Jillian Jacqueline is everything that is right in country music. For starters, the singer/songwriter found her love for performing at a young age, at a little before seven years old, and spent many years after that honing her craft. This devotion to music led to several singles, EP releases, and even a duet with Keith Urban (check out “If I Were You” here).
Overall, though, it’s Jacqueline’s ear for love songs, a sixth sense for sarcasm, and skill at navigating collaborations that is apparent in each track she writes. Her many talents are especially apparent in her latest full-length release, Honestly (out June 10). Below we’ll dive into said album with none other than Jillian Jacqueline herself. Keep reading as Jacqueline describes the many stories behind each song on Honestly, track by track.
1. “The Ocean” (written by J. Jacqueline, Tofer Brown, Hillary Lindsey) — featuring Charlie Worsham.
“Some loves are easy / Coming and going / Some loves are endless… Some loves are rivers / Some are the ocean.”
“My musical partner, Tofer Brown, and I wrote this with Hillary Lindsey, one of my songwriting heroes – lyrics just flow out of her,” Jillian explains. “She’s written for so many artists in Nashville, but also for pop artists like Lady Gaga. The ‘ocean’ represents ‘the one,’ in a romantic sense, while the relationships that came before that weren’t for naught – they were rivers that led to the ocean. You learn and grow from past relationships. But this is an ode to the man who became my husband, Bryan Brown, who plays guitar in my band… I’m so glad that Charlie Worsham could sing this with me. We’ve toured some together, and I’m a huge fan of his. There’s such a textured, heartfelt quality to Charlie’s voice.”
2. “When It Rains” (J. Jacqueline, T. Brown).
“Doesn’t hit me in that east-side dive bar, no / Doesn’t hit me when a stranger says your name / Doesn’t hit me when somebody plays that old Heartbreakers song that we used to sing… I only miss you when it rains.”
“Tofer, who’s also my brother-in-law, and I wrote this together at a cabin in Smithville, Tennessee. It was such a gorgeous spot, but it was raining one day and I was thinking about missing someone. We wrote it in about an hour, just concentrating on capturing a single emotion.”
3. “Bandwagon” (J. Jacqueline, T. Brown, Trevor Rosen).
“Hey, don’t get left behind / Those 15 minutes fly… Who wants to be late to a party that’s already started.”
“We wrote this one with Trevor Rosen from Old Dominion. It’s the token light-hearted song on the album, tongue-in-cheek with a little sarcasm. It’s about this idea that humans tend to follow trends, getting really into something but then just dropping it once it’s no longer so fresh and the ‘it’ thing anymore, or til something new comes along.”
4. “Hummingbird” (J. Jacqueline, Daniel Tashian, Andrew Deroberts).
“Wish I was like my father, steady as a lion/ Or a little more like my mother, patient as the sky / But I’m more like a hummingbird with a restless heartbeat…”
“This song feels like a side of myself I hadn’t yet explored in a lyrical sense, as a daughter and as someone searching for contentment. I’ve figured out how to slow down a bit and appreciate being in the moment, but the song speaks to the go-go-go personality and ‘restless heartbeat’ I’ve always had, for better or worse. I also just really love singing this song.”
5. “Better with a Broken Heart” (J. Jacqueline, T. Brown, Adam James) — featuring TJ Osborne.
“A sad song in a smoky bar / A long drive alone without anywhere to go… Some things just go better with a broken heart.”
“This was the first song I wrote in the pandemic, via Zoom, with Tofer and I joined by our friend Adam James. It feels like the cornerstone of the album, and it’ll be the second single. I love that country music has always embraced a lonely, heartbroken feeling. I grew up on all those country heartache songs, from Patsy Cline to Pam Tillis. This has a bit of that twang and those saloon chords. I’m thrilled to have TJ of the Brothers Osborne singing with me on it. I’ve always loved that resonant voice of his, with this emotional tremor to it. He really nailed it in the studio, and hearing us together on the chorus just gives me chills!”
6. “Magic” (J. Jacqueline, T. Brown, Shane McAnally).
“Were we drunk or just distracted? / Feels like smoke and mirrors now… Were we just an empty hat without the rabbit? / Was it real or was it magic?”
“I’ve had this song in my back pocket for a few years. I played the chorus of it on Instagram, and a lot of people would ask when I was going to release the song officially. Well, now it’s going to be the first single from Honestly. It’s a sister song to my earlier recordings, like ‘Overdue’ and ‘Sad Girls,’ serving as a bridge from where I was with my initial EPs to where I am with this new, fully realized album.”
7. “Sure” (J. Jacqueline, Lori McKenna, T. Brown).
“I’m not sure the sun’ll rise tomorrow / And I’m not sure the ocean pulls the moon / I’ve got a lifelong history of this whole world being a mystery / And I’m sure I’ve never been sure about anything / But I’m sure about you.”
“I wrote the words of ‘Sure’ with Lori McKenna and Tofer Brown. We had worked together before, like on ‘Sad Girls,’ from my Side B EP, and ‘God Bless This Mess,’ on the Side A EP. To me, she’s one of the most brilliant lyricists of our time, a real poet. This song is about really knowing Bryan would be my husband. I’ve never been so sure about something as I am about him.”
8. “Compliment” (J. Jacqueline, T. Brown, Madi Diaz).
“I don’t know what scares me more / The fact that you sound so happy / Or the fact that you don’t care enough to hurt me / Honestly…”
“This is a personal favorite of mine on the album. It’s about that painful realization that someone who once loved you has moved on and feels happy after you when you’re still heartbroken. There’s a tenderness and a bittersweet edge to this song that I know, unfortunately, a lot of people can identify with.”
9. “Hurt Somebody Else” (J. Jacqueline, T. Brown, Justin Parker).
“Why’s it always / One’s the winner / One is the loser / One’s the saint / And one is the sinner / That’s how we break it down / But nobody talks about / How much it hurts to hurt somebody else.”
“This is sort of the flipside to ‘Compliment,’ I suppose. It’s about the shame and guilt a person feels when they break up with someone, letting them down. The themes hark back to some of those on my first two EPs. It feels sort of like a Tom Petty song to me, with serious, heartfelt lyrics but music that lifts you up. It was a sentiment I’d been trying to write for some time, and I feel like I finally dug into some layers of being “the leaver”.”
10. “Iconic” (J. Jacqueline, T. Brown, Kate York).
“Never saw a love that showed us how it should be done… But I’m not too scared to say… What if we both got what we wanted? / What if we bet our whole lives on it? / What if we never broke our promise? / We could be iconic…”
“This is a very special song to me, and it was emotional to write. It stems from the aftermath of being a child of divorce, how love and commitment can feel like a minefield just waiting to explode. Lifelong romance can feel like a fairytale. But, I wrote it after my husband and I got engaged, and I knew we had it in us to believe that staying together forever could be this beautifully heroic thing to achieve.”
11. “Honeymoon” (J. Jacqueline, Rob Persaud, Alex Reid).
“Someday Sundays won’t move so slow / Staying in bed ’til the coffee’s cold… I know we can’t stay in this rose-colored room / But, damn, I wanna try.”
“This is a true pandemic-era song. However crazy and scary it was outside, just being at home for such long stretches with the one you love felt good – that extended, slow, quiet time alone together was so rare before. It felt like the best sort of honeymoon. The song is a simple one, really, a kind of lullaby to tie the album up with a bow.”