Julia Jacklin never expected to become a full-time musician.
She hung in the background choir of school musicals, went to university to study social policy, juggled a few jobs, dabbled in a few bands. Back then, the now 29-year-old from the Blue Mountains was tirelessly pursuing her passion, but didn’t think it would become her career.
“It wasn’t really something I expected,” says Jacklin. “I don’t know if anyone really expects it, unless you grow up in some sort of musical troupe.
“I just think human preservation is to keep expectations low, and then everything is a surprise.”
Jacklin released her debut record Don’t Let The Kids Win in 2016, which abruptly thrust her into the touring circuit. Four years on and the shows have barely ever stopped, sending Jacklin on constant stints around Australia and beyond.
“It’s exhausting but I think because I’ve been an all-the-time touring musician for the last four to five years, it’s just kind of normal now,” she says. “When I’m not on tour it’s like, ‘Oh, what is this?’.
“Everyone’s always like, ‘Just relax, look after yourself’, and I’m like, ‘I don’t know what that means’. I’m trying to figure that out right now.”
This change of pace wasn’t an easy transition for the singer to begin with, and she reveals these struggles on Crushing. The record, which came out last year, is a sort of diary for how she felt while evolving from a casual musician to a touring one, and the changes she was grappling with.
“It was just the changing dynamics of my relationships around me, based off of the new way that I was living,” she explains. “Just being away a lot and very disconnected from all of the support networks that I had built up over the years in Sydney.
“Suddenly they’re kind of torn away from you and you’re thrown into this foreign environment and you’re not really supported.”
At the time, Jacklin was young and appreciative of the opportunity to tour and do shows, but it was almost a double-edged sword. On the one hand, she was doing what she loved, but the lack of support and guidance sucked some of the joy from it.
“There’s this kind of idea that you’re happy and so grateful to be doing it that that overrides the difficulties of doing it,” she says. “There’s also this idea that if you say that you’re not having a great time, then you’re not cut out for it.
“In the beginning, like those first couple of years, I was just trying to do the work but I wasn’t really enjoying it because it was just so much to take on – that kind of travel time mixed with the absolutely insane nature of the job.
“I love touring now because I understand I can say no to things or push back onto [certain] behaviour, but at the beginning I thought I was just a sponge-slash-doormat. Like, ‘I just have to do everything, and I just have to put up with everything because I want to do this’.”
Jacklin has grown up since then, both as a person and a performer. She’s become more familiar with the nature of the music industry and the pressures of touring life, and has learnt to put herself and her work back into perspective.
“I’ve definitely become more confident in what I do,” she says. “I have so much more perspective on what a good performance is and what a good show is and how important it is to remember you’re literally just singing songs, like it’s not that important work really.
“I don’t say that in a flippant way. You’re there to connect with people and entertain, but it’s not very serious work. I take it seriously, but I try not to take myself seriously anymore.”
Catch Julia Jacklin at Grampians Music Festival when it goes down from Friday February 28 to Saturday February 29. Head to grampiansmusicfestival.com for tickets and the full lineup.