Jillian Rae roams and rambles on her new EP, ‘Wanderlust’

Jillian Rae

Jillian Rae Photo by Tony Nelson

If you want to take a road trip, Jillian Rae’s Wanderlust will keep you company – as long as it’s a short one. The EP is only four songs long.

“It’s supposed to be a part of your setlist,” Rae laughs from a corner table at the Bryant-Lake Bowl after a long day teaching at the Music Lab, a south Minneapolis music school she co-owns with pianist Josie Just.

The new EP is the first thing Rae has released since her 2013 debut, Heartbeat, which landed her gigs opening for Dr. Dog and touring extensively around the Midwest. With five other projects to work on, it was hard finding the time to record solo music without burning herself out.

“It took me a long time to realize I need to take time off from the road to work on music or book a recording session,” she says. “After I did that I was kinda overworked and had to take vocal rest.” Rae forced herself to step away and relax, even booking a vacation to Paris earlier this year.

After catching her breath, Rae was ready to put out some new music. She found that the four songs on Wanderlust didn’t seem right for the full-length album she’s working on, and they fit so cohesively together that she didn’t want to pad out the EP with additional tracks.

“A lot of the content is about being on the road or new love,” Rae says. “When I was writing songs for my next record, I didn’t consciously write with those subjects in mind, but I was playing on the road a lot with the Okee Dokee Brothers. That’s where my headspace was and that’s what the songs ended up being about, ‘cause that’s what was going on in my life.”

The first single, “Nebraska,” was written by Rae’s friend Ashley Northey. It’s a song Rae’s been performing for years. When it came time to record, she knew she wanted a male voice on the track, so she enlisted Chris Koza to sing harmony.

Rae tells me the story behind the song: Northey had gone on tour with a friend, and while they were driving back to Duluth from Colorado during a snowstorm, they got into a huge fight and didn’t speak to each other through the entire state of Nebraska.

“All this shit went down and neither of them wanted to crack and be the first to break the ice,” Rae says. “I love that. Every once in a while, when I do a plug for that song, I’ll ask the audience to imagine driving through the state of Nebraska and not speaking to the person you’re with.”

Like the title track of Heartbeat, the song “Wanderlust” centers on her husband (and her guitarist) Eric Martin.

“We’ve never spoken about it,” she shares. “He’s asked a few times, ‘Is that one about me?’ He’s a melody guy, not a lyric listener. Half of the time I don’t think he knows what I’m saying. He’s so focused on the song and crafting a guitar solo. Lucky for me, I could totally Cee Lo it and have a ‘Fuck You’ song and Eric wouldn’t even notice. I don’t openly talk about my relationships. To the listener, it’s ambiguous. I want a song to mean different things to each individual listener. I’m just putting details of my life. Be it good or bad, this shit happens to everyone.”

Jillian Rae
With: Laska
Where: Icehouse
When: 10:30 p.m. Sat. Oct. 21, 2017
Tickets: 21+, $10/$14; more info here