Jillian Jacqueline Has “Honestly” Released A Stunner Of A Debut Album

When I chatted briefly to Jillian Jacqueline back in 2019 when she was last here in the UK she told me that her debut album was work in progress, something she wanted take her time over and get exactly right. It’s something that so many of us have been eagerly anticipating following on from her well-received singles and EP releases and last Friday we finally got the chance to listen to “Honestly”,  the passion project which has been several years in the making . As the saying goes, you can’t hurry a masterpiece and Jillian has definitely provided me with a strong contender for album of the year, something I’d actually mentioned on social media was likely to be the case a few weeks ago based solely on the handful of tracks made available ahead of release day.

As well as Jillian’s own high standards there’s a few other factors which I would imagine contributed to the delay in the album’s completion, particularly as she describes it as as telling her story which is one that has taken some twists and turns recently. These include her getting married and becoming a mother, parting ways with her previous label Big Loud Records ( she teamed up with Virgin Music for this release) and of course the global pandemic which threw everyone’s plans into disarray and made many of us re-evaluate our lives! And a new publishing deal with Kobalt apparently resulted in several new writes which became contenders for inclusion, the album’s track listing consequently changing several times. But despite drawing so strongly on her personal experiences for inspiration, the feelings she shares so candidly here throughout the eleven tracks are also very human and I’m sure will be relatable to many.
“Honestly” sees Jillian working once more with Tofer Brown as producer, joined this time by his brother Bryan (her now husband) with the talented siblings also playing multiple instruments across the eleven tracks and Tofer featuring on the writing credits too alongside many familiar names including Shane McAnally, Trevor Rosen and Lori McKenna. The production is varied and absolutely beautiful throughout, some tracks having totally stripped back accompaniment while others are given a much fuller and at times cinematic sounding backing, the inclusion of vocal collaborations with Charlie Worsham and T.J.Osborne add further variety and are perfect for the respective songs. TJ’s  deep gravelly vocals contrasting so beautifully with Jillian’s on “Better With A Broken Heart”, the song that she has described as “the cornerstone of the album” in a recent interview with The Tennessean in which she says “I hope people feel the weight of what we put into that song “. There’s fantastic backing vocals on so many of the tracks but what stands out at all times regardless of what else is happening is Jillian’s absolutely dreamy and emotional vocal delivery, which leaves the listener in no doubt that she in singing from her heart and soul about all these experiences which have shaped her.
Lyrically there’s a plethora of thought provoking gut-punches, with past relationships inspiring some of the deepest, hardest hitting tracks. “Magic” is possibly one of the cleverest when it comes to drawing analogies, questioning whether a relationship was in fact ever real or just a trick of her mind like a conjurer’s show. “Hurt Somebody Else” really blew my mind and continues to do so with each listen, such a complex write examining outsiders apportioning blame and taking sides when it comes to a break up but in reality things are never that clear cut.” Hummingbird “ sees Jillian ruing her flighty behaviour which she admits is due in part to self-preservation  (“wish I could say I’ve  never flown away from somebody that needed me. But wings can’t slow down when they’re drownin’ out all the fear inside of me”).  “Compliment” is one of several tracks that has early Kacey Musgraves vibes for me, with it’s totally stripped back and delicate acoustic guitar accompaniment you can really feel the pain that Jillian unexpectedly feels having called up an ex. It’s a track which became an immediate favourite and remains so, as does ” When It Rains”, a laid back, bluesy number where Jillian vocals rise and fall so well, I love the lead guitar and the track includes one of my favourite lyrics on the album  “You and me we’re always bound to be one of the long set of clouds, waiting for the rainbow that never came”.  

But the flip side to the break up songs are the love songs celebrating what Jillian and Bryan have together. “Sure” is an out and out declaration of love, and in the delicate album closer ” Honeymoon” with minimal piano-chords as accompaniment Jillian voices her intention to always remember the heady early days of their relationship whatever life may throw at them in the future. It’s another love song which opens the album, “Ocean”, which I remember  impressing me when I heard it performed live back in 2019, and the addition of the wonderful Charlie Worsham’s vocals on the album version is perfect.

While we all want our relationships/marriages to work this isn’t always the case and on “Iconic” Jillian voices her insecurities and uncertainties based on past experiences alongside her romantic hopes for the future . “Maybe it’ll always be the blind leadin’ the blind. But the beauty’s in the tryin’ so let’s do it for a lifetime”.  What an phenomenal love song in every respect, and the beautiful accompanying video includes images from their Paris engagement and ensuing wedding… and the ending, aww, so cute!

Among these very intense tracks “Bandwagon” provides some light relief while continuing to provide a lot to think about. Most of us are guilty of being super-fast to follow the latest trends without much thought in some way or other, “who wants to be late to the party that’s already started?” . This track seems to be a a pointed dig at the fickleness of the music industry and fame in particular, “those fifteen minutes fly, when the last sun sets we’ll follow who’s up next”. 

If Jillian was aiming to get everything exactly right as she told me back in 2019, she’s definitely achieved her goal as far as I’m concerned and I’m so grateful to her for having the courage to share such personal feelings. “Honestly”  what she and the entire team have given us is something very special indeed and I hope everyone is very proud of such a beautifully crafted collection of songs.
It’s shaping up to be a busy few months ahead for Jillian including her playing selected dates out on the road with Cam (what a dream line up!) but let’s hope she hasn’t forgotten her fanbase on this side of the pond and will be returning here to play some of these killer songs for us soon.
Stream/Download “Honestly” here https://jillianjacqueline.lnk.to/honestly
” Honestly” Track List 
1. The Ocean Feat. Charlie Worsham ( J. Jacqueline, Tofer Brown, Hillary Lindsey)
2. When It Rains ( J. Jacqueline, T Brown )
3. Bandwagon ( J. Jacqueline, T. Brown, Trevor Rosen)
4. Hummingbird ( J. Jacqueline, Daniel Tashian, Andrew Deroberts)
5. Better With A Broken Heart feat. TJ Osborne ( J. Jacqueline, T. Brown, Adam James)
6. Iconic ( J. Jacqueline, T. Brown, Kate York)
7. Compliment ( J. Jacqueline, T. Brown, Badi Diaz)
8. Magic ( J.Jacqueline , T. Brown, Shane McAnally)
9. Hurt Somebody Else ( J.Jacqueline, T. Brown, Justin Parker )
10. Sure ( J.Jacqueline, T.Brown, Kate York)
11. Honeymoon ( J.Jacqueline, Rob Persaud, Alex Reid)
More artist information at jillianjacqueline.com
Review written by Lesley Hastings (twitter.com/lesleyhastings)
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