Artist manager Alastair Burns on the meteoric rise of Julia Jacklin [exclusive]
The numbers speak for themselves.
Julia Jacklin is an Australian artist whose global trajectory is impressive. The Sydney-based singer-songwriter released her debut album Don’t Let The Kids Win in 2016, and earlier this year she followed it up with the critically acclaimed Crushing.
With ARIA Awards voting closing next week, there is a lot of buzz surrounding how many nominations Jacklin will receive after her nomination for Best Female and Best Album Art in 2017.
With album track ‘Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You’ becoming her most-streamed record (without becoming an official single), it proves the bold impact she is making on a global scale.
Focusing on headline tours only, Jacklin and her team have built a loyal fanbase that allows her to be authentically the artist she wants to be and allows her to share the music she creates in its true form.
TMN chatted to Julia Jacklin’s artist manager Alastair Burns about the focus they put on working overseas markets before returning to Australia, the evolution of her artistry and why her new album Crushing deserves all the acclaim.
TMN: When you first came on board as Julia Jacklin’s manager, what was it about her artistry that really stood out to you that pin-pointed something that was missing in the Australian market and highlighted a massive potential?
AB: Julia played at the Folk Club I was running in Melbourne in 2015, and I was immediately floored by her opening lyric;
“Why do you go to the grocery store on the day you planned to leave. Left me here with all this food my body does not need”.
She had such a fresh lyrical perspective. Her melodies and voice just knocked me out and she had composure and charm with the audience which is really rare.
Once I heard her debut album, I felt total confidence that the record would have a global audience. The first steps we took were in the US and UK in early 2016 before coming back to do shows in Australia. My take is that rather than there being gaps in the market per se, there is just always room for great artists.
TMN: From when you first started working with Julia, to where she is at now following the release of her album Crushing. How would you say that she’s grown as an artist?
AB: Everything changed so quickly in 2016. Julia was thrown quite suddenly into being a full time touring musician, bandleader, and business owner during what is a minefield period of big opportunities and very limited financial resources. So it took incredible resilience to come through that first album cycle, and the word that really comes to mind for this Crushing album cycle is confidence.
The album is so raw and vulnerable. The ‘Body’ video is one of the most incredible pieces of art I have seen. Julia has been so articulate and brave in her press interviews, and her live performances have been fearless and has really invited the audience in. It all reflects a huge leap in confidence and self-belief that she deserves to be here.
TMN: With a massive international following, what do you think it is about her appeal that is resonating globally?
AB: I think Julia resonates because she is completely authentic. She writes 100% of her songs, directs all her music videos, as well as her photoshoots and design work with the incredible support of collaborator Nick Mckk, runs her own social media and is up there every night on stage giving everything with no gimmicks or rehearsed one-liners. Everything about what Julia has released feels so cohesive because it is all her, and there are a lot of music fans out there who crave this. She has also really put in the hours as a songwriter and ultimately great songs will always find an audience.
TMN: With her trajectory on a continuous incline, how are working with her to further the success? What is something that you want to work on with her?
AB: Our big focus right now is creating space to enjoy what has been achieved. There is some bigger headline touring in October, November and December internationally, and more in Australia and New Zealand next year, but right now the aim is to achieve the most strategically in the least amount of time, and to set up the schedule and finances so that Julia can really take her time with making LP3.
There are some cool support opportunities for 2020 and we will weigh those up, but our big fancy strategy is mostly just to chill out and allow space to write as that is really what drives a career like Julia’s.
TMN: With the release of Crushing, what was the biggest roadblock that the team encountered, and how did you work on getting around that?
AB: The biggest challenge has been balancing commitments in so many territories. It seems impossible to do the necessary promo and touring to push an artist in Europe, UK, Canada, US and Australia/NZ as an equal priority, while still maintaining balance on a personal level. So we have already spread out the upcoming touring to allow for bigger breaks over Sep/Oct and Christmas time, and we are shifting from a mindset of survival to sustainable in the way we set up touring and promo schedules.
TMN: This album has been a massive success for Julia already with glowing reviews, sold-out shows and a constantly growing industry footprint. So what would you say is the biggest personal success for Julia and the team surrounding this record?
AB: Crushing has already surpassed the achievements of ‘Don’t Let The Kids Win’ in the first six months of release, and Julia’s audience has more than doubled on a touring level globally. She will sell out a Forum in London in December, and has already done 1000 tickets in NYC and LA on the first album tour.
A lot of artists write great debut records, but the fact that Julia pulled off this second record after such gruelling touring, with so little time and with a totally different level of pressure and expectation, is what makes this album and campaign such an achievement.
TMN: Reflecting on her recent album Crushing for a moment, when you listen to that record, what song stands out to you as the track that fully represents who Julia is as an artist and the potential she has?
AB: ‘Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You’ is Julia’s best song yet in my opinion. It is such a classic break up song, and is so personal and universal at the same time. It has been amazing to see that song connect so organically. It has become her most streamed song even though it hasn’t been released as an official single.
TMN: When you’re pitching Julia for new projects, tours and play-listing, what is one key point you try to make sure is highlighted?
AB: I focus on sending the music videos as they do the talking a lot better than I could.
TMN: When you’re working on a tour for Julia, what are the key essentials to make sure it becomes a show that stands out for the right reasons and becomes a tool in maintaining the trajectory she’s receiving and elevates from what she’s done in the past?
AB: With live touring, we have been very willing to dive in and play headline shows early, and that has paid off as we have only done headline touring in Australia, and moved entirely to headline touring by the end of the first album cycle internationally. This meant that we could launch the Crushing campaign with a substantial world headline tour and it made a huge difference to the global momentum around the album campaign.
Now that we have got to this level, we just want to make every show in a city feel like a special event, and not get sucked into overplaying just because the offers are there. Julia has been so focused on playing the right shows for her, and is really willing to say no regardless of what is on the table. I think that’s a great quality and shows a real vision for the big picture.
TMN: With the ARIA’s around the corner, there is some buzz surrounding potential nominations for Julia Jacklin and Crushing. What would this mean to Julia’s career and the team behind her?
AB: I think awards shows are a nice opportunity to take a night off and reflect on what is often over two years of hard yards around a record. Julia was nominated for Best Female and Best Album Art in 2017 and it was a fun time, and I really hope she is recognised for Crushing. I know managers talk a lot of shit, but it’s no lie that this is globally the most acclaimed record of the year by an Australian artist and it deserves all the praise that comes its way.