For Berklee junior Jillian Rossi, it all started with learning three chords at summer camp, and a boy who was acting kind of annoying. By 16, she was performing live for Billy Joel. You'd think she'd have the pop princess gig down flat by now, and her insanely smooth catalog of original tracks would suggest the same, but her next single makes her very nervous. It only makes us want to hear more.
1. What movie do you wish you had written the soundtrack to?
Probably LaLa Land because it already has a great soundtrack. But if I could put my own spin on it, I'd make it less predictable. I like music that surprises you, like, “Oh, didn’t see that coming!”
2. What piece of advice would you give yourself when you first started creating music?
Oh, wow, I was just so hard on myself. I was so worried about becoming famous or successful before I was 20. Now I'm 20 and I realize it can take years and years to develop, and you can peak in your 40s or 50s.
3. What's your first memory of knowing you were an artist?
I was 13 at sleepaway camp. I had just learned to play a few chords on the guitar from one of my counselors, and I wrote and recorded a song called “Nothing to Say,” and suddenly I was known as “Jillian Rossi, the singing camper.”
4. What was it about?
A boy. He had a girlfriend back home but like acted like he liked me. Yeah.
5. Have you played it since?
Sometimes for fun or as a joke for my parents. I have a voice memo of it too, but it’s kind of hard to listen to, honestly, because it so cheesy compared to my stuff now.
6. When you look back at your musical journey, is there a moment that stands out?
When I was 16, Billy Joel came to the Long Island High School for the Arts, where I went, and my principal asked me to perform for him. I played my song called “Through His Words.” That’s also very old to me now. But yeah. It was also about a boy – another boy.
7. What's your favorite track and how did you create it?
It’s my new one – “txt me when u get here.” It's the first song that I’ve written with very specific details about the real story. You hear about the hotel room, and the guy, and his friends just sleeping there in the bed. It has Red Solo cups in it. It's all right there.
Honestly, it makes me kind of nervous about the people who were there hearing it. But part of me wants them to hear it. I mean, I have like a little bit of embarrassment, but at the same time, it's another way of being like, “Yeah, screw you.” Like, this is about you, and you did me wrong.
8. Favorite book?
“You Are a Bad Ass” by Sarah Jensen. I think women’s strength is what I like to portray in my music. That women are just as important as men in business, in music -- in every field.
9. What's your favorite lyric that another artist has written?
It’s in John Mayer's song, “My Stupid Mouth” -- “We played a quick game of chess with the salt and pepper shakers.” I just see that scene in my mind, like a really awkward date. It’s such a great, true image.
10. Do you have a song title, but no song yet?
Well, I tried to write a song once called “Long Island Girls,” but that’s not really that interesting, so it wasn’t happening.
Seriously, though, my brother’s name is Andrew, and he has mild autism. I've thought of writing an autism awareness song called “The A Word.” That’s something I really want to do.