Exclusive Interview with Pop Artist Jillian Dawn on Finding Her Voice, Home, and Self
Meet your new favorite girl next door, Jillian Dawn. This sweetheart has a talent and it's making beautiful pop songs.
Jillian Dawn was my greatest new find in the year 2021, and I can’t wait for her to make waves in 2022. I saw her perform coincidentally at the same show as another artist and friend of mine, Jake Brewer. It is safe to say that after hearing her, I immediately became a fan. From the first moment vocals came out of her mouth, I was mesmerized. The angelic tones of indie-rock, country and the forcefulness of a pop queen all came forth as she sang her heart out, all while maintaining a smile on her face that was mysterious. Her voice is so sweet yet so powerful all in one beautiful soul, and I was trying to sing along to her infectious songs, even though I had never heard them before that night.
The artist has explored much of the east coast. She originally comes from Massachusetts, then went to University of Miami to pursue her degree in music business, and then recently moved to Nashville to follow her career in music. The singer-songwriter admitted to having and being grateful for the numerous experiences she has had which have allowed her to write the vivid and impactful lyrics she puts out into the world. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to interview her for Channel Sounds and share her lovely story with you all, and please listen to her music on Spotify/Apple Music as soon as possible.
Her music is like a getaway car ride, when you don’t know exactly where you’re headed but you know why you’re going and you’re letting the road decide where you end up—it’s that liberation and calm that comes after a storm that pushed you to this point--to escape and find your personal happiness. Her lyrics are heart wrenching and yet still serene enough to feel like a lullaby as she smoothly slips between octaves professionally demonstrating her vocal range. Jillian’s instrumentation is also raw, simple, but emphatic which highlights her music in ways that allow you to really feel the entirety of the song. Her music is best described as putting together a cocktail of Olivia Rodrigo’s youth and spontaneity, Taylor Swift’s boldness and sweetness, and Kacey Musgrave’s nostalgia and magnetism.
“Dancing with shadows and playing pretend, can’t break your habits stop living in that head, don’t say its over, your chasing silhouettes…” [From her track “Silhouettes”]
Her presence on stage is kind, witty, vulnerable, and real; honestly, making her much more of a heartthrob than your girl-next-door. I am excited to share her story with you all.
Now, here is our interview:
Neelu Mohaghegh [NM]: Ok, so I would love to hear how it all started. How did it all began and how did you get to where you are today?
Jillian Dawn [JD]: So, I just turned 23 about three weeks ago.
[NM]: Happy belated birthday!
[JD]: "Thank you! I'm from Massachusetts, and I grew up there. I am one of three girls and the eldest sister, I have two younger twin sisters. I started doing music when I was very, very young, I would sing I would dance and do theater and things like that. I grew up in musical theater, but I didn't start writing songs until middle school, and it was around age 12 when I wrote my first real song. Songwriting became this outlet for me that I needed to deal with adolescence and deal with relationships that were coming and going and just had to deal with becoming a teenager and becoming an adult at the same time. It was my therapy in a way, and it still is to this day."
The artist explained how she had already written and recorded two EPs in highschool which inspired her to pursue music, and as a result of her parents both having gone to business school, she felt she had a business-savvy mind that led to study music business at University of Miami.
[JD]: "There was a longer name for the major. It's called Musicianship, Artistry Development, and Entrepreneurship. I had a music business minor, songwriting minor and a marketing minor. So I got a full degree. Haha. It was a lot, but I learned so much there. I think that growing up, my music was very much like Princess-pop, very mainstream, and when I got to Miami, I was influenced by so many different people and so many different artists and so many different types of writing. I kind of transformed what I had into this indie-pop realm that I never expected I'd go in."
"I definitely think that my sound is very much heavily influenced by my peers at Miami and my time there has been was so influential on who I am today. So yeah, when I was there, I wrote a bunch of different things. I wrote two singles, and I wrote a full length album junior year that I released summer before senior year. So in 2020, right as the pandemic was in its prime, I released my album called 20/20. I wrote that partially while I was home, and then partially while I was in London, I recorded that when I was abroad. Then I got back, senior year was crazy, wrote a lot of other songs after basically a year of not writing ever since I wrote the album... I just wasn't inspired during the pandemic, which a lot of people felt that way, and I was definitely one of them. So, I started writing a ton senior year. I was in this great ensemble that really helped my creativity and helped motivate me to do music again, and I wrote all the songs off my new EP 'how simple this all started', and then decided somewhere in that realm that Nashville was the place that I wanted to go."
She goes on to explain how her move to Nashville was partially as a result of having been there a few times for her band, partially because of the easier lifestyle economically. So she worked hard that summer working for her family and working at gigs to save up enough to make her official migration up to the city of music.
[NM]: That's all amazing. I love the progression of how everything turned out for you. And this new jump for you and all the new plunges.
[JD]: "Yeah, it was a lot. I will let you in on, not a secret, because it's open to the public, but my first couple songs are still out there. I recorded my first song when I was 12 or 13, and it's still on iTunes, not on Spotify or Apple Music. All of that first stuff is still out there, and just to listen to that first song to where I am today, it just baffles me. And it's not like saying that it's about talent, it's just about the hard work that I've put into it, and definitely hear that I've changed."
