"Fragments of human experience" is how Julia Jacklin chooses to describe her folk song stories. Only a few weeks ago she was back in Australia, working on a production line of a factory. Now her poignant observational lyrics and intricate country indie are winning her fans around the world.

In person, she instantly strikes you as someone very focussed, perhaps a little introspective. More surprisingly - with all the world tour hullabaloo and press excitement surrounding her debut release Don't Let the Kids Win - Julia seems completely at ease with herself. Sitting in her trailer at City Folk festival in Ottawa, she casually tells me she only met tonight's backing band this morning. It's their first show together. For someone whose album deals with a lot anxieties, she emanates calm confidence that translates into a warm welcome; so we sit back and talk about her upbringing and her idols, writing on tour, the meaning of success and her greatest fear.

Given you've been doing music for about 5 years, your career progression seems like a very steep learning curve. Are you happy with your situation now?

Yeah, definitely. It's been a very quick learning experience. I'm still trying to get my head around what kind of artist I want to be, what kind of things I want to do and what I don't want to do. When you start as a musician you say "yes" to everything because you're grateful for any opportunity that comes your way. Now that I'm a lot busier and getting asked to do more things, I'm trying to get my head around that and change my mindset.

I heard that you still had a regular job right up until this tour.

Just a couple of weeks before this tour. It's all very new. It's been a pretty hectic tour: I started in the US, then I went to the UK and Europe, then onto Canada...

And are you enjoying touring? What are the best/worst parts?

The best part is being able to play music and have people listening. I know it sounds like a cliche but it's true. And being able to meet other musicians because in the early days it's hard to meet other people who're going through the same thing. The worst part would be travel days. Waiting to get a train, and a bus, and a taxi, and a plane... It's OK if you're with a group. I just did two weeks by myself and that can be pretty gruelling. You've got these moments when you're exhausted and frustrated but don't have anyone to bounce off; so you have to pick yourself up and end up crying with a German bus driver.

With so much going on in your life right now, was there a critical moment, a turning point where you felt that your music career was taking off?

I think it was probably on this tour. I got label deals and publishing deals at SXSW but it was also a lot of sitting around at home and doing paperwork. I think it wasn't until I went on this tour I started to see what this life was actually like. And seeing the response in the UK - on the other side of the world - feels a lot different now. The album comes out in October. I just don't know how it's going to be received. But I've already written quite a bit of the second record.

Is writing something you can do on the road?

I've never really toured before, so I wasn't sure if I could do it. Now I feel like it really works with the way I'm most productive when I'm extremely busy and stressed. At home I have all this time to write and play - and I just can't do it. I really struggle; but now on the road I've got these little pockets of time, so I've been writing a lot.

I remember being pleasantly surprised when your PR sent me your lyrics as well as your music. It doesn't happen very often. To me it indicated that you might be someone who really cares about words.

Yeah, for me it's the thing that I focus on the most and I'm most proud of. I don't want to be labelled as just a singer.

So you start with words and then move onto the music?

Yeah, words always come first with me; then I figure out a melody in my head and then I go to the guitar to figure out what the chords are.

And do you write anything other than lyrics, like poetry or stories?

I do actually. I write short stories for my friends.

Have you ever been published?

I've never-ever sent anything. As a kid I had really grand visions of being a published novelist but I don't feel like I have the capacity to write in such long form, at least at the moment. I write my diary every day, so that's where it comes from.

Have you always kept a diary?

Since I could write in a dairy. I've got lots of embarrassing teenage diaries lying around the house.

I've always had this anxiety about keeping a diary. What if someone finds it?

That's actually my biggest fear. I live in a shared house with six people. I'm pretty careless with my belongings, so I just have diaries lying around my room. But there's this part of me... I just have to write a diary. I have to document my life. I've been thinking lately I need to find some sort of a system. I need a safe and I need to put all my diaries in a safe. When I'm dead I'll be happy to give them to my family. They can read all my dirty secrets 'cos I don't hold back in my diary writing. I got into a lot of trouble as a kid 'cos my mum would read my diary. I used to confess a lot of stuff and she would get me into trouble. I learned my lesson from that.

Music aside, I understand you have a degree in social work.

