Nashville singer/songwriter, Jillian Cardarelli, has been dropping tracks “Like a bad habit” and turning heads in the process. Coming from the New England territory of Massachusetts, Cardarelli stormed into Music City’s country scene as a sensational performer. Her latest single, “Dropped”, trailblazes her already impressive discography which holds heart-struck lyrics and adoring melodies. With a long-awaited EP set to release in 2022, she joins us at Roots today to give insight on how her career has unfolded and what lies ahead for an exciting future.
Thank you so much for joining us at Roots Magazine to share your life and the music that’s shaped your career.
Thank you so much. Happy to be here!
Q. For anyone who hears your voice and sees you onstage for the first time can clearly recognize you’ve always belonged in country music. But for those who have yet to hear your music, what should they expect before they dive right in?
A. They can expect a variety of songs. I love to create music, write music, release music that people can fall in love to, dance to, mend a broken heart to or get through hard times. I think my upcoming EP will have a little bit of everything and something for everybody.
Q. Nashville has been your home sweet home for many years now and your artistry has been praised by many of the city’s best songwriters. But people are surprised to find out that you’re originally from Massachusetts and didn’t make the move to Nashville until later on in life. How did you become a natural country singer from the north?
A. I fell in love with country when I was really young. My grandfather was stationed in Georgia during World War II and fell in love with country music there. That’s what my dad grew up on—that’s what I grew up on. When I was young, I never realized that it was a geographical thing. I just fell in love with the storytelling and thought it was music that I related to and music I wanted to sing. That’s kinda how I fell in love with it and knew that I needed to move to Nashville. I’ve just loved country since before I could talk.
Q. You’re upbringing was heavily oriented around family who inspired you to pursue your dreams and make the journey to Nashville by attending Belmont. What were your initial thoughts before making the move and how did getting an education at Belmont influence your career?
A. I was so excited to move to Nashville. I was pretty fearless in a way. I was just ready to hit the ground running and knew that this is where I needed to be. I had a band in Massachusetts, and we were touring heavily during the summers. But I knew that I had to be in Nashville and thought, “It’s now or never.” I was fortunate enough to have parents that instilled support and nurtured my dreams. Going to Belmont helped me development lifelong friends and create business connections as well. It was very beneficial going to Belmont and I loved it.
Q. After carving out your identity in the industry over the years, you’ve earned widespread praise from numerous top publications. Among the songs you’ve recorded, your debut single “Rerun” was written by Maren Morris, Tina Parol and Jordan Reynolds. What was it like for you to record a song written by these acclaimed writers?
A. When I first heard it, I recognized Maren’s voice on it, but I had no idea who wrote it. I didn’t even know if she wrote it. I just immediately fell in love with the song itself and thought, “I need to cut this.” This was a song that I really related to and one that I thought people would love to hear. When you have three writers like Maren, Jordan and Tina, you’re bound to get some magic. That’s exactly what that song was. It was an honor to be able to cut s song that was written by such amazing songwriters.
Q. Being around some of the best songwriters in the industry has others take notice the special talent you bring. Likewise, you’ve mentioned how important it is to step outside of one’s comfort zone. How paramount was your single “I Never Do This” in helping you go in that direction?
A. Absolutely, I wrote “I Never Do This” with Adam Wood and I really loved how fun and flirty the song was. It definitely made me step outside of my comfort zone. It kinda reminded me of a song Shania Twain would cut and I’ve always loved and admired her. She always kinda beats her own drum and is in her own lane. I think it’s always important to challenge yourself and write your own songs and sing the ones that aren’t in your comfort zone. “I Never Do This” was the song that was super fun to write and even more fun to record and release.
Q. Your music is incredibly relatable. People can feel the love, heartbreak and comfort in every track you’ve released thus far. How have you been able to create songs that touch so close to anyone who listens?
A. Whenever I write a song, I write from an experience that either rings true to my life or something that a friend has gone through. I think the best songs come from honest places and I think when we really tap into that, it’s how people can relate to it and want to hear more like it. For me, I fell in love with the storytelling of country music. So, I’d always just try to tell a story that I would want to hear and relate to. I think it transcends that way.
Q. You’ve mentioned before that being authentic and vulnerable in your songwriting can be scary given how personal these experiences are. But what’s been the biggest source of confidence on remaining true to your art and true to yourself throughout the process?
