Jilian Linklater grew up in Lake Orion, MI only a few miles north of Oakland University. She studied song writing at Belmont University in Nashville but has been writing, singing, and playing guitar for much longer. Thursday at the Crofoot was only her second concert. Her first was a few months ago in Nashville for the release of her EP, Walking Stories. I had the chance to see her show Thursday and then interview her the following Saturday. This review will feature bits and pieces from our interview.
I walk in to The Pike Room while the openers are still performing and squeezed my way closer to the stage. The openers have the crowd warmed up, Linklater gets up on stage along with three others that will be her band for the night, and grabs her acoustic guitar. She seems nervous. She doesn’t have as much of a presence as the openers… until she starts singing. She opens with a song off her EP called, “Better Than I Know Myself.” It has a catchy chorus that captivates the crowd …then she kicks it up a notch by remixing the end of her song into Whitney Houston’s, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” The crowd sings along; she’s got them hooked.
She finishes the first set, which are mostly pop songs. “I’d say I’m acoustic pop for the most part,” Linklater says. “Being down in Nashville, I have a little bit of a folk side, which is like my song ‘Walking Stories.’ And then I have ‘Better Than I Know Myself’ which is like, straight up pop. And ‘Hard Candy’ which is pop.”
Her EP, which features five songs, actually took them about a year to put together. “I had been working with this guy named Travis Bergman who had been mentoring me since my freshman year of college and helping me with all my songs,” Linklater explains. “I had played him tons of songs over those four years and my senior year he said we should pick our favorites and make an EP.”
The EP is mostly acoustic guitar and vocals. The songs are very cool indie pop with a little country influence. Going into the show, I expected a laid-back, easy-listening concert. But, alongside a full band, her music was much louder and powerful. For the setting they were in Thursday night, the heavy hitting drums and the intense electric guitar fit very well. Linklater is versatile in that way, similar to how she can adopt different genres in her music.
Her band for that night sounded as if they had been practicing for months. However, the group had just formed a week prior. “Our first rehearsal was the Tuesday the week before…I sent them my songs and all the charts and lyrics and stuff,” Linklater said. “Then we had that first rehearsal which was a few hours. And then we just had a rehearsal the day of the show. I’m sure they practiced in between but we only had two rehearsals.”
Between sets, she gives a few funny or quirky comments. She semi-apologizes to her mom, who is in the crowd, about the next song she is about to perform which is called “Four Letter Word.” This song features some really creative song writing. “The first verse is ‘you don’t give a F’ so that’s a bad four letter word.” As the song progresses, that four letter word changes to HOME and TIME. “The last one is LOVE and it’s just kinda showing the simplicity of what we’re all looking for.”
The band leaves the stage for Jilian’s two-song acoustic set. She tells the audience, “living in Nashville gave me the chance to right some sassy country music. So here I get to pretend to be Miranda Lambert.”
Linklater begins to play and about 20 seconds in she stops. “I’m so sorry I have to start over, I’m playing in the wrong key.” She was really embarrassed but naturally drew sympathy from the crowd as she kept strumming to find the right sound. Everyone laughed and she played through the fun song titled “Long Gone, Don Juan.” Once again, showing her versatility.
“I co-wrote that song with a couple a friends,” Linklater explains. “We were in a six hour co-writing session and we weren’t getting anywhere. One of my friends, as a joke, said, ‘what if we wrote a song called Long Gone, Don Juan.’ So I said ‘I know your just joking but that would go well with this chord progression. It’s kinda funky, sassy, a little bit western sounding.’ So everyone said okay and that one was really fun to write.”
Her band returns to play the most powerful song of hers, “Fighter.” She explains that it’s about a friend of hers who struggled with addiction for many years. It was the climax of the concert. The lyrics pulled on everyone’s heart strings as the music enveloped the crowd. The song also featured an awesome guitar solo, part of which can be seen in a video on WXOU’s Instagram (@wxouradio).
“I wanted to write her a song as a way to encourage her and to also get out the feelings I was having about it as well,” Linklater said. “I actually had a woman come up to me after the show and said she had a brother die – I’m assuming from something related to that – and she had to leave the room because she was crying. She thought it was such a good song. So that was encouraging because that is what I wrote it for.”
After thanking everyone once again, she closed her show by playing the title song from her EP, “Walking Stories,” which talks about how every human has a unique and beautiful story. The song features references to some historical and religious icons like MLK, Rosa Parks and Jesus Christ.
Expect to see Jilian Linklater’s name more in the future. She is versatile, creative and has a lot of potential. This show proved that Linklater can perform many styles of music. She’s not your typical indie artist, her songwriting is advanced and professional sounding. A musical product of both Tennessee and Michigan, Linklater brings something new to the table: something substantial and timeless. This girl’s career is far from over.