Julia Holter’s current album Loud City Song is her first studio album for Domino. Worked up from demos in her bedroom studio, they have been beautifully arranged to pack an emotional punch. As she joins but isn’t swallowed up by the mainstream, our programmer Glenn Max, hitches a ride.
How different was the process knowing that this album would have the ability to reach a much broader audience?
I worked on this material for year and a half before I went into the studio – I had all of it figured out as far the structure of the songs, the atmospheres, the basic harmonic material, the choruses. Even some of the sounds we decided before going into the studio. We planned it out so it was comfortable enough for me to be creative. We recorded the players for the first six days, and then there was months of mixing, and even recording keyboard parts and some vocals at my house. There was a lot of time for me to do my thing, be alone and not have the pressure of the studio environment.
Does the fact that you tour affect your process when you write?
I don’t think about that—if there’s a chorus of tubas on my record I’ll come up with another way of doing that live.
What’s your approach to narrative and music?
I guess I’m more excited by stories or fragments of stories. Sometimes I think of it’s easier to think of my songs as poems that are orchestrated just because it’s not really a specific genre. I think overall I’m more interested in looking at each song and what it requires.
Do you come from a musical or artistic family?
My dad used to play folk songs on guitar. I can remember him playing “I’ve been working on the railroad’’ and stuff like that. He’s a great singer, he’s really talented but my parents are really academics. I didn’t think of myself as creative until I was like 16 – I didn’t think this was anything I could ever do.
What changed for you?
I went to this high school where there was a lot or musical activity. It always had this special music component. I was around a lot of musicians and since a lot of them were extroverted, I was introverted….a lot of them were jazz or musical theatre majors. I was a piano major. I was in a very classical environment where you were only valued if you’re a virtuoso. It wasn’t easy to be taken seriously unless you write. Then after high school, I took this Music Theory class – and I didn’t even know why I was doing it except I really liked it. I had to write music as an assignment, and I thought, “I can’t write music.’’ I kind of just thought you had to be a genius to write music. Growing up in that classical atmosphere can be really hard on people who aren’t really smart –they’re just musical. But I really liked it so I just kept doing it and I applied to music school. Actually no one liked what I was doing for years and years, including teachers. I knew there was something there. I knew there was something in me. I felt it really strong. I really kept it to myself a lot cause I was really shy about it. It was a bad time, college – but there must’ve been something that kept me going. Sometimes you can feel really bad about yourself and still really be into what you’re doing.
And what is your relationship with performing?
I don’t think about it. I actually took to it very easily which is strange because the things I just told you. I think when you’re doing what you want you feel honest about it. I actually love performing.
Julia Holter will be performing at the Village Underground on 11th November.