What first struck me about Jillian Jacqueline is her voice, but her beauty was what made me do a double take. Now I am the first to criticize folks for drawing attention to a woman’s appearance before they talk brains and talent, but there’s no denying that her dark locks and imploring eyes are a big selling point, and something that makes her performances just that little bit more arresting. She was born in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, and despite only being in her mid-twenties she has already racked up quite the credentials; singing in local coffee shops from the age of 7, recording her first album in a basement at the age of 8, scoring a co-starring role alongside Kenny Rogers in the Broadway production ‘Christmas From The Heart’ at the age of 9, before touring with it from 1999 to 2005. During this time, young Jillian reached the top 50 of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart on a song with Suzy Bogguss and Billy Dean called ‘Please Keep Mom and Dad In Love’, and formed a band with her three sisters called the Little Women Band. They toured all over the country.
Yet, among all this, Jillian still found time to graduate from college and move to Nashville in 2010 to work on her craft. Two years ago she recorded a six-song EP with famed producer Richard Marx, and last August finally signed with Downtown Music Publishing. It has seemed a long time coming, but helmed by the single ‘Overdue’ (out now), Jillian is gearing up to release her first self-titled EP, the result of years of writing, recording, performing and getting her name out there. For starters, ‘Overdue’ (which was co-written by Jillian and Tofer Brown) is a beautiful, relaxing slice of nostalgia, both romantic and melancholic, an amalgamation of roots, pop and country. Her vocals flutter sweetly over the arrangement, at once alluding to great lung power and a simple, soprano country voice that shimmers in the night and soars like a bird. The instrumentation is simple, yet effective; a basic and unedited strummed acoustic guitar part provides the grounding and most of the bass, while a bluesy electric guitar adds little licks here and there to establish some of the melody, and the quietest soft hand beat keeps a little time. Largely the magic in this track is in Jillian’s performance supported by (I’m assuming) her co-writer in harmonies, on top of a melody that puts almost all of country radio to shame.
Perhaps a little surprisingly, Jillian doesn’t have too much music available online. A two-year-old holiday song called ‘On This Eve’ has a full, sparkling studio version and an official video, and a handful of her performances at The Song Suffragettes night in Nashville reveal a few more tracks she’s been working on. There are a couple of collaborations, such as with Nick Young covering the song ‘Say Something’ by A Great Big World, and with Austin Jenckes on a track called ‘Wild And Reckless’ (both are acoustic performances), but other than that there’s little to get a sense of the kind of music to expect from the songstress.
What we can guarantee, though, is well-written roots pop and a gorgeous delivery, and perhaps even a recording contract. Already I can see people talking about her on social media, so I’m sure with this new music (and Spotify’s promotion) it’s only a matter of time before an independent (or even a major) picks her up and pushes her directly into the spotlight. I look forward to seeing, especially at a time where fans are increasingly looking for women to readdress the gender balance, where 2015 takes her.