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Glasgow Lives: Jill, Milton of Campsie, musician and journalist

My biggest musical influence has been my family.

My parents met when they were both performing at the same music event. Unquestionably, what you’re exposed to as a child does shape you as an adult - I come from a long line of musicians and grew up surrounded by melodies, harmonies, and instruments.

I played the flute growing up and took piano lessons, However, I decided I wanted to be a television journalist in my early teens and, after studying English at Glasgow University, I got a job at STV.

I started at the bottom and ended up producing, reporting, and presenting the news. The lure of music proved overwhelming in the end, and I started writing my own songs and taking secret singing lessons to find out if it was something that I wanted to pursue.

READ MORE: Glasgow Lives: Andrew, 51, West Glasgow, Founder, owner and peddler of Velo-City Deliveries

I’m still singing and songwriting, as well as continuing to do some journalism and PR consultancy.

For me, music has always been like breathing - very natural and spontaneous. My parents and grandparents had parties where you had to, “do a turn” and my sister, Susie, and I used to perform songs from ‘South Pacific’ in the front garden: we set up deckchairs and gave free tickets to the neighbours.

It was all a great training ground - unlike when I was reading the news, I don’t get particularly nervous about being on stage - it feels like putting on a pair of comfortable old slippers.

In terms of famous musical influences, I love Karen Carpenter, John Martyn, Kimbra, Sadé and Gregory Porter. That said, I listen to all types of music, including hip hop.

My love of the latter genre has come as a result of some of the musical work I’ve done over the years in Barlinnie Prison. I’m passionate about making live music accessible to all and playing places that no one else wants to play, and that’s how I ended up doing music at Barlinnie.

I’ve played quite a few of the usual Glasgow venues - King Tut's, Stereo, and the Tut’s stage at SEC Armadillo as part of the country music festival, C2C (although I’m not country I did write a country song especially for it). That was an amazing experience because of the A-list US country stars you got to meet backstage, like Darius Rucker.

It was a rare opportunity to meet music royalty.

But I have to say that the real highlight of my career so far has been performing gigs in Barlinnie Prison. I always invite the guys who’re in there to perform during the first half of the show, and on one occasion there were two amazing, older guys who did their own version of ‘Proud Mary’.

During another gig, I finished my set and then someone started singing, ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’, by Monty Python. My band started playing it and everyone joined in.

I’ll never forget that. It was emotional and uplifting. Music truly is a universal language.

'Secrets Kill’, my latest track, is my fourth collaboration with Lewis Gardiner, the former drummer of the Scottish band, Prides. I love working with Lewis - he co-wrote and produced the track - we get on really well and have great fun working together.

The track, which is neo soul/alt pop, is about the importance of being honest. I know from my own experience of domestic violence just how toxic secrets can be and how unwell you can become by keeping them to yourself.

It’s my experiences that have really made and shaped me as a musician, so it’s true that something beautiful can be made from the ugly stuff we all go through. I’m really proud of ’Secrets Kill' because Lewis has helped create a stunning sound and my lyrics describe something that’s very real for me.

The release of Secrets Kill is going well. Billy Sloan played my track on BBC Radio Scotland and is very supportive of my music generally.

He also said it reminded him of Kate Bush - what a compliment. I have a small team of people helping me to promote the music on Spotify, and that’s making a big difference. Music is a long and complex game.

I did a campaign around the release of the track because I wanted to invite others to speak out about whatever secrets they have that keep them imprisoned psychologically. I asked some people I know and admire to film some short clips for social media about their own experience of sharing secrets which was really powerful.

Jannica spoke of being able to tell a friend as a child that her dad was an alcoholic, and Luke talked about the impact of hiding his identity as a trans man and the release he found in being open. Honesty is liberating and liberates others too.

I love singing and I love being able to use my voice. For years I was trying to fit into a mold, and with singing I feel I can be myself.

At the end of 2020 I set up Scotland’s first record label for ex-offenders, Conviction Records. We’re still in the very early stages, and I’ve learned some hard lessons so far, but I love empowering others to use their own voice too.

Silencing ourselves doesn’t do anyone any favours.

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