Current Issue #488

Julia Jacklin gets her body back

Julia Jacklin
NIck Mckk
Julia Jacklin

Although documenting the end of a relationship, Julia Jacklin’s second album Crushing is as much about growing up as breaking up.

“I wrote it on tour, towards the end of a two and a half year touring period – so I was pretty exhausted,” she says of the road miles accrued in the wake of her 2016 debut Don’t Let The Kids Win. “My life had accelerated, so my growth had to. Touring makes everybody grow up a bit I think.

“The songs are lyrically direct, and I really think that had a lot to do with my exhaustion levels, just not having that much time or mental capacity to over-edit my thoughts or try to cover anything up too much.”

The result is an unusually direct, unvarnished second album light on big, anthemic kiss-offs, but full of the ambiguity and mundane details that mark many relationship breakdowns. “So many songs are written about heartbreak and breakups, but sometimes it’s hard to see yourself in a lot of songs,” she says.

“A lot of the time breakups aren’t actually that dramatic. They’re more just heavy and sad because things are just not the way they were, and there’s no real explanation or understanding of why. You just have to be grown up and make a decision to let something go.

Julia Jacklin performs at WOMADelaide 2019
Sia Duff
Julia Jacklin performs at WOMADelaide 2019

“It’s kind of hard to write about that because it’s not as exciting, definitely in the past when I wrote about breakups that maybe weren’t that dramatic, I definitely dramatised them for the sake of the song or painted myself as a victim when maybe I wasn’t, just because it’s an easier position to write from.

“With this record I wanted to be more honest and maybe pay tribute to the banal, basic aspects of what a lot of us go through.”

Reclaiming one’s body is another recurring motif on the record, born of long, cramped hours in transit and the grueling experience of gaining a profile in the music industry and finding you’re no longer entirely your own.

“I was sharing lot of space with people for a long time, and I’m someone who always thrived when I had space and time to myself. You can’t really get that on the road, especially touring at that stage where you don’t have that much money and have to take every opportunity that you’re given.

“You realise a lot of things you were willing to put up with when you were younger and thought were normal – the way people touch you and interact with you growing up, and being like, ‘oh actually no, that’s not okay and that makes me feel bad’. I didn’t call it out at the time because it’s always difficult to do that… so I’m just going to chuck it on the album and put it out there.”

A more direct example comes in the middle of album opener Body, where Jacklin quietly recalls an unguarded moment with a former partner and a camera, before wondering, ‘do you still have that photograph? Would you use it to hurt me?’

An all-too-common fear for many women whether they have a public profile or not, the subject of image-based sexual abuse is nevertheless a lyrical road less travelled road in pop music.

“The way that our world has changed, the way we interact with each other and the way we date has moved so rapidly, but our attitudes to nudity and women’s bodies – what we should and shouldn’t do – are moving at a much slower rate,” Jacklin reflects.

“I think anytime you hear or read things about women being shamed for photos shared when they were in a very different head space, when they were in love or trusted someone, is ridiculous and incredibly hypocritical. Because people who received those photos probably asked for them, and probably sent their own photos but men’s are not objectified or shamed as much as ours – it’s a very different thing.”

But while a fear of betrayal opens the album, closer Comfort brings the opposite, as Jacklin sings regretfully of being unable to be there for someone she once held dear – an ex who, incidentally, is sad because she ended the relationship.

It’s that ambiguity that drew Jacklin to the record’s title: is she crushing on someone, ‘crushing it’ at life, or simply being crushed? “It just felt like the right word for the record, written in a time of such massive highs and massive lows,” she laughs.

“I like to reel people in with fun imagery. And then crush them.”

This article was originally published in March 2019

14 March 2020

Julia Jacklin

Walter Marsh

Walter Marsh

Digital Editor
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Walter is a writer and editor living on Kaurna Country.

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