FOR THE RECORD is an ongoing artist essay series where we invite some of our favourite artists to explore the themes of their albums and singles, which provides a deep insight into their work. Talia Jackson is an actress and musician who can regularly be seen on Netflix’s Family Reunion. Jackson is currently gearing up for the release of her debut album, recently releasing “Piece Of Me,” a single she wrote while the world was at a standstill. It’s heartfelt, vulnerable, and runs through the emotions she felt after realizing someone in her life had been lying to her. A true breakup song.
I’ve always been musically inclined but for so long the idea of using that talent as a career terrified me—no matter how many times my family or friends told me I should. It always seemed like such a far-away dream; like something that would never happen because of the intense fear I had for singing in front of people. It took real heartbreak and finding myself [before] I could finally start to see myself as a musical artist and not just an actress.
I used to write songs when I was growing up—I never really played instruments as a kid since I had terrible ADD that never allowed me to focus on one thing long enough to grasp it, so it was quite difficult trying to write on my own. I think that’s one of the big reasons I thought I could never be a singer. I always pictured these super cool, talented girls who had these guitars in their hands, and that just wasn’t me.
The turning point for me was when my show, Netflix’s Family Reunion, wrote an episode where my character sings, and we ended up shooting a music video for it. It gave me the courage to go forward with my songs. Last summer was the first time I actually wrote anything that got released. It was a big step for me; I was terrified. Thankfully my mother had always seen my love for music—even when it was hidden behind anxiety—so she pushed me to put that first song [“I’m Not Jealous”] out. I hated the song. I loved it when I first heard it and released it, but I’m the type of artist who gets sick of hearing my own voice. It’s not a bad song; it just isn’t the type of music I love [to] make.
Every time I write, it’s like I’m ranting to myself and anyone else who can relate. It has been helping my mental health and is allowing me to finally get out all the scary, crazy things going on in my head and make them into this beautiful thing that people other than myself can understand and enjoy. Lana Del Ray, Melanie Martinez, and Marina and the Diamonds are the reason I started wanting to sing years ago. Everything they did seemed so magical and euphoric. They truly molded me into the person I am today when it comes to musical tastes.
Lana is my biggest inspiration as an artist. Her ethereal energy, the way she sings without a care in the world. I lived for that growing up. She was everything I wanted to be. Nowadays, I’m inspired by a lot of female R&B artists like SZA, Jhené Aiko, and H.E.R. Those three have a gift of storytelling through their music that makes you sit back and go, “Oh my god, how did she know he did that?” or “I can’t believe she knows what I’m going through.” I think it’s incredible how you can never know someone, yet [you can] share the same pain through music. I hope that people feel the same way listening to my music. I love that feeling of finding a song that represents what you’re going/[have] gone through.
“Piece Of Me” was the first song that I’ve ever felt was really coming from inside my soul. It was one of the most therapeutic things I could have done during the isolation of staying at home for months. I felt broken and confused over someone I had been seeing who [sent] lots of mixed messages. I started to realize this person had an alcohol/drug addiction, and I was, in a sense, grieving that he couldn’t be who I first thought he was. I was making excuses for his behavior, but it became very clear that this was a person who was very emotionally unstable. And I had started to hear things about him that were confirming he wasn’t who I initially thought he was. I went to one of my music producer’s house the night I found out from a close friend [that this guy] had been lying to me and was hitting up another girl. I was crying uncontrollably, and he said, “let’s work on a song right now,” and we wrote “Piece of Me.”
I used it as an escape from the pain and anger I felt for being lied to. I’ve written quite a few songs about this person and will probably release another one in September. I hope these songs make someone else feel a little less alone, and at the same time, empowered not to accept someone in our lives who doesn’t show us the respect we deserve. We’ll get through this together one breakup song at a time.