Interview: Jacqueline Hackett Spills Her Soul on Stunning Debut “Chocolate Milk”

Jacqueline Hackett © 2020
Jacqueline Hackett © 2020
Influenced by both alternative and folk music, rising singer/songwriter Jacqueline Hackett makes her internet debut with single “Chocolate Milk.”
Stream: “Chocolate Milk” – Jacqueline Hackett
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A New Jersey native and singer/songwriter, Jacqueline Hackett’s debut single “Chocolate Milk” is an incredible track about an even more compelling stranger. She’s reminiscent, with unique-but stunning vocals and powerful lyricism, of ’90s female performers like Alanis Morissette, yet infuses a laid-back folk-ish energy that makes the sound her own.

Chocolate Milk - Jacqueline Hackett
Chocolate Milk – Jacqueline Hackett

Music, seemingly, has always been a love and the designated path for Hackett, as both paternal influence and self-discovery played a part in guiding her there. Throughout both her original work and online covers, she presents an immense level of vulnerability and emotionally connects listeners to whatever she’s singing — even if it’s not her own song.

The best display of this soul-pouring concept comes in the form of Hackett’s first single “Chocolate Milk,” where she relays the tale about a mysterious boy she met, who had an urban legend of sorts around him. “He’d apparently tell insane stories about when he was a kid and just had really interesting habits, like drinking chocolate milk instead of eating full meals,” she explained, elaborating on the song’s backstory. It’s something most wouldn’t think twice about besides in passing, except Hackett, who kept the story and turned it into a stunning airy debut backed by her playing acoustic guitar.

Jacqueline Hackett © 2020
Jacqueline Hackett © 2020

He stays awake, to howl at the moon
He somehow always stays in tune
But when the sun comes up
there’s chocolate milk
that’s spilled all over the kitchen floor
– “Chocolate Milk,” – Jacqueline Hackett

Her debut internet release also has an incredibly brilliant bridge, where she manages to pull you in even more on the lines “Every time you look him right in the eye / He’ll say, ‘You’ve never seen anything broken quite like me.’” Throughout playing an eclectic mix of New York venues, from surprise churches in the West Village to Under St. Marks Theater in the East, Hackett has, at 21, seemed to perfect her style as a singer and a lyricist. Yet, with an incredibly wide range of sonic influences and many years to come as a performer, it will be interesting to see where and what Hackett does next — but it can only be up from here.

Read Atwood Magazine’s conversation with singer/songwriter Jacqueline Hackett below!

Stream: “Chocolate Milk” – Jacqueline Hackett
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Chocolate Milk - Jacqueline Hackett

Atwood Magazine: When did you know you wanted to pursue music?

Jacqueline Hackett: It’s always been what I wanted to do since I was really young. When I think about it, doing this has been the one single constant throughout my life. My dad was a guitar player and just loved to have music blaring at all times. He was either always showing me something new within his record collection or had VH1 Classic music videos looping on TV. I have to credit him for being the one to ignite the interest within me to play music and he was always so supportive. He really believed in me and as it started to get more serious he would always be like, “Fuck school, just go out and do music”. I think I let the whole “music is so unstable” narrative kind of get to me and I felt pressured to have a back up plan. For me, that was going to college. Two years in, I was so miserable and I realized I was just trying to meet the expectations others had of me and I was completely abandoning my passion. So, I dropped out Fall 2019. The past few months where I’ve just been doing music and living large as a barista have been the happiest I’ve been in terms of the path I’m headed.

What was the inspiration behind “Chocolate Milk”?

Hackett: This song is based off of someone that I met a little while back when I was living in NYC. I don’t know what it was, but I was really drawn to this person when first introduced. I didn’t know him super well, but it was the kind of thing where I had heard so much about him through other people. He’d apparently tell insane stories about when he was a kid and just had really interesting habits/ticks, like drinking chocolate milk instead of eating full meals. Something about his erratic behavior was beautiful to me and he was like a mythological being in a sense. I think it’s rare to meet people who instantly grab you like that, so it just naturally turned into this song.

How did you meet him? Did you ever hear him tell the story?

Hackett: I met him through an old friend of mine. We met on Halloween, when we ran into each other in the village. From there, I would see him often at different events and stuff. Then, one day he sort of just disappeared, which seemed pretty on par with his patterns. I don’t know, I like to think he moved somewhere cool to elope or something badass and got his shit together.

Have you written other songs you plan to release? Why did you decide on “Chocolate Milk” as a first single?

Hackett: Yes! There is so much more I’ve written that I plan to release. “Chocolate Milk” was my first because I personally felt like it was a turning point for me in terms of the way I write. I’ve been seriously writing since I was in high school, but this song was the first time I felt like I didn’t really need to edit out the gory details and that’s what I like about it. I’m really proud of and close to the story it tells. I think it showcases what I’m about as an artist, so it just felt right.

What is a typical songwriting process like for you?

Hackett: It’s generally a bit sporadic. Usually, I get certain ideas, even maybe just a song title in my mind, and then I’ll just gradually collect the pieces of the concept through time with personal experiences or observations. I just go from there and the next thing I know something is written. Or some days, I’ll sit down and a song just comes out of nowhere. It’s honestly unpredictable and different for each song.

