When Jaclyn Guillou left the Canadian jazz scene, she felt like she had broken up with a boyfriend.
The decision came after the 2016 Juno Awards, and although her fourth album, This Bitter Earth, had been nominated for vocal jazz album of the year, the then-34-year-old singer felt a need to reconnect with the lyrically-focused artist that she was growing up.
Re-branding herself as Delta Jackson, the North Delta native embarked on a new career with an updated sound.
“I’ve always been a songwriter and … I was fitting my songs into jazz, and I didn’t want to do that anymore,” Jackson explained in a phone interview. “I love jazz, I love the nerdiness of it the technicalities of jazz, the improvisational aspects, but I wanted to find a different way to be nerdy, to be technical in a more truthful, honest way.”
In 2017, with the possibility of working with producer Jeremy Stacey (who has worked with Sheryl Crow and Oasis’ Noel Gallagher), Jackson sold most of her possessions, including her car and Vancouver condo and moved to Europe.
“I knew if I just stayed [in Canada], I knew I wouldn’t have new opportunities, I wouldn’t meet new people and new musicians,” Jackson said. “The possibility of playing with Jeremy Stacey and having him produce, once that started to roll out I thought, ‘I’ve got to be closer to that action.’”
Once in Europe, Jackson club hopped through southern Spain in search of gigs. There she met her new manager, David Duggan, and he enabled her to record her self-titled “alternative country meets folk pop” double EP, set to drop April 20.
“I think the thing I’m most excited about is that the music is so open to a lot of people. I think with jazz it felt very exclusive,” Jackson said. “So the nice thing about this is it’s music for everybody, it’s universal, there’s something in it for everybody.”
It was while on her creative journey in Europe that she decided to adopt the stage name ‘Delta Jackson,’ a combined tribute to where she grew up and the nickname her friends and father called her.
“The name just kind of happened one day,” Jackson said. “I wanted to be called just Jackson, but it seemed to be a bit pretentious.”
“Everything felt contrived and then one day I said ‘Delta Jackson.’”
The 36-year-old’s song writing style has also changed. On the song Blue Ink, for example, she uses fictional characters and describes the Canadian Rockies, something that she says isn’t commonly seen in jazz.
In the process of creating her new double EP, Jackson said, she often caught herself listening to more and more country-focused music like Linda Ronstadt, Jann Arden and Wilco. It seemed a natural turn for her, as growing up her father often told her she would one day sing country, and her cousin is none other than Surrey-raised country artist Lisa Brokop.
Though her new sound came naturally to her, Jackson found that it was hard to transition away from jazz after having spent years building a fan base and becoming a prominent face in the jazz community.
“I felt a lot of fear. I felt scared, like nobody’s going to like this, nobody’s going to want to be my friend anymore, no one is going to want to hear my music. I knew that I would lose a lot of fans. … I knew I would have to let that go, but I didn’t know how hard it would be to start all over again,” Jackson said. “It was sink or swim.”
But now, Jackson said, she feels like the risk was worth it, and she’s excited about sharing her new project with audiences, including on April 28 at Vancouver’s WISE Hall (1882 Adanac St.). Tickets can be prchased at brownpapertickets.com/event/3327190.
“I think fear comes from knowing what you really want and I remind myself that a lot,” Jackson said. “I’m not a scared person, I have a lot of balls, I have a lot of courage, but when you feel those moments it’s because you actually need to be doing something else.”
For more on Delta Jackson, including links to her music, visit deltajackson.com.