Pitchfork: You played four concerts in December. Did you find gathering in front of a crowd different after the pandemic?
Julia Jacklin: It was incredibly intense actually, it took me about a week to recover. I think there was this expectation that once the shows came back we would all get up and say, “Yeah, that’s amazing, I missed that, hallelujah!” But of course, it’s not going to be like that. In Sydney at least, the shows they’ve been able to put on are reduced in capacity and seating, and there are new rules to keep everyone safe. There was no community transmission at the time, but you have a crowd of people who are not used to going out and a group of musicians who are not used to playing. Was it just so many feelings in the room, that I didn’t feel much at all? The best part was being able to look left and see a friend at a microphone and be like, Ah, it’s a beautiful sight.
Has your perception of touring changed over the years?
When I first started I hated touring because I didn’t know what I was doing. Now I have a strict “no cockheads” policy in my crew, and I finally have the strength to call it. At first, I was more concerned with trying to make everyone happy, and becoming very … well, basically like a doormat. “Oh, do you want to be horrible to me?” It’s okay, because I probably deserve it. You’re thrown into touring life with no education – just thrown in the pit and it’s like, Learn on the road, woman. And then suddenly you are on the road for months and months with a group of men, working in such a foreign environment.
When I saw you play at the end of 2019, you presented your song “Convention”With this story of a man who wanted to teach you to change the strings of your guitar, when you had just played an entire set. I asked myself : Does she make the same joke every show?
I don’t want to brag here, and I don’t know if it’s even something to do, but: I have repeated this story several times, and I feel sick every time. I hate to repeat any joke. It’s probably the pressure I put on myself the most. It’s not even about performing the songs – it’s the spontaneous joke I’m meddling about. I have the impression that a show lives and dies depending on whether I succeeded or not. But it also keeps it fresh for me. If I took the stage every night with repeated jokes leading up to every song I’d be like, What am I, a cabaret artist?
Besides the spontaneity factor, do you think jokes complement your set in some way?
Well you have to balance it out. I know my music has heavy aspects so you don’t want to be just kidding. You also need to somehow lighten up the heaviness, as you don’t want the whole show to be like, “This set is about deep heartbreak and sadness” and never give the audience a break. Basically don’t take yourself too seriously, but neither do do not take yourself seriously.
How did you end up performing in a duet “Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You” with Lana Del Rey at one of her shows in 2019?
It’s a funny story. I was in Nashville on a break between tours and went to this fundraiser for Planned Parenthood [where singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers was DJing]. I got really drunk and danced with Maggie on “Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You” which was weird but really fun. Anyway, I was in an Uber on the way home and checked my Instagram DMs – and got a message from the fucking Lana Del Rey. I was like, “What is my life like right now?” Plus, it’s probably a Lana Del Rey fan page fucking with me. She wrote: “My brother and I listen to your music, and it would be great if you could come to Denver and sing a duet with me.” I was like, “Answer now or it will go away.” So I said, “I’m really drunk right now, but yeah, yeah.” And then I woke up the next morning with a great hangover like, “Something amazing happened last night. What was that? ”And then I rechecked my Instagram and thought,“ Holy shit. ”