Inside New York sat down with the fabulous singer-songwriter Julia Weldon to discuss her career, living in NYC, Justin Bieber, and our shared love of Costco and singing Adele in the shower.
When did you know that you wanted to be a musician?
I started playing guitar at thirteen and writing songs at fifteen. I grew up acting- and still act now- but in college songwriting became a really strong passion of mine. I started gigging NYC in 2007. Only about two years ago did I feel comfortable saying that I was a musician: I was actively pursuing it and it was carrying me along, it just started to feel natural. There are so many people in NYC doing what they love but it’s so hard. I realized that I have to do this and there’s nothing else I should be doing.
How did you start a music career in NYC?
I started performing [my music] at Vassar and then took a huge break after college to find out what life is. I started writing a lot for about nine months after and it took another year to start playing out. Someone booked a show for me to open and I was like a typical artist, ‘Okay, I’ll do it if I have to.’ When you feel really intense about something it’s hard to put it out the in the world! I started playing almost against my will. I played at Pete’s Candy Store, Bowery Poetry Club, and Pianos. When I began working with a manager, he began booking me gigs. It really helps in NYC to have someone booking you!
What were early performances like for you as an artist?
I’m currently making a film for a music and technology class I’m taking at Teachers College, and I’m really processing my whole career. In the beginning it was really exciting- it was easy and natural to perform. Now there’s more at stake when you’re playing bigger venues. I’m super comfortable on stage but I get so nervous before I play! In a good way, not stage fright, but I’m about to play for a bunch of people, friends and strangers! Nerves are the best thing for a performance. An artist who doesn’t have self-doubt is fake or self-invested… Something’s wrong. I like hearing that Adele gets nervous, it makes her real.
What inspires your music?
Relationships. It’s natural for any artist to be inspired by relationships and people, I can be in a very particular emotional state and I don’t even know what I’m going to express but it just comes out in me. The best songs come retrospectively about relationships. When you’re in one, it’s pretty hard to be objective and it’s hard if you have a partner to be like ‘Hey, this is how I feel.’ I write a bunch of good songs at the beginning and the end of relationships. Inspiration comes from honesty. You write what you have to write to get it out.
Are any of your songs difficult to perform live?
The more personal the songs are, the harder they are to perform. I don’t have a trained voice: I like music that’s not perfect! I love Bon Iver and people with nontraditional styles. Imperfections make music human– I love hearing a singer’s voice crack because that’s real. I’ll be in my room and I’ll be fine and sound great and then I’m up on stage and it’s a whole other ball game.
What’s your process for writing your songs?
If I’m in an emotional place everything comes out at once. Other times, I’ll come up with a melody in my head and then put guitar to it- C, A-minor, C, G, etc. I recently wrote a song that I thought of while I was driving home. I recorded it in my blackberry so I had it in my head, then I fleshed it out from here. A lot of times I’ll have a guitar riff and I don’t know what lyrics go with it, but it happens. It’s beautiful when the lyrics and melody come together in my head.
What’s the most important tool that you have as a musician?
As a songwriter my words are the best tool I have. Over the years, I’ve discovered the ways to craft lyrics: it’s an art form. As a musician my biggest tool is experimentation.
Do you have a favorite song to perform?
“Marian” I play at every single show no matter what happens. It would be my single if I had one. My next single will be “Meadow.” It goes back and forth between really quiet and really loud- it’s fun!
We assume you’ve been compared to Justin Bieber?
Yeah. [Laughs. A lot.] I won a Justin Bieber contest last month: I sang “Never Say Never” and won three hundred bucks! It was so much fun to perform Bieber, and I made it on to afterEllen’s “Justin vs Justin!” I’ve had the swoopy haircut forever, next time I get it cut I want to take a very serious photo and submit it to Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber.
Do you have a favorite NYC performance venue?
I like it when the crowd is responsive! The Knitting factory is great but I haven’t played there recently. I really want to play City Winery!
What type of music do you listen to?
I always say that I am the musical lovechild of Ani Difranco and Elliot Smith- Smith is a huge influence on my music! Of course I love [Bob] Dylan. I listen to Bon Iver, AA Bondy, the Dodos, and Mirah, because people used to tell me that I sounded like her.
Do you sing in the shower?
Oh my God! Yes! “Someone Like You”! I actually covered “Rolling in the Deep” at the Mercury Lounge and I’m thinking of covering “Someone Like You” soon.
Do you have a favorite song to dance to your underwear in your room?
Jay-Z! No, Kanye. Definitely Kanye. Jay-Z is so 2008. I also love dancing to Le Tigre.
What’s your favorite NYC location?
Brooklyn rooftops. I’ve written a lot of songs on my old roof. I was born in Brooklyn raised in Jersey, but Brooklyn’s in my blood! I work on my album every weekend there. I also love going down to South Street Seaport pier and staring out at the three bridges.
How do you spend weekends in NYC when you’re not recording?
I love going to see movies, eating good food and drinking good drinks. Black Swan‘s Darren Aronofsky is my favorite director. My favorite sushi place is Kodama in Midtown and favorite bar is Local 138 on the LES. I also love going to museums! I grew up going to The Met, I’m kind of obsessed with German Expressionism. I also love The Whitney.
Who’s your celebrity crush?
Any advice for aspiring musicians?
Everything you do is right.