Speaking down the phone from a quiet nook in Sydney's Central Station, Julia Jacklin sounds relaxed, meditative. At the time of our conversation, the Australian singer is in the middle of a rare lull between a myriad of tour dates - 2017 sees her playing shows extensively throughout North America, Europe and Australasia, including a number of festivals such as Byron Bay's Splendour in the Grass and LA's FYF Fest. It's a huge year for a relatively new artist, but Jacklin shrugs it off, unfazed by the prospect.

"I kind of understand touring now," she says. "I feel like I've figured out how to stay relatively sane on the road.

"I guess I try not to look too far ahead with my schedule; that keeps it feeling a little more casual."

Though she speaks of it nonchalantly, Jacklin admits touring is "a real mental struggle," involving little sleep, no personal space and the added pressure of getting on stage every night and performing at your best. To amp herself up before shows she says she resorts to "very boring" techniques; "Literally, like, jumping up and down, pumping fists around and trying to sing a fun song with the band."


The tour follows her debut album Don't Let the Kids Win, which marched purposefully on to the scene last October. Powerful, intelligent and beautifully dynamic, the LP won favour with critics, with one calling it a "musical punch to the gut". From gloriously sprawling tracks like Motherland and Hay Plain to the delicately subtle folk of Elizabeth and Sweet Step, the record captures the bittersweetness of growing older with angelic vocals and deftly jarring songwriting.

Julia Jacklin:
Julia Jacklin: "I've figured out how to stay relatively sane on the road." Photo / supplied

Jacklin is able to hone emotions down to their purest singularities - LA Dream recounts the lethargic grief of losing a lover to travel with the opening anecdote: "Why'd you go to the grocery store on the day you planned to leave/You left me here with all this food my body does not need."

One of the album's pinnacle revelations lies in Elizabeth, a quietly devastating ode to Jacklin's best friend, fellow musician and former bandmate Elizabeth Hughes. Jacklin credits Hughes as the reason she began making music, but says she was caught off guard when Hughes began to doubt herself.

"Liz has been a friend of mine for a long time... and there was just a time when she was going through that thing I think most creative people go through, where you're going, 'Is this a good idea? Is this ever going to come to anything that's going to help me pay the rent, or should I just give it up and do something else?'

"That was a real big moment for me because we'd always been in it together and we'd always been working side by side, and when she said that it made me quite sad that she was in that place. So I wrote that song for her."

Julia Jacklin is known for her angelic vocals and deftly jarring songwriting. Photo / supplied
Julia Jacklin is known for her angelic vocals and deftly jarring songwriting. Photo / supplied

The road to Don't Let the Kids Win has been long - though released last year, it was recorded in Lyttelton in 2015 (a "dream recording situation", says Jacklin), with the songs written up to two years before. Jacklin has worked hard at mastering her style; a classically trained singer, she says she had to shake off the perfectionism that was drilled into her from a young age in order to find her voice.

"It's not about just singing the notes," she says. "I realised that what people responded to more was when I let my guard down a bit and just thought more about the performance, instead of worrying that I didn't play a single chord wrong or that my voice wasn't just this pretty, perfect soprano.

"That was when I just lowered my voice and didn't mind if my guitar sounded a bit s***."

Laneway punters would agree: Jacklin is anything but s***. And with a full solo set at the Tuning Fork next Saturday, Jacklin's performance promises to be nothing short of magic.

Who: Julia Jacklin
Where: The Tuning Fork
When: Saturday, May 27
Also: Debut album Don't Let the Kids Win, out now