Rising country artist Jillian Cardarelli is relatively new to Nashville, but she’s no stranger to the stage. Before setting foot in Music City, the Massachusetts-born singer/songwriter spent time singing and playing shows all through New England.
After earning a music business degree at Belmont University in 2015, she took her talents on the road and has so far shared the stage with big stars like Dierks Bentley, Reba McEntire, and Willie Nelson. In 2017, Cardarelli released her debut single, “Rerun,” written by Grammy Award-winning artist Maren Morris, Tina Parol and Jordan Reynolds. The song was featured on CMT as part of the network’s Artist Discovery Program and spent two weeks in the No. 1 spot.
“People really resonated with that song, and I think the goal as an artist is to put out songs people love, and the response on it was incredible,” Cardarelli told Country Now.
Cardarelli followed up “Rerun” with “Souvenirs” and now, she’s making a splash with her newest single, “I Never Do This.” The swaggering song, which she co-wrote with Adam Wood, is all about letting your hair down and having fun. “I Never Do This” is the first of five tracks to be featured on Cardarelli’s highly-anticipated upcoming EP, produced by songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Alex Kline (Terri Clark, Tara Thompson).
Cardarelli, who just got engaged to longtime boyfriend/sports agent Brian Parker, recently spent time with Country Now to talk all about her current single, upcoming EP and other projects in the works.
Read on for our exclusive Q&A with Jillian Cardarelli…
Melinda Lorge: Tell us about your musical journey and what led you to want to pursue country music.
Jillian Cardarelli: I grew up listening to country music. My grandfather was stationed in Georgia during World War II and fell in love with country music there. He passed it onto my dad, who then passed it on to me. I grew up listening to Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and George Strait. The storytelling and the lyrics in country music is something that has stuck with me to this day. I started singing when I was 5-years-old in church, and then at school. I moved to Nashville about six years ago and finished my degree at Belmont University.
Lorge: What were your first few months here like?
Cardarelli: I spent two years at Belmont and made such wonderful friends. It was awesome to have that time to become immersed in the songwriting community and to be involved in Nashville. I think, for an artist, there’s no right or wrong path. But, for me, it was nice having that structure, and just being able to meet people. I took music business courses at Belmont, which was so helpful, especially now being an artist, to have that business background.
Lorge: Are people in Nashville ever surprised when they find out that you’re from Massachusetts?
Cardarelli:People move from all over the country to Nashville to pursue a career in music, both on and off stage, so it shouldn’t be all that surprising. I love living here and it’s now my home.
Lorge: What inspired your current single, “I Never Do This?”
Cardarelli: I wrote that song with Adam Wood. We sat down one day, and we were talking about how I never do something that’s out of my comfort zone. Sometimes that can be fun, whether it’s trying something new or going out and letting your hair down. It’s a fun anthem for people that want to have a fun time and not feel bad about it.
Lorge: Why did you decide to lead with that song for the EP?
Cardarelli: We just thought it was a fun, end of summer anthem leading back into school. It’s a song that’s upbeat, and we thought it’d be good to lead off with an upbeat anthem song.
Lorge: What song is your personal favorite on the EP?
Cardarelli: So there are five songs we’re going to be releasing as singles. There’s one that’s called “If You Had A Heart” that has this old school country sound to it that I grew up listening to. It’s an outside song, and my producer had me listen to it. As soon as I heard it, I knew I had to record it. It’s a heartbreak song. But, It’s not like, poor me. It’s a very confident heartbreak song because she’s showing her strength. It’s amazing, and it reminds me of early ‘90s country, which is something that I love so much.
Lorge: How do you draw inspiration when it comes to songwriting?
Cardarelli: I like to base my songwriting on personal experiences or experiences my friends have had. I think the most relatable songs are ones that come from the heart. I’m working on a song with Chip Esten from the show, Nashville. My mom has cancer, and she’s been sick for the last few years. We sat down one day and started talking about that, and it just came from a raw place. We’re hopefully going to record it early next year.
Lorge: I’m sorry to hear that. Do you find it difficult to showcase that kind of vulnerability?
Cardarelli: Yes. There is a vulnerability to it. It’s kind of scary. It’s like showing people a chapter in your diary. But, if the song can help somebody else who’s going through something similar, or be a light for someone going through a hard time, it’s worth it. I think that’s the duty of songwriting because it can touch so many people that you don’t know or may never meet.
Lorge: That’s great! You’ve opened for artists like Dierks Bentley, Reba McEntire and Willie Nelson. What have you learned from playing shows with them?
Cardarelli: You have to put your heart and soul into every single show. It’s about connecting with the audience. I’ve gotten to watch Reba McEntire and Dierks Bentley from the side stage, and even Willie Nelson. It’s amazing how they all connect with their audience. Neal McCoy, he is a good friend. His entertaining skills and the way he handles his meet-and-greets, and how he makes each fan feel so special, it’s like he has a personal friendship and connection with them. I think that’s something I try to absorb like a sponge. It’s been a real blessing to have that backseat view.
Lorge: What’s next for you?
Cardarelli: We’ll be releasing another song soon. We’re gearing up for that. We’re also going to be hitting the road next summer and playing shows in 2020 in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and the northeast.
Fans can learn more about Jillian Cardarelli by visiting her official website.