Jacqueline Hackett © 2020
Jacqueline Hackett © 2020

Who are your biggest musical influences? How have they had an impact on the music you create?

Hackett: One artist I was introduced to at a young age that was one of my earliest influences was Jewel. She’s the first artist I remember looking at and going,“Oh yeah, I wanna do exactly what she’s doing.” I’m really a sucker for vulgar songwriters, if that makes sense. She definitely fits that, especially with the Pieces Of You record. I love that she’s willing to make an audience uncomfortable. She also doesn’t have any proper musical training and that’s so cool. I watched an interview with her once where she stated that instead of memorizing chord structures, she just memorizes the shapes of her hands while playing and she was proud of that. Jewel sort of just gave me permission to really do things my way and make it work. The artist that stands out to me lately is Phoebe Bridgers. I love how she can take something so seemingly casual and make it surreal with just the way she writes about it. Listening to her has made me an observer. Just writing about real life stuff and being specific is the best way to level and relate with an audience. She’s the epitome of that. Oh, I also love Brandi Carlile. There’s no other voice out there in the world like hers. I swear, I’d pay good money to watch her play over and over. She’s like the artist that encourages me. She just creates magic and you can tell she moves people. She makes it look so easy.

Do you believe there’s a stronger relatability factor of sorts that makes you gravitate more towards honest female songwriters? Or have you found your music taste overall to be pretty genre-bending?

Hackett: Definitely. That’s a huge factor for sure. I think I just see myself in them in certain respects. But overall, my music taste feels pretty broad. I love shoegaze-y, dream pop/rock stuff, but also really into Americana/Folk stuff. Then, maybe I’ll throw in some alt hip-hop. I don’t know, I’m all over the place.

If you could only keep three records forever, besides Jewel’s Pieces Of You, what other two albums would you consider essential?

Hackett: Siamese Dream by The Smashing Pumpkins and So Tonight That I Might See by Mazzy Star.

What’s been the most interesting show you’ve played so far?

Hackett: At the very beginning of this year, I was asked to play a show in the West Village. I went in ready to go with my thirty minute set and then was surprised when I was in a basement of a church about to play a fully religious event (none of this I was aware of). So, right on the spot, I had to change pretty much my entire set list and talking points to avoid explicit language and stuff that would potentially offend, well, anyone. A lot of my music grapples with heavy shit that just wouldn’t be happily, or even openly, talked about in a church setting. It had a very Sunday School talent show vibe. I felt out of place as an artist, but honestly it was still a great time. I got the chance to meet some wonderful people and it turned into a great story to tell i guess.

Is there anyone within the NYC scene currently, or even across the country, that you’d hope to collaborate with one day?

Hackett: When I was in Nashville a few years ago to play shows, I ran into this one guy named Thunderstorm Artis and oh my. His voice just had the ability to silence a rowdy bar. He’s so talented and seems super down to earth. I would kill to collaborate one day.

You’ve also covered quite a few songs online. Do you have a favorite one? Or any that you are working on right now?

Hackett: I love all of the songs that I’ve covered. “No One Changes” by Conor Oberst is by far my favorite. I only posted a short snippet online, but the full cover I do is pretty cool. I love it because it’s honestly a bit vocally challenging. On the recording, he just sounds like he’s on the brink of breaking the entire time and I love that. So, it’s just fun to play with that and figure out a way to put my own spin on such a complex, emotional song. A cover I’ve always wanted to do and am messing with a bit right now is “Bell Bottom Blues” by Derek and the Dominos. Hopefully that’ll be done soon.

Do you have a favorite Bright Eyes record?

Hackett: Digital Ash in a Digital Urn —  I just love the whole surreal, freaky feeling of the album.

How has the quarantine, if at all, impacted your creative concentration?

Hackett: I think overall, quarantine has been amazing for me, creatively speaking. It’s given me the time to put all of my energy into my music and writing. I’ve also been spending time in a pretty rural area, so it’s good to just slow down altogether. It’s put some things into perspective for me and I’ve just been really taking advantage of it. Some of the stuff I’ve written in the past seven (or so) weeks are maybe some of my best songs. So, again, I’m just happy to have been given the time to fully focus and develop my work.

Has living in New Jersey impacted your songwriting style or musical taste at all?

Hackett: Honestly, not really. I wish I could say I worship the ground Jon Bon Jovi walks on or something, but it’s just not the case.

Are there any advantages or disadvantages that you’ve experienced being an independent artist?

Hackett: I’m happy to have full control in what’s happening with my music and the direction it takes, because I really know what I want my art to represent and be. Yet, at the same time, it can be very daunting. Sometimes, I struggle with the “I have no idea what the fuck I’m doing” mindset which can hold me back and make me a bit anxious.

Where do you hope to see yourself within the next year?

Hackett: I just see myself writing and releasing more stuff I’m proud of. Hopefully, by that time, I will be able to play more shows, in and out of New York. I’m excited to make more connections with other artists and continue to develop who I am as a singer/songwriter.

— — — —

Chocolate Milk - Jacqueline Hackett

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? © 2020

:: Jacqueline Hackett ::

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