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Milwaukee Music Premiere: Ellie Jackson, ‘Dream Girl’

A woman sits on a piano bench with her legs crossed and a slight smile on her face, surrounded by old media equipment and with a wall of paintings behind her.
Laura Dierbeck

Milwaukee singer-songwriter Ellie Jackson welcomes reality checks on her newest old song, “Dream Girl.” Over a chat this past summer, Jackson told me it’s the first song she wrote, so there’s lots of influence buildup that flies out in the most delightful way.

The singer and guitarist who splits time playing with Caley Conway, Maximano and Old Pup (when she’s not writing her own material) told me, “I’m really drawn to female vocalists and singer-songwriters. I love listening to Julia Jacklin, Angel Olsen and Japanese Breakfast. I grew up in the ’90s, so I love Fiona Apple and Sheryl Crow.”

As an artist, Jackson says she strives to “deliver determined vulnerability and emotional exploration through guitars, stories and amplification.” Those self-realized elements and echoes of Apple and Crow swirl around and support “Dream Girl” — a song that knows itself and asks you to do the same because you deserve it. As Jackson sings:

Well hello, no I won’t put you in my phone
No I won’t let you take me home
Whatchu got that leaves me better off than alone

Well hello, no I won’t pry inside your head
I wanna know the things you think are better left unsaid
I wanna know if you’re just wasting our time.

Screaming in the rain
Dancing through the pain
Taking on a lover I know I’ll lose again
I’m no one’s dream girl
Blood runs through my veins

“[This song] came from an angsty and fed-up place about the male gaze,” Jackson explained. “Are we supposed to be a muse to other people? And what if we are a muse to other people? Does that have to be performative, or can we actually just be amazing for the sake of it and not for any other reason or person?”

Jackson’s pondering leads me to think that it’s a subject that still gives her personal pause. And even though there are more questions than answers, “Dream Girl” still feels fully realized, full of emotion borne from reflection. It boils down to taking one’s voice and simply using it (along with a backbone of distorted guitars to help get that message across).

“‘Dream Girl’ is one of the first songs that I wrote. I think some part of me is like, ‘I just need to release this so that it can be out in the world. I can’t think about it anymore,” Jackson said, pausing to remember the person she was then and that first inspirational burst. “I think I write differently than I did then, and I just feel like I need that out so that I can kind of move on.”

And move on she is, getting ready to bridge the old and the new with the release of both “Dream Girl” and a separate, brand-new single called “Dinner With a Friend,” recorded with Josh Evert at Silver City Studios in Milwaukee. Look for both songs on Jackson’s Bandcamp page later this month.

88Nine Music Director / On-Air Talent | Radio Milwaukee