A music scene which exists in a rather intriguing state, locally, is the country music scene. It flies under the radar, yet, has always thrived here. Whether it was on a stage from yesteryear – Club Utica, Buckin’ Buffalo – or live music sometimes found at a place like The Sportsmens Tavern (today), it remains a beloved all-American sound, which continues to attract a steady stream of new talent.
One of these young talents is songwriter, Jillian Eliza. Jillian has been on the scene for about a decade. We have had the opportunity to work together a number of times. Recently, Jillian and I got together for a chat to discuss her roots and the recent buzz regarding her career.
“This year has definitely been one for the books, so far…” Jillian states. The 27 year old singer/songwriter has landed some sweet gigs as of late, including performances at the Nightlife Buffalo Music Awards, Taste of Country, and Taste of Buffalo. She also recorded and released a single, ‘Heartbreak,’ this year, produced by Michael Hund. “In the studio we recorded four songs. We did the single first, so I think the EP is going to come out at the end of August,” she says.
She reflects on her earliest exposure to performing. “My grandfather has owned a bar since I was four or five… and ever since my 5th birthday party, it was always in the banquet room, or on a Sunday at the bar where we would have karaoke,” Jillian recalls. “My mom sings and every birthday was a karaoke birthday party. I think from that… I really began to love it, being behind the mic. From when I was little, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Country music wasn’t necessarily her first choice. “When I was eight years old, for Career Day, I went dressed up as Britney Spears because I wanted to be a pop star.” She continues, “…ever since I was little it is what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a singer. I had a little cassette tape with a karaoke machine. I would record me singing things.”
On how country music came to her… “I never really thought I was going to be a country singer. It kind of just fell on my lap. The first band I was asked to be in was country. My mother being a bartender, would go to Jamboree in the Hills all the time, so she brought back Toby Keith, Dixie Chicks, I love Dixie Chicks, and Hank Williams. A lot of stuff from that era. My mom was a big music role model. Whatever she listened to… I listened to. I always thought I’d be the next Christina Aguilera.”
Jillian’s first time in the studio was around 2012. She was with an old group that eventually disbanded. However, Jillian marched on. Her current group includes Zachary Lee on guitar, Josh English on drums, and other session bass players.
Before the summer kicked off, Jillian made her way to Nashville every five to six weeks, play some gigs. Her eyes were always set on her next musical steps. “I plan on continuing to do that, if not, just make the move. Nothing is set in stone yet. I love Buffalo. I love the community and the camaraderie between all musicians. Non-music friends and professional audience members all have helped me get to where I am. I appreciate them so much, but I want to do more.”
Her new baby is establishing a Buffalo’s Women of Country event . This year will be the second annual event, held at Buffalo Iron Works. “Last year’s turnout was great. We donated to Roswell. I hope it keeps on going up from there,” she says, “There are these young girls starting out, and nobody knows who they are. There are girls older than I am… who nobody knows who they are. When you leave the building, you’ll know their name.” The ladies’ group will perform an acoustic set at this year’s Cobblestone Live.
Helping each other in this industry is critical and she summed it up with a formidable mixture of humility and a bit of a chip on her shoulder. “I have had people talk down my talents, or tell me pretty much that I could not do it…and I don’t ever want to be like that. I have faces in my head of people who have said these things. I never want to be that face in someone else’s head. So anytime I can help another musician out. I will.”
Follow Jillian on social media and streaming services, including Facebook.
Check out Jillian Eliza Music @JillianEliza
Photos courtesy of Jillian Eliza