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Jay Santilli: ‘It would be wrong of me not to pursue my dreams’ | Country town

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It’s been a quiet but determined year so far Jay Santilli. It has been a kind of rebuilding, a rebranding, a restart. The mother of twins, born just as the world went into lockdown, has had a full meal, putting her blossoming music career on hold. However, 2024 sees the Melbourne native with renewed energy and focus, ready to once again share her music with like-minded souls.

“I had reached a crossroads before COVID hit,” she muses. “I just didn’t know where to go, to be completely honest. So it gave me time to think about where to go next and what are the steps that I probably wouldn’t have taken if we hadn’t had that forced opportunity.”

As such, Santilli has once again found clarity, she reason for existence now she writes and performs with renewed vigor, something she’s had the space to realize now that things, both globally and from a family perspective, have settled somewhat.

Cast in the country mold, Santilli isn’t exactly a newcomer to the scene; he won the Maton Talent Search at the Gympie music muster it began in 2012, prior to a slow burn that yielded a slew of singles, writing trips to Nashville and as many shows as possible in the ever-changing sands of life, love and loss. Then break. And now restart.

Tamworth started it in January, followed by sets on the Hello sunshine party in Melbourne. These sets brought her to attention Teamwork recordswith whom she has just released a new single, You’re not coming in.

With Teamwrk, Santilli is in an impressive roster alongside artists from different genres, such as 360 And Masked Wolf, marking the label’s first country music signing. Throw support slots in front Taylor Moss And Kaylee Bellplus a few headlining shows of his own, along with another trip to Nashville scheduled for July, and 2024 is well and truly underway for Santilli.

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“Performing and writing are my main focus now,” she agrees of how the year has gone so far. “It’s a really exciting time.”

You’re not coming inSantilli’s new single, a dark and strong song that deals with most country music of motifs: the bad relationship, came about during one of the aforementioned trips to Nashville, where I wrote with an old friend and musician Alex Tomlins.

“The song came about when we were going through old notes on my phone; it’s a reflection of some bad relationships I’ve had in my life,” she explains of the song’s origins.

‘In this case we were talking about how sometimes you are a voracious lover of punishment, and you just let the people who are not so good to you back into your life. So we thought about that and we realized that there comes a time when you have to close the door on your past in order to move forward.”

You’re not coming in is, ostensibly, the wrap-up for Santilli, catharsis through song, and it marks her resurgence, the first of a slew of singles slated for release as the year enters its second half.

“I have a few songs in the bank at the moment, ready to go,” she smiles, “I’m really excited about that. And I’m recording my show at The Toff (in July), so I’m hoping to release that in the new year, (around) Tamworth (time).

Santilli’s slow burn then yields results, bringing out the fruits of her passion and focus. “This is something I’ve always wanted to do, but I can’t not do it,” she says enthusiastically. “It would be wrong of me not to pursue my dreams; I don’t want my girls to say, ‘I didn’t know you were a singer,’ and I didn’t want them to think I gave up because of (them), you know? So it’s something I want to do and instill them that if you have a dream, you should do everything you can to achieve it.”

Next month, Santilli returns to Nashville, the world center of country music, for her third stint, which may be her most important.

“I went for the first time when I was 20, not quite 21 unfortunately,” she laughs. “That was a great experience and I learned so much, but because I wasn’t 21 yet, I couldn’t go to bars or see live music, so I got the PG version of Nashville.

“The second time I went was different; I hung out with my friends who play in the bars there, Alex Tomlins, who I wrote to You’re not coming in He plays in a lot of house bands there – that was a lot of fun, but this time it’s business.”

This time, as part of the company, Santilli has planned writing sessions Jordan Dozzi (with whom it was written Morgan Wallen And Erik Kerk); ARIAaward-winning Australian Phil Barton; Noah Needleman (ex-musical director of Brett Young, among other things); and Tomlins again. “My main focus is to get some numbers in, so I’m ready to get started next year as well,” says Santilli of what she hopes to get out of this particular trip.

“I’ve been so busy this year and I’m always thinking ahead and trying to think myself five steps ahead. So it ensures that I am as prepared as possible. I have the live album I want to make, but I also want to have an EP and a studio EP to release. So just to have as much material as possible.”

This seems like an obvious move: build up the material to release more material. In reality, it’s part of the baby steps that Santilli is rebuilding, rebranding and rebooting. It’s been a quiet but determined year for Jay Santilli so far, but at this rate, combined with the quality that imbues her music, her career will gain momentum much faster.

You’re Not Coming In is out now via Teamwrk Records.

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