[NM]: I love the evolution of an artist because you can really hear the experiences that the artist has had to have in order to change their sound. Like you mentioned how music was your therapy when you were a teenager, and how it is your therapy now, those are all the narratives that go into your sound.
[JD]: "Yeah, so this song I was going to talk about earlier, it's not even finished yet, but I went back to school for homecoming a couple weeks ago, and I was with a bunch of my friends, we had such a fun time. I just saw all these people there, and I was just like, 'this was so awesome.' And then I got back and I was so overwhelmed. And I don't know if you had this, but I definitely over the summer, just adjusting from graduation, all the hype leading up to graduation to then just the downfall of, 'what am I doing with my life? Where am I going? I need to make something happen, but what is that next step?' And everyone calls it 'post-grad depression', and I definitely had that. Just going back to school and coming back here to a place that's not my home yet was so so weird."
We all can relate to the trials of change. I appreciated the openness and vulnerability that Jillian had to share about the overwhelming feelings of juggling relationships and friendships and career.
[JD]: "I was just like, 'how do I make myself feel better? What, what can I do?' And I just sat down, I wrote a song that was the most therapeutic song I've ever written. And it made me feel so much better, and I reminded myself of what I'm doing with my life and why I'm doing it, and if that type of song or my other songs can make other people feel better, that's exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life."
[NM]: I love that. I think that is the purity behind music, is that it's just that emotional relationship everyone can attach and understand and feel... literally feel it. So, I think that's pretty awesome. How would you say Nashville, now that you're in the scene, differs from the Miami and Boston music scenes?
[JD]: "Yeah, so I've definitely lived in and been lucky to live in a bunch of different places over the last couple years. I grew up in a suburban town in Massachusetts. I was right next to vibrant, awesome, bustling Boston, and then I went to Miami, Latin music center of the country, which is not what I wanted to do, but it was so cool to just be there for a while. And now I'm in Nashville, which is country music nation. It's interesting because Miami I would never see myself living there for music, because I don't want to do music and it's not what I am trained to do. Then Nashville, I've always kind of been teetering on the country side...I grew up on it, but it's not the direction of music where I want to go into."
Jillian shares how she's really taken a pop approach with her music, and how she feels more like herself because of it. In addition, she's turned it into her own sound by adding hints of country and tonalities of indie music which all weave seamlessly into her melodies.
"I feel like I belong more here though than I would anywhere else for sure, because Nashville has such an appreciation for songwriting, which is something that I was lucky enough to have in Miami in a college campus setting, but never in real life. I never had any other like-minded people around me before, but here, I have so many people that do this, which is intimidating, but I like to look on the bright side. I like to be an optimist in a situation. I have so many people that can show me the ropes, and that can influence my sound, and I can influence theirs, and collaboration is huge here. Being able to do that in your life and making friends while you're doing it is amazing. I think that my pop genre can be very accessible to both country and pop people here."
[NM]: So you said you have this one song that you're working on that may come out, do you have any other projects coming up that you're excited about?
[JD]: "Unfortunately, I don't have anything necessarily dated in the pipeline. I have a lot of songs that I've been writing both on my own and with other people but I've only been here for three months. So, a lot of the songs are super, super new. Now, I do have one song that I'm very excited about that's not recorded yet. I just wrote it a little while ago, but I feel like it's my all too well. I'm very excited about that..But I dropped a project last year, so it's okay to take a breather...it was a lot more than I thought it was gonna be because it was just five songs which is three songs less than my album, but just with balancing school and balancing traveling back and traveling to Nashville, and working over the summer all at the same time, it was literally the most independent musician thing I've ever done. Haha. That EP is something that people can keep streaming. I'm trying to record a music video soon in January for I think 'Getaway car'."
[NM]: So exciting. Is there anything that you love outside of music or a fun fact or something that maybe people don't know about you?
[JD]: "Hmm, I like to work out, which is kind of typical. I just love to walk. I like working out because it makes me feel better, just mentally gets me in a zone. Oh, and I can make balloon animals. My grandparents used to go to a toy store, and I got this book one time, and it had 'How to Make Balloon Animals'. But yeah, that's my fun fact."
[NM]: What's your advice to artists who want to pursue music at a young age like you?
[JD]: "My advice, because this has been very influential for me as a person in general, is if you're going to do music, for a real life thing, surround yourself with people that are going to support you, and gonna push you, not people that are going to tell you to quit and tell you to give up. My family and my friends and my sisters, they are all my biggest supporters in the world. They at the show the other night, they came into Boston on a Wednesday night to see me play at nine o'clock and find shitty parking on the street. They literally just support me and everything that I do, and I would not be able to do what I do without that. Some people can, but it just makes you feel better as a person when you have that support there and you know that they're gonna be there for you.
[NM]: Who are a few of your favorite artists?
[JD]: "I mean, number one, I love Taylor Swift. I have to include her on there. I love a lot of random artists. Oh, Jordy Searcy! I met him, he had literally sat down and had a drink with me and my friends, and I literally went up to him and was like, 'I love you. I'm a huge fan, and I love your music, and I think you're so cool'. He's like, 'thanks'. And I was like, 'No, I'm fan-girling right now you don't understand'. Haha."
Thanks so much, Jillian, for chatting. Seriously, I meant it when I said she was my new find of 2021, and will be in my 2022 playlists all year long. Give her a listen at the Spotify link above and be sure to follow her on Instagram.