Spears uses music to ‘send letters’ to listeners
by By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG Banner Staff Writer
May 13, 2013 | 877 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jillian Spears
Jillian Spears
slideshow
Jillian Spears said she lives to express herself through music and art. Though things like music and art classes can make them sound like lofty things, she said it is simple.

“My main focus in life is as a musician,” she said before listing some of her other creative endeavors.

Spears is a 22-year-old senior at Lee University who is majoring in art and minoring in theater. As she counts down the days to her graduation in July, she said she does not have any concrete plans.

She does know she plans to continue music.

She can be found on local music event posters for “The Mailboxes,” the name under which she and a few friends perform as a band.

The Mailboxes’ name came to be when Spears jokingly pointed out a mailbox to someone while trying to choose a band name. The name stuck, and she said it made sense because writing songs can be just as personal as what you might write to stick in a mailbox.

“Songs are kind of like letters that you send to people,” she said.

Spears, who has lived in Cleveland since she was 7, got an early start in music.

She said music has always been a part of her life, listening to her mother play the piano and beginning to sing in church around the age of 3.

When she started second grade in school, she also started taking piano lessons. In high school, she began performing on her own as The Mailboxes, with friends occasionally playing with her for concerts, which continued until she hit college.

She chose to attend Lee University because her parents and a couple of her older siblings had attended, and it had a good music program.

She entered college as a freshman planning to earn a degree in music. But, to her surprise, doors kept opening up for her to sing and play piano with The Mailboxes.

She ultimately decided to change her major to art so she could focus on her personal music performance and learn to exercise her creativity through other types of art.

Her studies in art have had her focusing on oil painting, and her studies in theater have allowed her to gain experience with acting.

Spears performed the lead role of Eliza as the understudy in a university production of “My Fair Lady” and worked with other students to write lines and song lyrics for “Lessons,” an original student-produced play that centered around music.

She and her bandmates in The Mailboxes have continued to see success. They independently recorded their first album, “Red Flags,” in January and performed in a variety of venues in the Chattanooga and Nashville areas.

As a Christian, she said she plans to keep trusting God with her postcollege plans and not spend a lot of time worrying about what comes after she turns the tassel of her funny-looking graduation hat from one side to the other.

“It’s definitely not the way the world would want you to think about it,” Spears said.

Spears likens the style of her music to artists like Regina Spektor and Ingrid Michaelson. While she doesn’t categorize her music as being part of the Christian genre, she said her faith impacts how she writes the songs she sings. Even if a song is about a breakup, she said there is still a hint of positivity in her lyrics.

“Even if a song is sad, I try to add something about the hope of God,” Spears said.

In addition to The Mailboxes, Spears also teaches private piano lessons. She said her hope is move toward launching a career as a touring music artist, even if her plans include continuing to teach along the way.

The hope she tries to inject in her songwriting will keep her going even if she graduates from college this summer without knowing exactly which road to take, she added.