Nashville is known as a co-writer’s city, and for the practice of “three chords and the truth.”
New York-raised artist Jillette Johnson is breaking these norms of Music City in only the most respectable way on her latest album, It’s A Beautiful Day And I Love You, all ten songs of which she wrote solo. Though the songs are certainly truthful, she utilizes far more than three chords to demonstrate strong melodic and harmonic craftsmanship that emphasize her musical maturity.
Johnson is a modern day Joni Mitchell, what with her powerful voice, lyric-rich songwriting, and alternative pop sound cushioned by rock elements. This resemblance is also channeled into her retro aesthetic, both visually and sonically. Her Instagram is filled with bright pastels and color-blocked outfits such as those that were popular in the 60s and 70s. Her voice sounds similar to another icon from that era, Kim Carnes, and she carries a self-assured grace also borne by those powerhouse women. Johnson herself was born in 1989, and draws upon her childhood for inspiration for the album as well.
This optical, vintage-themed branding is no coincidence. “Making It’s A Beautiful Day And I Love You was the first time that I thought about an album visually while I was still recording it,” she shared in an Instagram post in January. “I wanted there to be lots of color and to feel like what my childhood felt like when we lived in California.”
The opening track, “Many Moons,” sets a nostalgic, ponderous temperament for the rest of the album. The entire song is a steady acceleration, from the mysterious beginning through forlorn versus and until the exultant finale. “Letting Go” makes a fitting bookend for the collection, easing out the listener in a cheerful and whimsical way with an appropriately topical theme of looking ahead at what is to come with complacent readiness.
Her single, “What Would Jesus Do,” is a playful expression of both self and outward acceptance that earned an equally goofy music video featuring her dancing on top of a car. The sweetly wistful title track is likely about her husband, who she met and married since moving to Nashville.
In a Facebook post the day of its release, Johnson said of the album and its meaning, “This album is about optimism in the face of difficult emotions, releasing expectation, and gratitude for the people and opportunities that life has brought my way. Those have felt like particularly poignant reminders to express during these times.”