Interview: Jillian Jacqueline’s Country ‘Street Cred’ Runs Deep
In 2014, Jillian Jacqueline released a single, "Overdue," featuring harmonies from none other than Vince Gill, but the up-and-coming singer-songwriter's country music cred goes back much further than that: For starters, at just nine years old, Jacqueline was working with the one and only Kenny Rogers.
During a conversation with The Boot, Jacqueline shared the "very bizarre" incident that led her to a part in Rogers' Christmas From the Heart show, which ran on Broadway for three months: After her mom saw an ad, the two drove from their home in Chester Springs, Pa., to New York City for auditions.
"I didn't have a headshot, I'd never done an audition, nothing ... I had two different socks on, I remember," Jacqueline recalls, adding that in her first audition, she was asked to do a choreographed dance and had nothing prepared ... so she winged it. "It was so embarrassing, but they asked me to come back, weirdly."
On their way home, Jacqueline and her mom got a call: She'd earned the part.
After the Christmas residency, Jacqueline spent several years touring with Rogers, both for Christmas and regular shows; she'd perform an opening set -- cover songs -- and sing duets with him ("Never "Islands in the Stream," because that would be weird," she says with a laugh).
"He's such an incredible entertainer and human being," Jacqueline gushes, noting that she and Rogers are still in touch. "All of his humility and his work ethic are things I really admire."
Through Rogers, Jacqueline was introduced to Suzy Bogguss and Billy Dean. Together, the three recorded a single, "Keep Mom and Dad in Love," that earned a Top 50 spot on the Billboard country charts; Bogguss and Dean portrayed a mother and father going through a divorce, while Jacqueline sang the part of their daughter. The track rang true for the young artist, whose own parents were divorcing at that time.
"It was such a bizarre and emotional time and experience for me," Jacqueline says, "because I was singing that song, and I really felt it."
It would be another decade or so before Jacqueline would link up with Gill, though. After forming the Little Women Band with her three sisters, Jacqueline put her musical endeavors on hold to attend public high school and go to college.
"It sounds funny now, but at the time, I was just burnt out," she explains. "But the whole time, in the back of my mind, I knew that I always wanted to do music."
Jacqueline continues, "I needed that time to feel the fire for what I'm dong now ... There was a part of me I needed to explore ... I needed to make sure that the passion was there."
Back to Gill: Once in Nashville, Jacqueline landed a co-writing session with the country icon through producer Richard Marx -- "probably the scariest co-write of my life," she admits. "For the first 10 minutes, I don't think I could make a word."
Still, they ended up writing a song called "Take Me Down." That tune appears on Gill's newest album, Down to My Last Bad Habit, and features Little Big Town. And after their writing session, Gill agreed to sing on "Overdue."
"The first time I heard [the finished product], I cried," Jacqueline says. "I mean, I couldn't stop crying.
These days, Jacqueline's music leans more toward the poppy side of country, but if you listen to her songs in order -- play "Overdue" and her second single, "Keep This Safe," before playing her recent Prime EP -- you'll see a progression that makes sense.
"It honestly was such an organic, natural progression," Jacqueline says. "Artists are complicated people ... Nobody's going to have just one side ... and I wanted the music to feel like that.
"I think, as an artist, it's important to let people see you and be a little bit naked and not be perfect, and it took me a while to realize that," she continues. "You just have to let them in and let them see who you are and where you are, and then they'll grow with you."
Still, as she works on her first full-length project, Jacqueline's classic country roots are not forgotten.
"My music has naturally come out a little more pop ... but my heart is definitely in that classic country, and '90s country is a huge part of who I am," she muses. "It's a good group of people to be in, for sure."
Jacqueline's music is available to listen to on Spotify.
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