Julie Jean White – A Perfectly Pure Songwriter

by Michael Rampa

“Records, record stores, the way we made them, that’s all gone now and it’s up to the young musicians to figure it all out” – Joe Walsh

julie-jean-whiteIndeed, the musical landscape has changed dramatically during the legend’s 40-year recording career. Now he and many others with roots in the analog era are looking for answers from one of the rarest commodities in the industry today; pure singer / songwriters who know there is a sanctity involved with bringing a song to the world   Though the demographic is becoming is rapidly becoming smaller, southern Americana indie artist Julie Jean White fits the bill.

Her self-released debut, “Silver Heart” combines the purity of an independent artist with the polish of a seasoned veteran. With her earthy tone and beautifully textured mezzo soprano, the album is a sonically mesmerizing collection that ranges thematically from lilting butterflies to songs with a body count. Armed with little more than a Martin acoustic and a stool on stage, her live shows feel like an evening at the Bluebird.

What are the biggest challenges in the digital age, especially for indie artists

While it’s true that musicians who have put in their 10,000 hours are more challenging to discover among all the white noise online, the access that my fans and I have to each other is incredible.  From a marketing & promotion standpoint, there has never been a better time to be an indie artist.

You hail from White Bear Lake, MN. What is the music scene like there and how did it impact your formative years

My dad was in an Air Force  rock band.  When they rehearsed in our basement, I would sit at the top of the stairs and listen for hours. I started  piano lessons when I turned four.

Who are your influences, especially on guitar

Ani DiFranco, Muriel Anderson, Monte Montgomery, Preston Reed

Working with the late Tim Johnson was incredible.  He taught me many things about writing from the heart, putting passion into every performance whether I’m playing for one person or a thousand, and that traveling and exploring the world would make me a better songwriter.  Also, he used to draw these elaborate sketches on napkins, trying to teach me tricks of the trade about publishers, etc., in his protective way, trying to make sure I didn’t fall for this or that… He had a huge impact on me in too short a time, and I’ll always be grateful.

The tone of “Silver Heart” is thematically heavy; even a little dark. What inspired that…

When co-writing in Nashville, it’s, “give me something up-tempo and happy!” But I do lots of solo writing too. When it’s just me with no commercial “suggestions”, the songs on “Silver Heart” are usually the type of stories that naturally come out.   Yet it’s funny how subjective this album really is. The title song  is a story about love living on  even after death,  and that is a beautiful thing.   It’s a snippet of time that was captured and recognized for what it was; the reality of losing someone during war and having something special to remember them by.

Even “Bridge I Burn” to me is not about abuse and death, but a warning to not wait too long to leave if you’re in danger.   Okay – yes, it’s dark…(the protagonist is shot and killed).  But I definitely have a sense of humor, which you’ll see a bit more of with my next album

What can be expected on the new album…

A little more production and a lot more attitude.

Talk about your writing process

I keep my “hook book” on my laptop with titles and tons of one liners that I’ve collected for years.  I usually pick one out the night before so I can marinate on the idea overnight, and then I start writing it the next day.  If I’m co-writing, it’s very different and not so pre-meditated.  90% of the time I start with the lyric, but every once in a while, the melody cuts in line and wants to be first.   I’m always running lines or ideas by my husband too, or calling him in the middle of the day to ask, “Hey, what’s another word for “apprehension”, or whatever.  He’s very creative and has a completely different way of looking at things, so he’s my perfect muse.

Your EP, “Songs of Southfork” is distinctly country. How did that project come about

JJW- What a fun EP that was to write!  My husband had been asked to create a virtual tour for Southfork Ranch.  During the creation process we were invited to Ojai, CA to stay with Larry and Maj Hagman to discuss the project and do some behind-the-scenes interviews.  When I asked what music they had in mind for the project, Larry said, “Well, what do YOU have in mind, young lady?”   We went over some ideas, and the following week, I brought two of my favorite co-writers from Nashville into the project (Tim Johnson & Will Robinson) and the three of us created the compilation.  Larry loved the song about the hats (“Hat Makes The Man”) because he had an outrageous collection of them, including a $50,000 Stetson!   Another song,  (“My Old Friends”) was on hold with George Jones at one point – that was surreal.  “Oil” was recently cut by a Canadian recording artist, Anthony Tullo.

You call your genre southern Americana. Why, and are you concerned it will narrow your prospective audience…

JJW- You definitely can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to find your home as an artist. My fans definitely make me feel welcome here! Awhile back I simply said “Americana”, but since that encompasses so many sub-genres, people didn’t know what to expect.  By adding the word “southern”, I tip my hat towards alt country. I may stray over to the singer/songwriter/folk side at times, but I’m definitely not pop country, so I wanted to keep the expectations in the right place.  When listening to other artists in this genre, there is a distinct similarity that I connect with.

For more, visit juliejeanwhite.com



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