Talia Jackson unpredictably switches gears, opting for glitching guitar work amidst a blanket of R&B and pop. Her new song “You,” erupting with an almost indie-rock underpinning, finds the rising singer-songwriter putting her emotions to the test and eradicating those same feelings rooted out of a toxic relationship. Although, Jackson, most known for her role on Netflix’s Family Reunion, wouldn’t describe it as a relationship, per se.
“I truly don’t want to define it as that anymore. When I was in it, it was my first ever relationship. The way I love now and the way I learn about love now all stems from what I learned from that experience. I learned what I deserve and what I don’t deserve,” she tells American Songwriter over a recent phone call. “I learned time heals everything. I learned that distance is the biggest healer of all. You can not heal from someone and you can not learn to no longer love somebody when you’re still around them. Or when you still want to be around them. That was really hard for me. I’m the type of person, who even after somebody destroys me, to still want to care for them. I need to make sure I’m OK first. You don’t have to be everybody’s caretaker.”
With “You,” written last year over quarantine, Jackson flutters across piercing guitar, a haunting layering of vocals coming to her aid in the background. “I was in a dark place I hadn’t hoped to be back in in a very long time. I needed an escape. I needed someone to hear me. I wanted somebody to hear my hurt,” she explains. “Whenever I would want comfort, I would always turn to music, even as a young girl. The best feeling in the world is when you hear a song, and it explains everything that’s happening.”
She shows up for herself, and in doing so, she rises from the ash and soars higher than ever. I should probably let go / But you make me feel like I run the world / Next week I’m just another girl, she sings with intoxicating breathiness.
As the first song she wrote and co-produced (literally ever) in the studio, “You” appears as an artist truly finding their footing. The arrangement and production underscore the emotional stakes with a neon vibrancy. I been wondering what the fuck are you on / It’s a challenge just to stay on balance, baby, you’re all over the place, she continues, quickly juggling the psychological tug-of-war. I need some space / I miss your face / You miss the taste.
“We’d actually re-produced this song a couple of times. It never spoke to me, and I was very attached to this song,” Jackson reveals. “I wanted it to feel right. Each demo of it felt like a brand new song. With this version, I really wanted people to feel the story and know what I’m writing about is real. Writing this song healed me.”
A Wisconsin native, who moved to Santa Barbara when she was seven years old, she grew up hooked into the work of Lana Del Rey, Katy Perry, and Melanie Martinez. “Their sound wasn’t something I had heard before. It wasn’t traditional pop music. I just heard something so unique and authentic within their music,” she says. “With my sound now, I always look to fulfill my music the way I want to, not how a label would want to or fit into a genre and find that little sparkle and edge. Those three women have this glitter in their music. It just sounds like magic to me. I don’t really know how to explain it.”
As many young performers often do, Jackson found an invigorating sense of musical “expression within my family and friends. I had never actually decided it was ever something I was going to pursue,” she recalls. “My parents have always been super flexible and wanted me to do what I wanted. They never pushed me to do things even if they could see talent within me.”
Early on, she dove into stage performance through theatre work, and she was soon thrust into the national arena. “I had an incredible opportunity from the plays I did to go on tour with Andrea Boccelli when I was eight and nine. That was my first actual experience in the music industry and performing for hundreds of thousands of people. It was incredible. My first experience with music is a little non-traditional, obviously.”
When it came time to take her work even more seriously, particularly the songwriting, Jackson felt compelled to start in the R&B world as the box she fit in best. “Thankfully, I was surrounded by people who thought I could do more than that. I started testing my abilities and building my sound around the euphoric feeling,” she says. In working with The Morgue, she has began sculpting out her own unique path, and “You” feels like a proper beginning.
“They just know my sound so well. They have the exact sense of where I’m headed. They make my process super easy. I’ve been trying everything. I’ve gotten into a little rock these days, and I’m really loving the rock-pop, indie area. I’m young and fresh enough to try the things I want to try while not losing sense of my sound.”
Evidenced with “You,” Jackson has a brutally honest and revealing way with words. And she’s unafraid to say how it really is. “I’m a very brutally honest person. I’m blunt in some ways,” she laughs. “There was a period of time in my life where it felt like I couldn’t say anything. And I didn’t want to say anything. I felt it was better to pretend to be someone else. I got sick and tired of that as I got older. I’ve always told myself throughout my music that I wasn’t going to lie or play things closely. I love being able to say it how it is.”
She has also slowly found her voice in producing. While it may take time before she’s producing alone, she is well on her way to owning that space, as well. “I still have not perfected producing on my own. I have a head that likes to doubt everything. I always need another person in the room when it comes to producing tracks to set me on the right path. It’s something I want to accomplish this summer. I really want to be able to just be in my room and do a whole song by myself.”