Rubicon Artist Spotlight: Julie Nolen

Julie Nolen is a Rubicon GOLD artist and will start recording her latest full length album with Daniel Barrett at the production helm this summer.  Check out her current release, Live at the Saxon Pub, and head over to her website for some more great blog reading.

Julie was gracious enough to give us a little insight into her process.

What was the first record you bought with your own money?

I wanna say the first CD I ever bought with my own money was probably Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt. But then a year later I stopped buying CDs because my first car was a 1978 Chevette with only a cassette tape player, so I went old school for a few years. My first cassette tape was Willie Nelson.

You play electric and acoustic. Do you approach the two differently?

I play both and yes, you have to approach the two differently. They are completely different animals. Either way, I'm a hard player so I have to have a guitar that can withstand my beatings, but you do have to be a little gentler with the electric, depending on what effect or sound you're going for. I have just really started getting into playing the electric for the last year or two because I like the grittier sound. But I've spent the last decade plus as an acoustic player and I still find a lot of joy in just playing acoustic. I beat the sh*t out of my acoustic when I'm really into it. To me, the acoustic is a much more physical playing style. And mine in particular SMELLS like wood, wire and sweat. I fucking love that.

Which artist (living or or other arts) would you like to collaborate with?

Banksy - that motherfucker has balls. And he so eloquently and beautifully makes statements with his art that immediately grab people. I mean to make art on the street that SAYS something, you have to be able to immediately grab their attention away from their cell phones. I don't know exactly what we would collaborate on but just following that guy on one of his art projects would be inspiring.

What’s your latest project about?

In June I start recording on my "first" full length studio album. I've done a couple of full length studio albums with my old band and I just released an acoustic EP in February so it's not really my "first". But it's my first full length studio album as just Julie (jazz hands). These songs are 100% me, written by me for the most part. It's a new sound for me and I'm excited to experiment a lot in the studio.

What is your creative process like?

Sometimes it's someone saying something that sounds like a good phrase or idea for a song when I'm out and about, then letting that percolate in my brain for a few days, then sitting down and writing it out. Sometimes it's staring up into the ceiling thinking about what rhymes with orange. Sometimes it's just sitting down on a Sunday afternoon and saying I'm going to write a song. And then somedays, when you're really lucky, it's HOLY SHIT GIVE ME A PEN NOW THIS SONG IS COMING OUT OF ME NOW!

How has working with Rubicon affected your musical focus?

It's been great for focusing me on music full time. Being able to focus completely on this has allowed me to let all the crazy ideas in and just go for it. I mean, I'm releasing two albums in one year. That's a lot of focus.

What are your fans like?

Flannel. Lots of plaids. Mostly women, some men. Mostly grew up on country music. Around my age probably. They love to yell out "Julie Fucking Nolen". They love to drink and socialize. They mostly wanna have a good time but they occasionally like a sad song or two. They want to help.

What is a typical day/week like for you?

Wake up late morning, turn off phone alarm, go through notifications on my phone. Answer any texts, emails or messages I have. Although usually emails I get my laptop for. Think about eating. Get up and take my vitamins. Set up my laptop, email away, read music blogs probably. Do whatever online stuff I gottta do. Remember to eat. Maybe work on writing a song or just practice guitar and current songs in the afternoon. Some days/weeks there may be an interjection of a lunch meeting in there. Later in the afternoon I might be figuring out a set list or counting merch for a show that night. Remember to eat again. Most nights I'm either playing a show or at someone else's show. 

How would you describe and rate the music scene of the city you are currently living in and how important is it in terms of what you're accomplishing as an artist?

Austin has a very large music scene so there's a lot of depth and directions you can take. Which is good in that you can learn a lot from a lot of different musicians, but it also means it could take awhile to sift through until you find YOUR people. Which can be disheartening at times. You just have to be patient and keep meeting new people.  Most of the time there is a sense of community, it's just about finding those people who think about what they can do for their community and not just what their community can do for them. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours kinda thing. They are out there though. I've had some great learning experiences within this community. There's so much depth here, I think it's important to branch out and get to know some people in the different scenes and not just stick to one. The more information the better. As for what I want to accomplish as an artist, I also want to look outside of Austin at some of the other music communities and take in what they have to offer as well.

For most musicians, finding their own “thing” is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. Did you go through this? How would you describe your own growth as a musician and the transition towards your own voice?

Yes. I was involved in a funk band that was attempting to recreate the funk of Austin in the late 90s. My vocal lessons were singing along to 3 hour concerts by Sister 7, Soulhat and all those cats. Turns out, I'm not funk. I have a voice that can do funk but I'm a songwriter by heart. I got a lot more to say than a funk song can hold. Or at least I felt limited in my previous arrangement. But really, my roots are in country, rock, roots kinda music.

What were some of your main artistic challenges when starting out as a musician and in what ways have they changed over the years?
My guitar playing has definitely been something that did not come naturally to me. I had to work hard to become a guitar player. I had to work hard at the vocals and songwriting too but they came much easier than the guitar. But getting involved with a band early on really helped me with that. I still have a tendency to float rhythmically a little bit solo and I still need to work more on leads but we're getting there.
I also had to learn the language of my side men. What they want, what they don't want, what compromises we can make. It's like one big polyamorous marriage.

Don't miss the latest on Julie on her Facebook page here, and check out Rubicon Artist Development's page too!

1 comment