Suffolk alumna breaks into Boston music scene with headline show at Hard Rock

February 6, 2019

Suffolk University alumna Jillian Barrows is stepping into the Boston music scene by headlining a show at the Hard Rock Cafe next month, the rock musician’s biggest performance yet.

Barrows, who uses the stage name Jillian Ann, sang in her local church choir in Medford, Mass.  as a child and by the age of 14 was writing her own songs. Her parents often played 70’s music around the house when she was growing up, so icons from the decade like Carly Simon and Linda Ronstadt have heavily influenced her as a singer and songwriter.

When Barrows entered college, she knew she wanted to explore her two areas of interest: music and writing. She decided to major in journalism while staying active in Suffolk’s performing arts clubs so she did not have to give up either one. She started out as a member of the Ramifications, Suffolk’s acapella group, but she later realized that she was seeking more rock n’ roll. She joined Suffolk’s house band The Common, formerly known as Rhythm, for an edgier vibe.

After graduating from Suffolk in the fall of 2016, she enrolled at Berklee College of Music to focus on songwriting, where she plans to graduate from later this year. When she is not working on her original music, she is performing with different bands she is a part of, such as the duo she formed with her childhood friend called Intra Element.

“I don’t want to be just like any average performer where I’m just there to show off what I’m doing,” Barrows said in an interview with The Suffolk Journal. “I just want people to enjoy my music and actually get something out of it.”

Her experience majoring in journalism at Suffolk and songwriting at Berklee gave her a unique skill set in writing. Barrows explained that songs are like stories, so the storytelling aspect of journalism comes into play when composing new tracks. Also, as a student reporter, Barrows reviewed concerts and was exposed to music from a critic’s perspective, which taught her the do’s and don’ts of performing.

“They go hand in hand for sure,” said Barrows. “It definitely helps as a writer to know music in both ways, like where you can critique it and perform it, so you can critique yourself in that way.”

Barrows’ passion for rock n’ roll is wholehearted, but not everyone she has worked with has realized that. She has had situations where people did not take her seriously as a woman rock musician. Although some of the groups she has joined in the past did not treat her fairly, she says those unfortunate experiences have only made her grow as an artist.

“I’ve had some instances where I wasn’t taken as seriously as a woman, in rock music especially,” said Barrows. “I think here, in my time [at Suffolk] and now at Berklee, I’ve learned to be stronger in that way and just to write the music that really inspires me, and not to really care what people think about me in that way.”

At next month’s concert, in addition to singing covers of classic rock songs, Barrows will be showcasing her own music. If there is one takeaway from her songs, the musician said that she wants listeners to feel inspired to do the things they want to do and achieve their goals, even if others try to stand in their way.

“You shouldn’t let anything stop you from doing what you want to do, and I’ve gone through situations where I felt like people were trying to stop me from doing what I wanted, and I pushed out of it and kept going,” said Barrows.

Barrows is looking forward to a night of lively energy and performing alongside her friends, Roman G & The Odyssey, the instrumental group who will be the opening act.

Jillian Barrows’ show is on Feb. 9 at the Hard Rock Cafe.

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