Ahead of her forthcoming debut EP, Oxford-based Julia-Sophie releases the cool water track ‘i left you’. We caught up with her about her future plans and what it’s like starting afresh as an independent artist.
‘i left you’ is a song that deserves many listens as at first you may be carried away by the pulsating beat and feathery synths but every time you return the depth and honesty of her lyric only hits you harder.EMMA MILLER » INDIE TOP 39
Sustained by tribal drum machine rhythms and gliding, arpeggiated synth melodies, Julia-Sophie submerges you into a fractured world of heartache and humanity. ‘i left you’ is a song that deserves many listens as at first you may be carried away by the pulsating beat and feathery synths but every time you return the depth and honesty of her lyric only hits you harder.
The artist’s unique layering of frantic vintage drum machine patterns, combined with her pure vocal tones makes for an immersive sound. It’s all too bad that audiences won’t get to experience this mercurial songstress in a live setting for a while. Instead, you can enjoy her new music video, await her debut EP and have a read of her views on the music industry and the importance of walking your own path in our interview below.
Where is home for you?
I come from Oxford, but I’m half-french and spent a lot of time in France with my French family. I’m not sure where my home is. Maybe my home is being in the arms of the people that I love and who love me.
You have a very unique sound blending those vintage drum machine beats and ethereal vocals – how did you arrive at this style of production and songwriting? Would you say you take inspiration from anyone?
I don’t have a classical education in music so I would say that I learned music through discovering it in life; from my parents playing music in the kitchen as I grew up to than friends playing music to me. I started writing songs when I taught myself to play the guitar, so in that sense, I have a classic songwriting background and I was inspired by listening to the likes of Beth Orton and Joan Baez. In my rock years, I found and related to the likes of Patti Smith and Debbie Harry. Over the last years, I discovered electronic music, such as Caribou and slowly have been gravitating to the world of beats and keys. I guess it’s all been a discovery and I feel like every day I’m still learning. What a wonderful feeling.
How would you describe your new single ‘i left you’?
’i left you’ is a song about struggling with love and life; being torn in all kinds of directions, choosing how to live and who to live for. The song is deeply personal and because of that, I hope people will relate to it; we all have our struggles.
I was at a point in my life where I needed to create art and make something that meant something to me.JULIA-SOPHIE
Tell us about the journey which led you to your very first single x0x, to now getting ready to release a debut EP.
I spent a year working on ideas, never with the intention to make anything purposely for radio or for the music industry. I was at a point in my life where I needed to create art and make something that meant something to me. Something that felt honest, deep and reflected my emotional state and inner life.
You’ve been in a few different bands and projects. Do you still play in those bands? How has it been transitioning to a solo project and what made you take this leap?
Little Fish was a young white-stripe-esque rock band, signed to Universal Records. That was a long time ago now, and it came with its ups and downs, major label pressures etc… (touring with Blondie and Courtney Love being a highlight). Candy Says came after and was the polar opposite to that; A collaborative DIY pop band, that refuted everything the industry had thrown at me in Little Fish. I still enjoy writing, recording and performing songs for that band, but it’s a relaxed affair.
I guess Julia-Sophie is just me and that feels freeing. I like being just me; the whole idea behind it was to not hide behind life, anyone or anything, and to get to my core being. I also wanted to work at a faster pace and not have to wait for anyone. I like getting on with things.
You have a killer visual aesthetic and your last video for ‘x0x’ was completely captivating (I couldn’t look away!) – can we expect more to come with your upcoming music?
I hope so. I found a visual artist called Siobhan Cox who I feel is able to visually express my music better than anyone I have ever worked with before. She has a sensibility that I love and admire; I think she is phenomenal and would like to continue working with her. She also made my video for ‘I left you’ and has done all of my photography work with all kinds of formats from super 8 to 16mm – she also develops all of the photos herself which is cool and all part of the making process that I love.
It was important for me to create a clear visual identity to go with the music and I feel that she has nailed it.
Where do your ideas for songs come from?
I’m deeply emotional; all of my songs come from the heart so nothing is ever a conscious thought process to start with; I don’t sit and think to myself “oh, I will write a song about this today”; it’s always more like “let me sit still, hold my guitar and see which emotion shows its face”. I want my songs to be as honest as they can be; I don’t want to lie to people about how I feel because I want people to know that it’s okay, to be honest, and for that, artists have to lead the way.
Is there an artist whose career you wouldn’t mind emulating?
I guess I’m already behind loads of artists I would have loved to have had careers like, so at this point, all I can say is that my journey will be my own journey and I’m happy to walk my own path.
The most important part of being a musician is being creative; I don’t need the industry to be or do that.JULIA-SOPHIE
What are some of the most difficult challenges you face as an artist working in the music industry?
Everything. existence. I’m going to keep doing my music alone and if the industry wants to join me along the way, then I can decide if and why I would like them to join me. I’m open to being a part of it and there are many advantages to having it with me, but the most important part of being a musician is staying and being creative; I don’t need the industry to be or do that.
Do you have any recommendations of artists we might not have heard of yet?
Max Blansjaar is a young artist from Oxford who I think is incredible. Jack Goldstein, Roch, Jorja Chalmers, Michael Fox.
I think we all need this one just now: What is a song that makes you extremely happy?
What is your biggest achievement to date?
I entered x0x to play Glastonbury this year as an emerging artist and made it to the longlist and was hoping to battle it out for a place to play. Unfortunately, that opportunity has now gone because of Covid-19, but I guess there’s so much worse, so I’m not being complacent. It was just a little something that I was looking forward to that’s not going to happen anymore. Life carries on and now we have to learn how to live in a different way.
How would you quantify success in music for yourself? Is there a landmark you’ve already reached or are aiming to achieve that would make you feel your career is a success?
I don’t think artists ever feel fully satisfied with their world or work and are always striving to be, and do better. These kinds of feelings certainly drive me to some, I have achieved so much such as being signed to a major label, touring the world with the likes of blondie and placebo, working with hitmakers such as Linda Perry, playing big stages like Brixton academy and the Royal Albert Hall, but to me, it’s never felt good enough. I’m only just starting to feel, after years of writing, that I might be starting to get somewhere, but I still feel like I have a long way to go. some people take longer than others to find themselves I guess. I’m a slow developer.
It’s never felt good enough. I’m only just starting to feel, after years of writing, that I might be starting to get somewhere.JULIA-SOPHIE
Do you think there’s anything artists or fans can do to support each other during these strange times of Covid-19?
I think we need to talk more than ever. Stay in touch. It’s still early days and I’m trying to think and find other ideas. I’ll keep you posted.
What have you got planned for 2020 and have any of your plans been impacted?
I had planned to release my first ep and then go from there. I’m still going ahead with that. I’m just sad that I can no longer play the shows that I had planned to go with it all as things were starting to ramp up; I love playing live and was starting to make some waves.
Having all my shows cancelled or postponed has put a real spanner in the works, but I guess we have to just roll with the times and know that this affects everyone and not just me; this pandemic is so much bigger than me.
All I can do is keep releasing music online and do my best to be there for people. That’s what I plan to do.