Interview: Juliette Jackson from The Big Moon on pressure and Walking Like We Do

Friday, January 10, 2020
Photo by Pooneh Ghana 

After the success of their debut album, UK quartet The Big Moon could have played it safe with their new record Walking Like We Do. Instead of repeating what they've already done and mastered, they present a completely different side of their sound across the album's eleven tracks. Songwriter Juliette Jackson absorbs the world around her and channels her observations, thoughts and frustrations throughout the course of the album. In the lead up to the release of Walking Like We Do, we spoke with Jackson about expanding on their debut, handling pressure and the challenges that the band faced.

You're starting off the year in quite a big way by releasing your new album Walking Like We Do, how are you currently feeling about it all?

I'm feeling very excited. I'm kind of impatient to be honest. I'm so ready to stop talking about these songs and show them to everyone. It's kind of nice that it's coming out in January because it's so easily definable. It's nice when life is like, "Oh this happened this year, this happened that year...". We’re starting off 2020 in a good way.

How long did you spend working on it?

It's been two and a half years until now. So maybe it was a year of writing and then we spent a month recording it in Atlanta. It was finished in May. I'd say about a year and a half total of actually doing stuff. The period after we released the first album we toured for a while.

After touring the last album and then starting your sophomore, did you have time to have a break?

We definitely gave ourselves a little bit of a break because we were touring for so long after the first album. I definitely came home and had at least a month of sitting around in my pants, not really going outside. And then I spent a year sitting around in my pants not going outside writing songs, sitting around in my pants in a different way (laughs).

What were some of the things you did when you needed some time to reset and recharge whilst writing the record?

I like to write and take myself away somewhere to do it. Like I'll go to someone's house for a week. I find it easier to compartmentalise things a bit and just throw yourself into it completely for a week or two weeks and then come home and not be creative at all for a while. I mean motivation was just always there because I felt like there was a lot that I wanted to write songs about and a lot of things that I wanted to try musically. It was quite exciting, really, like a process of discovery.

And what were some of the things that you wanted to try musically?

I went into this process knowing what I wanted it to sound like. I knew I didn't want it to be a rock album again. I wanted to make something deeper and wider and more panoramic or widescreen. That's kind of a weird way to describe a sound but you just try new sounds and using stuff like sub-base instead of bass guitar because it's so much deeper and purer and playing with a lot of new instruments. We didn't want to limit ourselves to the live band set-up. You always have that voice in the back of your head questioning how you're going to achieve what you want to do. For example, when you're writing a song that has different sounds in it, you’re like 'how the fuck are we going to play this live?' But I just decided to not think about that because there's always a way to figure it out.

Would you say that on this album it was important for you just to go with your instincts and not overthink it too much?

Yeah, definitely. We wanted to be bold and we wanted to try new things. We know how to make a rock album. There's still plenty of guitar on this album and plenty of rock. But it was all about trying something new. I think we found a lot of faith in our own character. We realised that whenever we're playing, whatever genre we write, it's always going to be a Big Moon song because we're singing it and it has our lyrics. So we were like, "Actually, we can do whatever we want," and that's great.

How would you say the album captures where the band is at and where you're at currently?

I think it's been two years in the making and over that time it feels like things have really changed. The world's gotten a bit weirder and bigger and scarier and we are also growing up and I think this album is the sound of us trying to process all that and trying to explain that feeling. Things feel unstable at the moment and it feels like the floor could just turn into a trapdoor and you could fall through it and this whole album is about exploring that feeling and trying to articulate it.

Your debut album was critically acclaimed and received a lot of praise around the world, as well as being nominated for The Mercury Prize, did you feel any pressure because of all this when working on Walking Like We Do?

I did for a while, for a few months, definitely at the beginning I felt it. But once I realised that we could do anything and that I could write any kind of songs and that I didn't have to do the same thing again it became easier. It actually became a really good thing because I like to say you write songs differently when you know that someone's going to listen to them eventually. With the first album's songs, a lot of those I wrote before I'd even found all of the band members and they were the first songs that I ever wrote. I was kind of just feeling my way, really. This time, it felt good to be confident and I knew what I wanted to say, so that made it easier.

What were some of the challenges that came up?

The main challenge was uprooting myself from the same processes as the first album. For a while, I was writing the same kind of songs, just out of instinct and because we'd been on tour for a while, just doing the same thing again and again. Like sketching the same shapes, and without meaning to you keep writing the same songs. So, just noticing that and starting to find new ways to write to get out of your comfort zone. That was the main challenge that once I started doing it, it felt good. I was writing on the piano for a while just because it felt so unfamiliar.

Is there a song on Walking Like We Do that was a bit more difficult than the others to work on?

They all have their moments. Well, not every song but with a lot of songs there's a point in the studio where you reach a brick wall and you have to just kind of stop pushing that and work on something else. When you hear something again and again and again after a while you can't really hear what was originally good about it or it can become hard to get a perspective on. What is the heart and soul of a song when you're spending so much time focussing on it? There wasn't a particular one that was tough because as soon as a song goes well and you've done it, you forget all about that stuff. You completely forget that it was ever a problem in the first place (laughs).

What do you hope listeners get out of their listening experience of Walking Like We Do?

I just hope that people will listen to it and find something that they can identify with. I hope they can find some truth in it. Whenever I listen to a song, I want it to tell me how I'm feeling. Maybe you don't know what that feeling is until the song says it. I think the right song at the right place at the right time is everything. And whether it's making you go and cry in a corner or it's making you go and dance on the dance floor, it's freedom from having to think your own thoughts. I hope people can find some kind of strength in that.

Written by Amy Smolcic (@amysmolcic)

Stream Walking Like We Do:

Watch 'Take A Piece':

Listen to 'Barcelona':

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