Wednesday 18 June 2014

Julia Easterlin: Don't Forget Her [Interview]

In a previous article on this site, while discussing the excellent 2014 album release of Kris Bowers’ ‘Heroes + Misfits’, I described the appearance of Julia Easterlin as “show-stealing” having presented a terrific vocal on the album’s highlight, ‘Forget-Er’.  With this song as anyone’s introduction, you’d be forgiven for expecting this to be the dawning of a new jazz vocalist, but Easterlin is magnificently, much, much more…

Having grown up in Georgia, it was her studies in fine arts that instilled an education in West African dance, Spanish literature, American jazz and Afro-Cuban music.  Her further adventures in music consist of the distinction of having performed at Lollapalooza in 2011, SXSW, the MIDEM conference in Cannes, and Havana’s Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.  It’s a heck of a résumé!  As a side note, reading the bio on Easterlin’s home page (here) is definitely recommended as it gives a further insight to the charisma and personable nature that’s already steeped in the songs that comprise her debut release, ‘Vestiges’.

‘Vestiges’ isn’t a release that embraces the jazz from the aforementioned ‘Forget-Er’, but it’s certainly one that wonderfully demonstrates her personality and limitless talent into music that’s presented as an effortless extension of her.  Although the songs capture elements from varying musical genres, they cleverly boast a distinctive sing-a-long pop sensibility while the lyrics, both, charming and intimate, have you reaching for the rewind button. 

Shut your mouth and it’s all good
Shut your eyes and it’s all good
I don’t wanna know.
You take it back and it’s backwards
You fix it up and it’s upside down
Where’s the solid ground, six feet above m
e ~ 'Render'

Amongst the 6-song collection is a stripped-down and more haunting rendition of Radiohead’s ‘There There’, as well as an exquisite take of Bjork’s ‘Unison’, which is quite fitting seeing the Super Fan Easterlin reveals herself to be.

Referring once again to Julia Easterlin’s home page:

“Anyone who tells you I’m some kind of magically gifted, irresponsibly talented, shockingly beautiful, unearthly creature bound for the stars probably owes me money.  Or is having a good day.  BUT, I hope they say it loudly.”

I don’t owe Julia Easterlin money but I will still proudly – and loudly – declare her to be a magically gifted, irresponsibly talented, shockingly beautiful, unearthly creature who is almost certainly bound for the stars… and beyond!

IMRAN MIRZA: Who were some of your musical heroes growing up?
JULIA EASTERLIN: Bjork, Jill Scott, CSNY, Fela Kuti, Enya, and a shamelessly guilty pleasure of mine: the all-female super group Worldes Blysse performing Medieval choral music.

Congratulations on the 'Vestiges' release - are you happy with how that project has been received so far?
Thanks a lot! I'm really happy to have this collection of work out in the world. I was twiddling my thumbs about putting them out for a long, long time, and it feels quite grounding to have finally let them live as they please.

Can you talk a little about how the release was put together?
The release is a compilation of songs recorded in very different places at very different times with very different people. I worked on this collection over the course of about seven years. The biggest challenge was taking all of these things made in different ways at different times and bundling them into a convincingly cohesive project.
Have you given any thought to what a follow-up to 'Vestiges' would sound like?

Yup! Loops, synths, percussion - You'll find out soon enough ;)

I've come to know your music following your incredible contribution to Kris Bower's 'Forget-er': how did you come to meet and work together?
Kris and I met via the internet. At the time, Kris was running a blog about college musicians and their work, and he reached out to me to interview for his site. Since then, we've kept in touch and been big supporters of each others' music. I'm so happy to have been a part of 'Heroes + Misfits'.

Having listened to 'Vestiges' after hearing 'Forget-er', I was initially expecting a more jazz-esque sound.  As an artist, do you enjoy the freedom of being able to dabble within different genres?
Absolutely! I have a limited background in jazz, and as such I have no option when collaborating with jazz artists but to do what it is that I would do on my own. It's similar with hip-hop artists and other singer/songwriters as well. At the core of it, all music has the same goal - to get at peoples' guts... and I think as long as collaborators are striving to do that together, it doesn't really matter whether or not your musical background is the same.

Who would be a dream collaborator for you to either record or perform with?
Oh ma Lawd!  Pina Bausch, Werner Herzog, Nico Muhly, Aphex Twin, Joanna Newsom, Bulgarian Women's choirs all come to mind. Also Bjork, but maybe not as I think I might be too much of a fan to not embarrass myself.

YouTube boasts such a great collection of your live performances - how do you enjoy transferring your music from the studio to the stage?
Well it actually goes the other way around - I always perform music live before recording it in the studio. I think the transfer from live to recorded is a difficult one, and I'm still figuring it out.

Is there a song (by another artist) you wish you'd written?
Only about a million, but the first few that come to mind are 'Isobel' by Bjork, the 'In the Upper Room' suite by Philip Glass, 'Cathedrals' by Jump Little Children and 'Guilt Trip' by PUP.

'Vestiges' is available to purchase at Bandcamp

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