Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
Kara Jackson May 2023 Brennan Bucannan 01

On the Rise
Kara Jackson

17 July 2023, 08:00
Words by Maria Graham
Original Photography by Brennan Bucannan

23-year-old singer-songwriter and former US National Youth Poet Laureate Kara Jackson tells Maria Graham how she wove the complexities of human emotion into her first record Why Does The Earth Give Us People To Love?

“I'm someone who approaches things in an unorthodox way...” remarks Jackson.

Her debut album Why Does The Earth Give Us People To Love? mirrors the thoughts that can’t fit perfectly in a four-line pop chorus, she explains. The folk-laced body of work is choppy, bold, and playfully sarcastic; the intention is the key, shaping her delivery into quick, witty lines that appear more like statements than lyrics. Jackson approaches her songwriting with the same process as she would the academic form: constructing a thesis statement, a middle section, and a bold ending. “I’m trying to find my own power and assert myself,” she says, using her talent to rewrite situations in a way that brings her power, understanding and acceptance.

Jackson has been inspired in equal measure by Joni Mitchell and Beyonce: “I feel like all of these women have a really strong presence as album makers,” she explains, drawing on their firm intention and the timeless quality of their music. Each song of Why Does The Earth Give Us People To Love? was designed specifically to address the tougher questions and themes from different chapters of her life, creating a summation of her experiences, memories, and stories. She explains each song's importance, starting with the “recognized”, where Jackson’s voice rests on a simple piano chord. Each line starts with “some people” and repeats for the entirety of the song, with lyrics like “Some people tell lies to be recognised / Some people take lives to be recognised”, statements which stand in sharp relief against the unorthodox instrumentation.


“no fun/party” are two separate songs which recall two distinct eras in Jackson’s life. “I had the melody for a really long time but not the words,” she says, which made it one of the more interesting pieces of the album for her to complete. The first half is pure serenity, with longer, more sincere lines, complex strings and guitar strums which completely contrast the album’s opener; the second half is more intimate and relaxed with lines like: “And you’ll regret / The parties you’ve painted in bed”, sleepily sung on the slowing guitar strums. “[‘no fun/party’] is also about really talking to myself and trying to affirm myself just with, you know, the regular pains of growing up and having to deal with people and relationships, and it’s the same with ‘dickhead blues’” Jackson explains.

The song is brilliantly triumphant, with sugary slow affirmations of “I’m not as worthless as I once thought / I am pretty top-notch” which bring an uplifting comfort to an album mired with uncertainty. As she seeks to reimagine her past into something she finds power in, Jackson also finds humour in the things she cannot control.

Kara Jackson May 2023 Brennan Bucannan 08

“I think ‘therapy’ is kind of just a funny summation of both of those songs honestly, it kind of says a lot without saying a lot,” she shares. The opening line is unforgettable, and captures the spirit of the entire song: “Every man thinks I’m his fucking mother” - it sits boldly in front of the backing vocals, letting Jackson’s proclamation of being completely unimpressed, disinterested, and unbothered lead the way. In the space of a single minute, Jackson says everything she needs to without sugarcoating anything.It goes into ‘pawnshop’, which I think is also dealing with the theme of self-worth and how worth is subjective,” she explains.

The song connects her love of thrifting to the way pawn shops and thrift stores cultivate and rejuvenate old items and clothing pieces, communicating an underlying message that something can be treasured again. “I think that was also a lesson for myself, not thinking of someone's rejection as like a final note,” she says. “I can always be reborn and I find a new life and different things." The track energises as her voice becomes more certain, and builds on the idea that Jackson is only getting stronger.

“brain” is more earthy, and more relaxed. She tells me that the track is one of the oldest on the album: “I wrote it a few years ago, but I think it's the only song that I would consider a love song”, noting that she did not want the feeling of love to be overshadowed by heavier topics in her work. “I guess I’m interested in heavier questions," she shrugs, "and I think that I need to ask those questions because they're what's pressing on my mind," - but, nevertheless, she wants the tender moments to have a place to shine. “free” is a track of liberation, or relieving herself from someone else - one which she almost cut from the album, sparing it only because it was mother’s favourite. She notes that she has learned to appreciate the time period of her life when the song was created and to draw inspiration from her inner child.

“I think in general, the whole album is giving me compassion for my younger self,” she notes. Its creation began when Jackson was fairly young, but wasn’t completed until much later, aided by maturity and experience. “It’s the grief I experienced when I was younger, then growing up with a different perspective on it and the kind of having to grow around it,” she shares. It’s like her inner child and adult are in communion with one another, or, “an amalgamation of my younger and older selves coming together."


For “rat”, however, she fixes her gaze on the world beyond her own. “I was really inspired by really old folk songs that told stories,” she tells me, crediting Northern California-born Joanna Newsom, an American harpist and lyricist, for stoking her passion for storytelling. The song is more melancholic, focusing on the main character, ‘rat’, who leaves his hometown to make it big, but it doesn’t go the way he planned. “It's not like an anecdote from my life,” she explains, “but I do think it deals with similar things to the album in terms of trying to live your dreams and the backdrop of doom that we're doing everything under.” In all, ‘rat’ is seven minutes long, ending with the main character's ultimate demise with lines like “Country boys know better / Than to leave that weather,” and, “At home, his woman carves another kind of casket / The kind he gladly climbs and closes himself in."

The slower, folk-laced backdrop of “curtains” makes room for themes of class and economic divide as a more jazzy guitar comes in. “I was on a plane when I wrote that song and I think about the little curtain that they put up in between the economy class and first class," she explains. Jackson notes the uncertainty that comes with being a musician, particularly in the post-pandemic world: “We are working in this machine and I don't know what the payoff is sometimes...” Haunting bells chime in as she sings the bitter truth, “I know I’m young but I’m not naive / The kings will survive everything."

“recognised (reprise)” and “liquor” act as the closing scenes to Jackson’s thirteen-part story, bringing it back to the beginning of her lyrical thesis statement. “Liquor” is a bonus track, and Jackson wants to leave listeners confused. “I think of it as like a kind of eerie ending that kind of leaves people unsettled,” she says, noting that she was inspired by The Beatles’ Abbey Road - specifically “Her Majesty” - when writing the ending to the album. “Love is supposed to kind of be a question that the album does not attempt to answer, but the album itself is like asking a question throughout,” notes Jackson. “I'm still asking it, and I think it's also something I’ve chosen to leave the listeners to answer.”

Why Does The Earth Give Us People To Love? is out now via September Recordings

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