Jillian Rae is a truly multi-disciplinary singer, songwriter, and performer. Always connected to her roots in Northern Minnesota, the Minneapolis musician has expanded on her upbringing as a classical violinist to become one of the most powerful and unique voices in the Twin Cities music scene.
Having cultivated a reputation as the go-to violin accompanist for dozens of bluegrass, rock, and pop bands (including The Okee Dokee Brothers, Corpse Reviver, Adam Levy, and Steve Kaul & the Brass Kings) Jillian Rae planted her own flag in the musical landscape with the 2013 release of Heartbeat, a confident pop record with subtle nods to her bluegrass and classical pedigrees. Her songs are full of heartache, truth, and often a beguiling sense of playfulness. Rae's songwriting is not easily pigeonholed, and neither is her playing. You can find her playing country fiddle on one tune, rock guitar on the next, or driving her violin through synthy guitar effects on another.
As engaging as her arrangements can be, the real show stopper of her records or live performances is always her effortlessly powerful voice. When Jillian Rae sings, you believe her. Such is the case on her 2017 EP, Wanderlust. More of a stripped-down country record, Wanderlust showcases Rae's dynamic and earnest vocal chops. Music journalist Youa Vang called Rae a heavy hitter whose "voice will stay with you long after the show is over."
If Jillian Rae fans thought that Wanderlust might be signal that she's going country, she has more surprises in store. With the planned release of a new full length (expected Spring 2019), Rae will make an even harder pivot. Fans got an early taste of her collaborations with a new lineup and a new producer (The Library Studio's Matt Patrick), in her cover of Prince's legendary When Doves Cry. Released as a single, the tune is not only a wholesale rewrite of the tune befitting the towering status of the original, it's also a marker of where she plans to go with this new staff on board.
With contributions from Patrick as well as drummer Alex Young, guitarist and longtime collaborator Eric Martin, and bassist Jimmy Osterholt, the new record is saturated in heavy grooves, moody arrangements, and unflinching honesty. And of course her voice, which has never sounded better, more dynamic, or more true than it does on this collection of songs.
Get to know Jillian from this 2017 video series on City Pages' Back to the City, with Simon Calder:
Photo credits: Emily Isakson