Julia Stone has been making it on her own for a while now, but it’s still taking some getting used to. After six years of touring and making music with her brother Angus, she still reminds herself that she’s running the show, and that means she can play as many of her owns songs as she wants.
Her debut solo album The Memory Machine was released in 2010, but her second solo album, By The Horns, was released with a bang in May, full of gusto and a presenting a more confident, sultry version of the Julia we once knew.
This album has been a long time coming. She wrote the songs for the latest album over years of travelling through America, France and India, and then recorded in two weeks at a recording studio in New York. It was mixed while she was doing an ayurvedic cleanse in India, and released while she sweltered in a friend’s New York apartment with two cats and no air conditioning.
Did you do anything to celebrate the release of By The Horns?
I was in the heat of the summer. I think I was just so angry and hot. I don’t think we celebrated. I think someone said ‘I think the album came out today,’ and I’m like, ‘Whatever’ [laughs]. I’m a bit more of a winter girl. I’m much more functional in the cold.
It would have been pretty special to hear your music while you’re in an exotic country like India.
Yeah it was really nice. The place that I stay has this really beautiful river. You can walk down to the river, then through the village, then there’s a drawbridge that goes over to the other side to this beautiful little school. Its one of the last traditional Indian schools. It’s so stunning. I get so swept up in what’s going on that I forget to get the phone out and take a photo. But it was really nice to listen to the songs while I was in such a peaceful place.
There seems to be a theme in the album about being in ‘the moment’ and not thinking about being somewhere else. Was that your feeling behind this album?
A general desire of mine is to try to be in that place more and I think that a song like ‘I Want To Live Here’ is all about that. I wanna live inside of sound, I wanna live inside of the moments that I’m in and not worry about what is gonna happen when I die, or what will happen when I’m not around to control the situation. I just wanna be okay with everything as it is, and I think that is there in some of the songs, and then in other songs it’s not particularly lyrically about that. But that’s what music does for me. It’s a kind of meditation, it does bring me into a moment and give me a little bit of peace from the chaos of whatever we worry about as humans.
Is By The Horns a progression from The Memory Machine or is it something that’s completely different and stands on its own?
I think it’s a bit of both. I think because of the nature of the way that I write, it’s always gonna be connected to the line of music that came before. But in the same respect, it definitely has a different feeling to The Memory Machine and the way that it was created was so different. So in a way it is a really separate body. That’s a hard question because I don’t think its one or the other, I really think it is both, like it’s Chapter Two and then it’s a whole other book.
What’s your favourite part of making an album?
I really like getting into the studio and not knowing how it’s gonna turn out. I love the excitement and the anticipation of when you first start a new song. It’s a thrilling moment just before the song starts of everybody’s energy together in a room. I really love not having as much of a plan about where it’s gonna go, it just starts to happen. Every single part of it makes it unique to that specific time and that specific place and I really like that.
You seem to have a bit of a thing for The National…
The connection of them to this album really came through Thomas. He wanted Brian to drum on the track because he loved his drumming. It’s kind of a random coincidence that Bloodbuzz [Ohio] ended up on the record. I didn’t know Brian was going to be there as the drummer on the second part of the sessions. Brian happened to be in town and Thomas contacted him and we’d already recorded Bloodbuzz with the other drummer. Now it feels like a National tribute record [laughs], but it so wasn’t meant to go down that road. I love them and I love their music and I’m so happy if people think that.
What are you up to at the moment?
I feel like I need to go down the south coast or something, or maybe go over to Bali and have a little rest. I’m not sure, my mates have also invited me down to Port Lincoln down in South Australia, it’s a tuna fishing town. It would be so beautiful because you’ve got the beautiful expansive desert with the amazing South Australian coast beaches.
What inspires you?
I think inspiration is a really interesting thing. Inspiration for me is a feeling that I get of being quite fragile but really awake at the same time and it can happen at the most random times. To write a song I have to feel a certain way but I don’t know what the feeling is, I don’t know where it comes from. I’m inspired by everything; smells, sounds, all the little things that come together to make you feel a certain way. Nature is an amazing thing; sometimes just to stand in the sun is so inspiring.
Is there anything else that you wanted to add?
Peace on earth, things like that would be great. Like at the end of the beauty pageant when they do: ‘And if you could have one wish what would it be?’ ‘Peace on Earth’.
Julia Stone is hitting the road! Head to juliastonemusic.com for a full list of tour dates and venues.
Polaroids by Imogene Barron. somekindoflife.com.