Jaci is pronounced like "Jackie," and she's a Rowlett native who's been extraordinarily busy for the past 19 months. Between running three successful YouTube channels and maintaining a massive social media following, she’s shifted her focus back to her first love, music.
“A lot of those people on TikTok know me as a content creator on social media rather than a musician,” Butler says. “So the next step for me in this project is coming out and being like ‘Hey, I’m a musician!’ Showing new fans that music is my first passion.”
In September, Butler released “Breakup Season,” the first single from her upcoming debut solo EP Lucky, a title she says is somewhat ironic. He has a penchant for writing songs with the thematic reoccurrence of spooky unluckiness, like broken mirrors and black cats.
“In some ways it’s a dedication to my fanbase online that call themselves ‘The Lucky Charms,’” Butler says.
And they are lucky charms indeed. Butler’s fanbase is fervent and widespread. She has more than 4.1 million TikTok followers, and her YouTube channels have a collective one million subscribers. Wandering onto Butler’s YouTube channels can be a little intimidating. Amid all the neon pinks and greens of her preferred personal aesthetic, Butler’s output is startlingly prolific. It feels like she posts a new, fully fleshed video every day, in addition to maintaining her impressive TikTok following, and manages to keep up with an ever-demanding social media culture. Her most successful YouTube channel is actually her gaming channel, JaciPlays, which is pushing over 700,000 subscribers.
While Butler’s internet fame has grown rapidly in the last couple of years, her musical interest stretches back to the beginnings of the Obama administration. She fronted and released three EPs with the Dallas-based pop-punk band Jagged Row between 2009 and 2017, and in 2016, Butler auditioned for the at-the-time “farewell” season of American Idol while still a member of the band. She made it through, but was eliminated after the second Hollyood round.
Butler hit her social media stride when she joined the music app ‘musical.ly’ which eventually morphed into the culture-altering phenomenon TikTok. Butler laughs while looking back in hindsight: “That means technically I was on TikTok before it was cool.”
As a child, Butler says, she had a good support system. Her parents were huge music lovers, and they had her listening “to everything,” as she says: “The Eagles, David Bowie, Madonna, George Strait. Across the board, genre-wise. When I was in third grade I got really into musical theater and I told my parents ‘When I graduate, I’m going to move to New York to be on Broadway.’ And they were like ‘OK.’ It just went from there.”
Butler cut her teeth on the Dallas rock and metal scene, but her colorful and malleable traits came from her love for pop music.
“People like Bon Jovi and Michael Jackson,” Butler says. “People who had a sort of edge to them but were still obviously mainstream. I found myself really involved in the [early 2000s] punk scene with bands like Fall Out Boy and Panic! At the Disco. I wanted to take those roots and, for lack of a better word, update it for this pop scene that I’ve come to love. I think a lot of artists are doing that now, like Billie Eilish and Ashnikko. Artists that are very much pop but there’s an edge to them. I love that so much.”
As opposed to the eras that produced Butler’s influences, she’s living and working in an age when one’s creative output can be entirely showcased and spread online, which, according to her, is a tremendous advantage technically, but can be very draining.
“It’s a double-edged sword ... I see the pros and cons because my whole world is immersed online." –Jaci Butler
“It’s a double-edged sword,” Butler says. “Back in the golden age of hair metal, you hear these stories where you play the Troubadour and a record exec finds you, and you you’re going to A&R and they’re making you a star. I see the pros and cons, because my whole world is immersed online."
For Butler, the pros of the modern age include artists' ability to control their output.
"I feel like I have more control over my own destiny this way," she says. "Because I have the last say in what I put out there online, what content I want to share with people about my life. On one hand, that’s a really good thing. Fans love to connect with that."
And then there are the cons.
"Sometimes you have to take a step back for mental health’s sake," Butler says of social media. "Sometimes you need to take a day and say, ‘Today I’m not wearing makeup, I’m not posting on my Insta story, I’m taking a day for me.’ It’s such a different world, and it’s very weird if you step back and look at what it is, but in the long run I think it’s a good thing. I definitely have more control over everything that I’m doing. If something doesn’t work out, the only person I have to blame is myself.”
In a brief moment of Black Mirror-style self-awareness, the conversation turns to whether maintaining such a ferocioustly present online personality influences her actual real-life personality. Butler laughs and says, “I’d like to think that I’ve got a pretty good grasp of it. Some days you don’t want to be in front of the camera or create a skit. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at trying to be the most genuine of myself that I can be when I step in front of the camera."
Butler's been in front of the camera for about six years now.
"When I first started it was hard to figure out, ‘Which Jaci is the real one? Is this how I want to be perceived?'" she says. "Even if I’m not having the best day, the version of myself that I’m putting out is still the version that I’m most proud of.”