WE start at the low point. “It’s hard doing music,” Jill O’Sullivan admits. “I love it. I feel compelled to sing and play and write. But I was thinking of quitting.”

This morning O’Sullivan is at home in Battlefield in Glasgow where she lives with her partner Nick and her five-year-old daughter – “They’ve just gone out for a bike ride for their daily exercise” – in an upstairs flat with no garden and, thanks to coronavirus, challenging finances.

“I am a freelance musician and music teacher, so it’s been really tough, but I’ve just blocked it out. I’ve kind of gone into survival mode,” she suggests.

The fact that we are here to talk about her new EP, Not Your First, is the good news. She hasn’t quit. But, yes, she says, for a while there it was a possibility.

“Being super-poor all the time does get exhausting especially when you’ve got a little one. You think, ‘Should I be doing this?’

“I was looking into doing a nursing degree, but I’m terrible with needles and I have a terrible bedside manner. I have no patience.”

That and a call from a musician friend telling her about a theatre job convinced her to stick to the music.

Not Your First is the reward. Made with Frightened Rabbit’s Andy Monaghan, who produced and played guitars on it, and drummer Peter Kelly, it’s six tracks, all of them raucous and textured. Or “just loud and wild,” as O’Sullivan would have it.

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And then, at the heart of all of them, there’s O’Sullivan’s voice. On Eye on the Bird, the track that trailed the EP, it’s that voice that first demands attention, pure and keening over low droning noise and rattle. The ghost of Sandy Denny. And then 50 seconds in, there’s a deep bass rumble and we’ve moved into Led Zep territory. The result is deeply thrilling.

But then the whole EP is. “What I really wanted was it to feel live … to feel alive,” O’Sullivan says. “We actually ended up recording the EP in one session. I think I did my vocals again. Time and money are an issue as well. If I had tons of time and money, I would be on album five by now.

“It has all the experience I’ve collected working with different bands and on different projects. Plus, it also has a bit of Andy and Pete’s personality. I was pretty chuffed that they both wanted to work with me. They’re both incredible musicians, but they’re also very busy musicians.”

Jill Lorean. It was her nickname when she was a baby. Her Irish dad had a summer job at the DeLorean car factory in the north. Plus, she says, she always loved Back to the Future. And now it’s the latest iteration of a musical talent that has previously surfaced as part of The Sparrow and the Workshop (in which she played with her partner Nick Packer and Gregor Donaldson) and electronic duo BDY PRTS (a collaboration with her friend Jenny Reeve).

Now in her thirties, O’Sullivan’s is a story that takes in Chicago, classical violin, a love of Emmylou Harris, resilience and the consoling support of the Glasgow music scene. Oh, and looking like Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan.

Let’s start there.

There’s a track on the EP entitled Your Younger Self on which O’Sullivan asks, “What would you tell your younger self?” It seems only right to ask her then.

“I think I would cringe at my younger self. I would be impressed by my punk rock attitude and bolshy behaviour, but I would also be like, ‘Listen, these hairstyles need to go.’

“I actually shaved my head. My friend said I looked like Billy Corgan. Ironically, his dad lived near my house growing up.”

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That would have been in Chicago. O’Sullivan was born in Belfast but lived in Dublin for a couple of years before moving to America.

“I went to an inner-city public school and they offered a free music programme. I am a proponent of free music programmes because I certainly benefited from it. I remember a woman walking into the room and saying, ‘Does anyone want to learn violin?’ I must have been about six. I raised my hand because I loved music. And, also, get out of class, right?

“I just took to it immediately. I just wanted to play music from the minute I picked up a violin and tried to squeak out the first line of Twinkle Twinkle. I knew this was something that I loved, that would be a comfort … and a burden.

Her tastes were – are – wide-ranging. “I listened to everything. I still do. A BBC producer said, ‘You’re very genre fluid,’ and I think that’s true. Since I was little, I’ve liked everything from pop and R&B to country. I’ll even listen to heavy metal occasionally.”

She grew up playing classical music, but it wasn’t until she was a teenager (and staying in Montreal by then) that she realised that her voice was something people might be interested in.

“The first time I was on a stage where I felt, ‘This is pretty cool,’ was kind of a weird gig. My friend was putting together a concert for a polytechnic. At some point in the 1980s a man had come in and brought in a gun and randomly shot women in a classroom. It was a concert to commemorate them, put on by a women’s aid organisation.

“I used to sing in the shower and my roommate said, ‘You need to sing on stage.’ I said, ‘I don’t know about that.’ But she said, ‘Why don’t you sing a song at this commemoration?’

“So, I sang this old Celtic folk song, Stretched on your Grave, and I did it acapella. It was the first time I had performed properly to an audience not in a classical setting and I loved it. I didn’t get that nervous and I thought, ‘Oh, maybe this is something for me.’”

Hold on a second, Jill. You must have known you had a voice? “That’s what I would tell my younger self. Stop hating yourself so much. I know it’s a cliche, but I would. I really suffered from a lack of confidence, to the point where it would annoy people. They would hear my voice and say, ‘Come on, you have a great voice.’ But I was convinced that I didn’t.

“My lovely partner Nick is constantly bashing his head off the wall and going, ‘Why don’t you have more confidence.’ It’s constantly evolving.”

This is all the more remarkable given the comparisons O’Sullivan’s voice has drawn. Add to Sandy Denny (“I’ve had a long-standing crush on Sandy Denny”), you’ve got Grace Slick, Stevie Nicks and Emmylou Harris (“one of my favourite singers ever. Just hands down”).

That’s formidable company, Jill. “I’m flattered.”

After Montreal, O’Sullivan returned to Chicago, worked two jobs to be able to save to come to London to study in 2005. She got there and realised she hadn’t saved enough and had to find work to supplement student life (she studied globalisation development politics).

“I was so unhappy there and the reason was because it was the only time I wasn’t playing music.”

Is it true you decided to move to Glasgow because you liked Scottish bands? “Yes, it’s true. Nick would listen to 6 Music, and Marc Riley and Gideon Coe would play these Scottish bands like Twilight Sad. And I’d known about Arab Strap and Mogwai and loved them. I wasn’t finding that kind of music at that time in London. It seemed like there was a lot of ironic jangly stuff, which is just not my cup of tea.

“Me and Nick were sick of London. You have to work 60 hours a week to pay for a tiny bedsit. We didn’t even have a shower or a freezer in our flat, so it was a no-brainer. We came up and we thought, ‘If we don’t have work within a month we’ll go back and stay with Nick’s parents in Weston-super-Mare.’

“But we got work straightaway and we met Gregor who ended up being the Sparrow drummer. We were staying in a flat share and it was so much cheaper than London and we met folk with similar interests; people who just genuinely loved music and art and wanted to do that, and it felt right.”

“People up here are making good music and encouraging each other. That’s what I really loved. There is a real sense of community that is lacking in some places.”

That sense of community, that support, has kept her going. Not Your First is the payback for that resilience. What, I wonder, is she most looking forward to doing once the lockdown is over?

“In music? I was going to say sushi. Just getting into a room and actually playing music with real humans in a live setting. Because that’s my favourite thing to do.”

Not Your First is out now. Visit jilllorean.com