A. I definitely challenge myself to be more vulnerable and honest in my songwriting. I think we all improve over the years and with practice we all just grow as people. For me, writing the song “Strong” with Charles Esten about my mom’s cancer journey, was a really vulnerable song for me to write. It was one where I questioned if I would release this cause it was so personal to me. But he and I played it a show for his daughter and the LLS (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society). I got an outpouring of messages from people saying how the song reminded them of family and loved ones. That made me realize that I need to release this song. Not for me, but for other people who can find strength in it too. I think I found through being vulnerable is the way to really connect with people. If music can heal people, then that should be what it’s all about.
Q. We’ve talked about singles that have made people fall in love and cry all over again. But now, we’ve got to talk about your latest single “Dropped”. A team composed of some of the best minds in the business contributed in the making of this track. It’s sleek and has an impassioned attitude that fans and new listeners will lionize. Where did the idea for this direction come from and how essential was everyone’s involvement during the production?
A. My producer, Alex Kline, played me this song. When I first heard it, it really exuded confidence. I was like, “this is a different kind of feel.” A little more pop country. I really wanted to take that risk and challenge myself to do something that’s a little bit of a different sound, but still remain true to country. It still has all the country elements. Having a producer like Alex is so important because she really helped the song come alive. While it still is a little more pop, it still rings true to me. It was really important to have the right team in the studio and I think Alex just crushed it. Like she always does.
Q. Pairing with the best writers left an imprint on your music that fans and critics have found superb. But apart from crafting your music with other writers, you’ve branched out into hosting co-writes for other artists’ music. Your contribution to Cort Carpenter’s single “What Were We Drinking” left a viral hit that has nearly two million views on YouTube. How has co-writing for other artists influenced your own style for future projects?
A. I always to try to write a song when I can. When someone else cuts it, it’s a big bonus. When Cort and I wrote that song he heard the demo and fell in love with it. To me, that’s the biggest compliment as a songwriter. That somebody else wants to cut it and wants a piece of our “song babies”. I like to challenge myself to write for other artists, but, at the end of the day, I just try to write songs that I can relate to or that people would like to hear. When other artists cut it, it’s just a great bonus.
Q. There are plenty more artists to mention who’ve gravitated towards you in recognizing what you mean to country music. Willie Nelson, Dierks Bentley and Reba McEntire are just some names to drop, no pun intended with your latest single, who you’ve opened for and worked beside. There are other big names that influenced your music. But which artist has been an influential source that you find yourself going back to even at this stage in your career?
A. Opening up for Reba was a bucket list moment. She’s just amazing. But traditional country is where my heart is and to have shared the stage with those people and absorb what they do is amazing. Like a sponge, I stood by the stage to watch Reba’s whole set and tried to take in every little thing that I could and apply it. I opened up for Kenny Rogers on his final world tour and he sat to the side of the stage my whole set. That was a special moment to have him there watching my set.
Q. The confidence you exude is a staple that attracted many listeners to some impressive bodies of work. Your debut EP is slated for a 2022 release and has already garnered tremendous media attention with other singles attached to the project. What can you tell us about this EP and how it reflects the expansion of your music?
A. I’m really excited since it’s the first EP that I’ve released in years. It’s fun to have it all come together and tell a story. We actually have a focus track coming out on that EP called “What’s It Gonna Take”. We actually recorded these songs before the pandemic, so I’m really excited and anxious to get these songs out there and have the world hear it. There’ll be a little something for everyone. I’m really excited for the focus track and can’t wait for people to finally hear it.
Q. With some of the most impressionable singles released by a Nashville artist in recent memory and a long-awaited EP set to be delivered in 2022, what more can listeners expect from you in the near future?
A. I’m ready to hit the road. When the EP comes out, I’m hoping to get out next summer and do a little bit of touring. I’m actually already writing for the back half of the EP to make it an album. So, I’ve been really busy for the past half a year and I’m going to continue into 2022 writing for the next project. More music and planning for some live shows. Ready to be back to that for sure.
Jillian, thank you so much for joining us and sharing why you love what you do with more music for the future.
Thank you so much for having me Roots!
Interviewed by Trenton Luber