MusicRowPics: Jillian Jacqueline Talks Signing With Big Loud Records, Inspiration From Kacey Musgraves

Jillian Jacqueline performs. Photo: Haley Crow/MusicRow

When singer-songwriter Jillian Jacqueline made her first visit—acoustic guitar in hand—to perform her songs for executives in Big Loud Records’ conference room on Nashville’s Music Row, she thought the meeting was essentially a pitch session, to determine whether her songs would be a good fit for other artists.

After hearing her ability to unearth deep-seated emotions in her lyrics, accompanied by her unfettered vocal delivery, the Big Loud Records team made it clear that they wanted her as the latest artist to join their roster, which also includes Chris Lane and Morgan Wallen.

After signing to Big Loud Records, the label arm of Craig Wiseman’s Big Loud operations, and led by Clay Hunnicutt, Jillian began rolling out songs to fans. Each song was accompanied by its own video. The projects have accumulated nearly nine million streams over the past year.

Her artistry and creative vision earned Jillian inclusion into the prestigious ranks as one of CMT’s Next Women of Country for 2017.

Jillian’s fourth single, “God Bless This Mess,” releases July 21, setting into motion copious promotional activities including a radio tour to launch in August, and a trip to London as part of Country Music Week in October.

Before the whirlwind of media activities, Jillian and the Big Loud team have taken time to hold similar, private acoustic performances, fine-tuning each aspect of the performance.

“We might do this setup eight or 10 times, determining the set lists, and what the focus tracks are,” Big Loud Records’ Hunnicutt mentioned.

MusicRow owner/publisher Sherod Robertson with Jillian Jacqueline. Photo: Haley Crow/MusicRow

Jillian recently performed her music for MusicRow.

The emotional and creative outpouring from a tumultuous breakup provide the lyrical basis for songs such as “Reasons,” penned with producer Tofer Brown and Big Loud Publishing songwriter Sarah Buxton, as well as “Hate Me,” co-written with Brown and songwriter powerhouse Hillary Lindsey.

“I’ve always been an advocate of writing songs that were not about relationships, because as a female, I want to say other things,” Jillian says. “But I was hit with the reality of what was going on in my life and felt like I needed to use those sessions as therapy. With ‘Hate Me,’ we wanted to capture that feeling of self-deprecation when you are like, ‘Just be mean to me,’ so that it’s easier to walk away rather than try to be friends.”

The musical release that came with penning the songs was worth the personal risk for Jillian.

“The person lives in town and people ask me if I was nervous to put these songs out because he will hear them and I was not at all. I didn’t even think that far. I just wrote them and they became some of the most honest things I’ve ever written.”

“God Bless This Mess,” penned with Lori McKenna, is an ode to the misfits, the wallflowers, the broken and wannabes of the world, which encapsulates nearly everyone in some capacity. The song had been on hold for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill for nearly a year before Jillian’s team convinced her to record it for her own project.

“I think the reason I hesitated was that I hear that anthem songs can come across as preachy, but I just wanted to make sure that my perspective and point of view were coming across. It’s become one of my favorite songs and I loved the way it turned out on the record.”

The Pennsylvania native has been making inroads into the country scene since she was a child. She and her three sisters performed as a family group when Jillian was seven. Two years later, her audition for a role in Kenny Rogers’ Christmas tour led to six years of sharing the stage with the country legend. In 2001, she released “Please Keep Mom and Dad In Love,” a duet with Billy Dean and Suzy Bogguss. Already a seasoned performer by age 16, Jillian took a break from music to pursue college, followed by a season focused on writing and performing around New York. At one point, her sisters formed country group The Lunabelles, who had signed a deal with BNA Records.

In 2014, Jillian watched as Kacey Musgraves used a portion of her Grammy Awards acceptance speech to thank Downtown Music Publishing’s Steve Markland for championing her career. “I thought, ‘Who is that?’ So I tracked him down and set up a meeting with him,” Jillian recalls.

After signing with Downtown, Jillian set about crafting and releasing an independent EP. After meeting with different labels, Jillian found in Big Loud Records the creative freedom and support she sought.

“I had a very particular desire in mind for the next phase of my career because I had put out an EP of my own and was very DIYing it and I liked that process,” Jillian says. “I like to be really involved. Here it’s like a family and everyone is so creative and excited about what they are doing. It was a gut feeling for sure.”

Jillian Jacqueline with MusicRow staffers.



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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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