Jacqueline’s earliest memories of music take place in the backseat of her mother’s car in Chester Springs, Pa., where she’d sing along to Elvis and Patsy Cline on the way to kindergarten. “I was obsessed with the radio, and it built this tunnel in my head of, ‘That’s what I wanna do,’” she says. “I never questioned it.” By age seven, she began performing at local open mic nights, using a photo she jokes her mom “found in a drawer” as her headshot. With her three sisters, she formed The Little Women Band, named for the Louisa May Alcott book.
Then, around her ninth birthday, an audition listing to join a children’s choir on Kenny Rogers’ holiday-themed Broadway production Christmas from the Heart caught her eye. Jacqueline admits she had little notion of the country legend’s fame -- nor, as she would soon find, how much earning the role would boost her career -- when she and her mother drove three hours to Manhattan after school to make it to tryouts.
“It was stage kid central,” Jacqueline remembers. She arrived late, and in her mind, bombed the audition: “I couldn't dance and I had two different pairs of socks on,” she recalls. But her rendition of “Tomorrow” from Annie stunned Rogers, and she scored the part. Shortly after, Jacqueline and her family moved to New York City, and her three-month Broadway stint turned into a five-year tour. “It changed my life, and Kenny became a huge mentor,” Jacqueline says. “It was a step into another world of, ‘I don’t have to be a regular kid. My life can look a lot different.’”
After studying marketing at the University of Philadelphia on the strength of a recommendation letter from Rogers himself, Jacqueline was eager to make music her priority once again. Moving to Nashville after graduation in 2010, she waitressed and took up freelance photography to pay her rent while playing local gigs, eventually catching the attention of Downtown Publishing’s Steve Markland, who signed her in 2014. A record deal with Big Loud followed two years later, as Jacqueline joined a roster of four male artists including Jake Owen. “I realized it wasn't that they needed a girl to fill their roster -- they loved what I did regardless,” she recalls. “On the same coin, they wanted me to be the first female that represents their company, and I think they value what I have to say as a female country artist. By the time I signed, it was just a question of, ‘When can we get the music out?’”
Jacqueline says she had around 15 songs ready to go by the time she signed to Big Loud, most written in the throes of a breakup with her long-term boyfriend. In fact, she was still living with her ex when she wrote the heartbreaking “Reasons,” now passing 13 million streams on Spotify, and pitched the concept to co-writer Tofer Brown as a fictional story before realizing that it paralleled her life. Soon after, she moved out: “I was just sort of unfolding the truth, and once I put [it] into the song, I couldn't take it back...I was like, ‘Oh shit, this is true.’”