Yeah, I've got a degree. I haven't worked in the field but I did social policy at uni. It's what I always wanted to do as a kid; so when it got to university, it was the only thing I wanted to study. I started studying English Literature but then I thought, "I love literature but I don't know if I want to spend $25000 studying it. I think I'll just stick to some writing and study something else." I feel like if I wasn't doing music that's what I'd be doing. I probably will one day but right now It's just trying to ride the wave of whatever is happening because I'm surprised. So far I've been surprised by everything that's happened.

You grew up in the Blue Mountains. The name conjures up very romantic images. What was living there like?

They are more like blue hills. It's a really beautiful area, like a heritage listed place. I grew up in the lower mountains - more suburban - not a mystical whimsical forest or a wonderland; but I did spend a lot of time bushwalking with my family. We had a massive backyard and my family is really into multi-day hikes. I live in Sydney now. I feel like you have to live in the city when you're starting out as a musician. I mean, you don't have to but it's a lot easier. When you're 18, you don't want to live in the suburbs. You want to live where all the lights are. Now I'm a little bit older I'm feeling like I want a sea change, want to move to the beach.

Talking about being a little older, anxieties associated with age and success are very prominent on your album. Is it, at least in part, professional anxieties about getting older?

Yeah, that was what I was writing it about - being 23-24 and realising that it takes a lot longer to become really good at something. When you're a kid you don't realise that, or I didn't realise that. When it comes to a music career, you've got to put in a lot of legwork just to get good at your craft. But I feel like the album has been misconstrued. Someone said to me the other day: "I've heard the album is about you saying you're old. I'm in my 40s and that's ridiculous!" I just said: "No, it's not about being old. It's about the anxiety of growing older and not achieving what you wanted to achieve." You can experience that when you're ten. You can experience that when you're fifty. Getting older is what we all experience and we all have expectations of ourselves. But in your early twenties a lot of people feel it very hard. It's that transition from being a teenager to adulthood. You suddenly realise it's hard to make something of yourself.

Now that you're doing music professionally, do you feel any age-related pressures, especially as a female artist?

Yeah, for sure, but I'm trying not to dwell on it because I feel like it could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you feel because you're a woman and people only value you up to a certain age, you might stop creating because you internalise that and start to feel like you have no value. I've tried to push that to the back of my head and push on. I look to my idols and keep going.

And who are your idols?

Oh, I have a few! Dolly Parton. She's just released an album and she's over 70. I'm a big Fiona Apple fan. She's been creating for a long time and there aren't that many women in music over a certain age.

You mentioned that you started writing new songs. Any clues as to what you are writing about?

The last thing I wrote about was motherhood and how motherhood can fit in with this kind of lifestyle.

Is it something you've been thinking about a lot?

I think in one way or another it's on every woman's mind: whether you want kids or you don't want kids, there's definitely this idea. I've been thinking about it a lot lately but I'm definitely not ready to be a mother right now. It's not what I'm worried about. It's more just the question of how you're told that you can do it all when you're a kid and then you get to a certain age and realise that you can't actually do it all.

But do you feel that as you grow older and realise that you can't do it all, you start to relax more and some of those pressures disappear?

Oh, 100%. When I was a little bit younger I definitely thought I was going to be a musician and a social worker, and a mother, and an amazing wife, and really fit, and really good at Spanish. And I'm sure some people can do it all but if you want be good at something, you do have to give it time, you have to home in on it for a little while.

But isn't it also about the fear of failure?

Oh, yeah, it is. I think that's where this thing comes from. Eggs in many baskets... If I fail at this it's OK, I've got a back-up. Whereas with music I have to give it everything right now, and that's terrifying because I might fail. Maybe not yourself but other people, especially your family, have opinions about what it is to be a success or a failure as a musician. They would see success as earning money and that kind of stuff so...And I think that a lot of people view their lives based around what their family thinks of them.

But how do you see success and failure?

I don't know yet. For me, success is quite elusive. Right now success is being here and not being at home: confused and working part-time, and still questioning what I should and shouldn't be doing. Right now I feel successful in the fact that I'm solely doing music for this chunk of my life. So, with success, you just have to take it day by day. You can judge whether or not you feel successful on that day or not. Today I feel good.

Julia Jacklin's debut album Don't Let The Kids Win is out now on Transgressive.