Interviews

Jillette Johnson Is Wonderfully Real

Jillette Johnson @ Rio Theatre © Daniel Young

Article Writing 101 ~ Do not use “I”, it does not engage people! Well just call me stubborn.

I write for me, I talk about me, and I love me. I am not an alien. Sure, Jillette Johnson talked in her show about a bank teller using her terminology of not being ‘an alien’ and grumbled in a joking way about the teller stealing her phrase, but I am going to steal it too. In case you do not know, Jillette has a song named Cameron which has garnered a lot of attention for its lyrics and while talking about the struggles of Transgender people it repeats the line “you’re not an alien”.

Jillette Johnson @ Rio Theatre © Daniel Young

© Daniel Young

Jillette’s songs come with meaning that can be *bam* right in your face yet can also have many more layers that you can uncover with each listen. With regards to her song Cameron, Jillete explained to me that the song:

“…starts a conversation with an entire culture where I get to meet some pretty incredible people around the country and they just share their stories with me which is a really cool thing.”

With the power of the song, and the attention it has garnered, I was surprised she started her set off with it, but she did and the crowd loved it!

With all the attention around Cameron I had to ask Jillette if there was another song that she felt could rival its meaning and was shocked to hear her state a song I had not yet heard, Like You Raised Me. She explained that this was a song that she wrote about her mom and, although it is not on her current album, it may be on her next.

“…it is as personal as it gets, and when I was writing it, I don’t usually cry but I had some struggles with this one…”

Jillette Johnson @ Rio Theatre © Daniel Young

© Daniel Young

I love when people can be real, and it really doesn’t get much more real than Jillette inviting me into her RV for the interview while she prepared for the show, which was running a bit late through soundcheck. Into the RV I go with her and her band mate, Matt Pynn. While waiting for the interview, I quickly checked her Facebook and happened to see a photo of the RV in a post, the same RV I was now (somewhat awkwardly) standing in. When I asked Jillette about her travels she stated that one of the best things had been the RV:

“…your house goes with you wherever you are and wherever you want, this is my greenroom…”

Another thing they liked about the RV was the grill; at night, after a show they can sit around a fire and make S’mores. Cool beans.

I was compelled to ask about their last time in Vancouver and if they had a chance to get out and see the town at all. Her and Matt both mentioned how shocked they had been when they had taken a walk and ran into a marijuana smoking bar. They said they went in and had never seen anything like it before. Of course, they also stated that they were only there to observe and of course not partake. Hmm, S’mores at night and “observing” the smoking bar. Check.

Listening to Jillette sing is a treasure. She sings with strength and beauty that resonates through a theatre like the Rio. I had heard many references to her style and references to her sounding like so-and-so or this-and-that but I was curious as to whether any of these references really touched her personally.

“…recently I have been getting a lot of Stevie Nicks which makes me very, very happy. It comes from, sonically, a place that I love and relate to a lot and there is something about the power of Stevie Nicks that I find enchanting…”

Soon after I left the RV I heard Jilliette warming up her vocal chords, and after listening to her perform on stage with Matt, I regret that I hadn’t been a more lively interviewer. I imagine that as the next year progresses and the two of them start their country band, I will have to be begging them to allow me another chance to interview them as they gain the popularity that they deserve.

Full gallery of Mary Lambert + Jillette Johnson @ Rio Theatre © Daniel Young

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