the stake for you like you will, and I think some of the most powerful artists do.

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