EXCLUSIVE: Interview with JillandKate

If you’ve ever attended a Kelly Clarkson concert, there’s a good chance you’ve already been introduced to Nashville-based pop/acoustic/a-little-bit-country/folk duo, JillandKate. Since 2007, the pair of Jill Pickering and Kate Rapier have lent their voices to Clarkson’s live shows as background vocalists. However, these two extend way beyond the background and have already released one EP and 3 full length albums, including September’s Heart of Stone.

JillandKate took some time out of their busy schedule to chat with Keepin’ It Country about the Wreckers, embarrassing on-stage moments, boys in skinny jeans and some of their favorite things. Read on for more!

KIC: For those readers who may be ‘meeting’ you for the first time in this blog, can you give us a little bit of back story as to how Jill and Kate became JillandKate?

J&K: We both went to semester-long music program on Martha’s Vineyard called the Contemporary Music Center while we were in college. We met and one of our homework assignments was to co-write a song with another student–we decided to write one together and that’s kind of where it all began. Our voices blended well and we were able to write easily together so we decided to form a duo. Since then we’ve released 3 full length albums & one EP.  

KIC: How would you describe your musical style?

J&K: It’s kind of a mix between pop/folk & country. Lots of harmony. A little sad, a little sweet…hopefully our sound is something people can relate to.

KIC: Aside from your own albums, many people know you from your tours with Kelly Clarkson. How did you end up getting that job?

J&K: We had met via some mutual friends and we ended up playing a show at a tiny place in Los Angeles that she came out to. A few weeks later she saw us again and asked if we’d be interested in singing backup for her because she thought we sounded so much like her background vocals on her record. Our first gig with her was the Daytona 500 in 2007. 

KIC: We would imagine that singing backup and having your own act are VERY different experiences. Do you plan to continue doing both or do you hope to eventually go out as JillandKate full-time?

J&K: They are very different experiences :) We’re excited that Heart of Stone is finally out and we hope to continue promoting that as much as we can! It’s always been our hope to do our own music full-time. We are excited to be moving in that direction!

KIC: Independently, you’ve put out a few albums. Are you looking to stay on your own or are you hoping to possibly be signed by a major label?  Will we get to hear JillandKate on the radio?

J&K: Right now we are not actively seeking a record deal, but we aren’t opposed to it either. Hopefully you will hear us on the radio sometime in the near future… :)

KIC: Since this is a country blog, you girls live in Nashville and we can hear some country influences in your music, would you ever consider going fully country? (PS: You remind us a lot of the Wreckers, in a very good way!)

J&K: Oh man…we LOVE The Wreckers…what a great album. Thank you :) Honestly, whatever comes out of us kind of comes out. If it’s a little more country we’re cool with that. We will probably always naturally lean in that country/folk genre, but we have so many different influences too, so you never know.  

KIC: What had been your most memorable on-stage moment thus far? What about most embarrassing?

J&K: Playing the Hollywood Bowl was pretty unreal. I (Kate) got to see Ray Charles perform there way back when and so it was a very surreal moment to be up on that stage thinking about when I had been in the crowd watching him play. 

Jill’s most embarrassing moment was probably falling flat on her back while on stage at the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving halftime show performing with Kelly. It’s a long story and we can all laugh about it now, but at the time it was pretty embarrassing. Oh, and it hurt a LOT too. :)

KIC: If you could work with anyone in music, who would be your dream collaboration?

J&K: It’s funny–a few of them are actually in country music….Amy Grant & Vince Gill. Keith Urban. Chris Martin.

KIC: What is the songwriting process like for you guys and where do you draw your inspiration? Do you always write together and would you consider writing for other artists?

J&K: Each song kind of comes about in a different way. Sometimes one of us will have a line or melody and come to the other and we will work from there. Sometimes we just sit down with no plan and try and write about a theme or topic. It’s funny when inspiration strikes…sometimes the shower…or in the car…sometimes right before going to sleep. We would definitely write for other artists if it came about. It’s not something we do on a regular basis, but with songwriting it’s good to be open to anything. If another artist wanted to sing one of our songs, we’d be flattered. 

KIC: You released Heart of Stone a few weeks ago and kicked off that release with special shows, Skype sessions and in-house performances. What has been your favorite part of releasing this record?

J&K: It has been such a blast playing the new songs and meeting fans, etc. The in-house performances were super fun. It’s so nice to be in that intimate environment and play songs in someone’s living room. That is totally our vibe. They even made us cookies, fudge, and other goodies which really you can’t beat! 

KIC: We’ve heard artists say that it’s hard for them to pick a favorite song on their album, but do you guys have favorites on Heart of Stone?

Jill: Mine is “Burn It Down.” It’s a very personal song about our experience living out in Los Angeles when we were still in the early stages of making music. We were in our early 20’s which is a really hard time in life. Los Angeles is also a tough town. On top of that, this is a tough industry. 

Kate: Mine would probably be “Breakdown”…I don’t know if lyrically it just keeps hitting home for me…or the production that I love…when we first got mixes of our record this is the one I would keep coming back to. 

KIC: Although we love the whole album, some of our favorites on the album are “Heart of Stone,” “Skinny Jeans,” and “Life, Breath and Everything.” Can you speak to what inspired those tracks, or any of your faves?

J&K: “Life & Breath & Everything” This song is really a prayer. It’s another personal song about battling depression. It’s a spiritual song. It’s sad and happy…dark, but hopeful.

“Skinny Jeans” was inspired by a guy Kate dated a while back that wore Skinny Jeans and was mean to her. He was nice at first and then just turned into a jerk. It happens. You learn from it and move on…but first write a song about it! 

“Heart of Stone” was kind of the culmination of the last few years for us. As you grow older you can have so many life experiences that shape you for the good and bad…this song is kind of a realization that you don’t want your heart to be hard and turn to stone. Even though life is hard and people will hurt you and screw you over, you don’t want get too jaded. It doesn’t do anyone any good to start closing off to people and experiences. 

Keepin’ It Country Quick-fire round:

1. Who’s your celebrity crush:   Jill: Ben Affleck, Kate: David Beckham

2. All-time favorite country song: 

Jill: “It’s a Great Day To Be Alive” –It always puts me in a great mood!

Kate: “Whenever You Come Around” Vince Gill or “This is Me You’re Talking To” Trisha Yearwood

3. Favorite Kelly Clarkson song:

Jill: Sober,  Kate: Maybe

4. Guilty pleasure: Jill: Boy bands, Kate: Cheesy movies

5. Favorite junk food: Jill: Ice cream, Kate: Any Haribo candy :)

6. Facebook or Twitter: Twitter…cause it’s so instantaneous…but Facebook cause you can get more info…it’s hard to choose :)   (Instagram might be our new favorite though!)

7. Fave vacation spot: Anywhere with white sandy beaches & fruity frozen beverages. Loved the Maldives…it was unreal! We also love going to South Africa. It is a beautiful and inspiring country…and the people there are some of the most amazing people on earth. 

8. Weirdest fan gift/encounter: Once we got a roll of toilet paper from a fan and he signed it. The next time we saw him, he gave us a whole package of toilet paper. Totally random. But hey, you can never have too much toilet paper I guess. :)


We’d like to thank JillandKate for taking the time to do this interview! For more info on J&K, you can check out their website at www.jillandkate.com, follow them on Twitter @JillandKate, Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jillandkate, and YouTube at JillandKateMusic.

JillandKate release a YouTube video on the 17th of every month as part of their “Songs on the 17th” series, which includes originals and covers. Check out their most recent video, filmed in a not-too-shabby Irish castle, and you may see some familiar faces…