Interview: Julia Stone

Julia Stone
Image Courtesy of Julia Stone

To round out the year our editor in chief Gareth Hugh Evans managed to find some time to chat to Julia Stone, arguably one of the biggest names in indie-folk music in Australia. Julia Stone has spend 2012 focusing on her second solo album By The Horns, taking a break from Angus and Julia Stone, and will be touring the country next year for Heavenly Sounds.

Gareth chatted to Julia about the differences in being a solo artists than being in a duo, playing in churches and what’s in store for her in 2013.

Gareth Hugh Evans: You released your new solo album, By The Horns, this year. How do you feel it’s been recieved?

Julia Stone: I feel like this year around the record, going around and playing the shows, doing the promo for By The Horns, all of the experiences that have come out of that have been important for me I think. Important because it was such a big thing to step away from Angus and me as a duo. I guess the question you’re asking me is how its been received – it’s such a hard to measure how something has been received other than the shows and the shows were all really fun and nice. Me being on stage was such a growing experience. I found a lot of confidence through doing this record on my own and being on stage on my own. It’s definitely taught me a lot doing this record and it’s been really amazing everywhere that we’ve travelled with the band.

GHE: It feels like this year you’ve had a real focus on being a a solo artist. Obviously this is your second solo album but the first time around it felt like you had the security of Angus and Julia Stone as the recognisable “brand” whereas this time around you’ve really had to commit to being the solo artist Julia Stone. Is that a fair assumption?

JS: Yeah, it’s very different from when we both made our first solo records, which were I think for both of us more side projects to Angus and me as a duo. This time around we definitely wanted to go and tour as solo artists and we wanted to play the songs that we had worked on. We felt really inspired to do that at the same time which was really a simple decision to make – it was just a conversion Angus and I had at the end of touring the last record Down the Way. We toured that for long I think it was pretty natural to want to explore the other stuff that we had been working on, even while we were on tour together.

GHE: Yeah, last time around it felt like more of a side project.

JS: Absolutely. It was definitely more of a focus for both of us this year. We didn’t really know how long we were going to do this for, how long we will do this for, it was just a new chapter which means going out as solo artists and playing music in that regard.

GHE: When you’re approaching writing a Julia Stone song as opposed to an Angus and Julia Stone song is there any difference? Or are you just writing whatever songs come through you at the time?

JS: I just write the songs. A few of these songs that went on By The Horns I used to play live with Angus. And I know that some of the tracks on Angus’ record we were playing as well as Angus and Julia songs. I think we both write in exactly the same way but then the production sort of changes. The way we work in the studio separately is different because there’s no need to take into account that it’s a duo and the other person’s voice needs to be in there and how would that work.

GHE: Does it feel a bit weird to not only take into account that that second voice isn’t there but also not having another person giving you a contribution to a song that you’ve written? Does it feel weird being the only person who has input on the song?

JS: If I was the only person then it might feel weird but it’s never the way, at least in my experience, of making music. There’s so many other people. I’m always collaborating with other people from writing the songs to playing them to people. I always feel like when I’ve finished a song that I like to play it for a friend or whoever’s around – that’s the first collaboration, the moment of sharing the song, and certainly when Angus and I were on tour together and we were both writing on the road he would quite often be that first person I would share a new song with. And a lot of the songs on By The Horns he probably was the first person to hear them. Then getting into the studio there’s a producer and there’s musicians and all those people who are there, have ideas and have personalities and unique ways of hearing things and they’re all contributing. And then collaborating with a live band on stage. There definitely is a difference when it’s a duo show because it’s Angus’ song, it’s my song, it’s Angus’ song, it’s my song. But just in terms of the songs themselves and having that extra voice there – there’s so many guys on stage with me and they’re all singing and they’re all contributing. I have never felt once that I was alone or that I didn’t have the kind of support I have with Angus. I love being on stage with Angus, he’s a phenomenal person to perform with, but I’ve played this year with lots of great guys

GHE: We should also chat about the Heavenly Sounds tour which sounds like it’s going to be absolutely beautiful. Did you approach Heavenly Sounds with the prospect of doing a tour of churches or did they approach you?

JS: Y’know when it gets to me it just comes from my manager so I’m not sure how it all happened. My manager said “there’s this idea for a tour to play in churches” and he thought it would be really beautiful and he knows that I like playing in churches. Playing in Europe we quite often get to play in churches because there’s a lot of them there and a lot of them have been converted into music venues. I don’t think we’ve ever played one tour where there isn’t a date in a church and that’s including with Angus and these last solo tours. It’s just a really special way to make music, particularly for the style of music that I’ve been creating. I didn’t want to do another big Australian tour with all the regular venues – it was a good way to do another tour of Australia but do it a bit differently.

GHE: It’s a bit different to just playing pubs and clubs or even theatres. It’s great that you’re going to be playing in these venues that are pretty much custom built for their acoustics.

JS: Yeah! Every stone’s been laid with the thought of the choir and the voices of the preacher man being able to reach God. It’s pretty phenomenal the way they build those places. I know it’s a total nightmare for the sound guys. I don’t know what it’s like for other musicians, I certainly know what it’s been like for me and Angus, both of us individually on stage going “can we get more reverb?”. For our voices, we really love hearing them with reverb on them and I always ask if I can get reverb in the monitors because if you’re playing in a dry club it’s very vibeless if you’re just there and there’s just dry sound. That’s fine if you’re playing acoustically, like I love singing acoustic dry, I don’t have a problem with that sitting around a campfire or sitting in a lounge room singing a song but when it goes through a PA you want it to travel. And that’s the beauty of playing in a church – you don’t need to touch the sound effects, the room creates the exact sound you want. It’s why people like singing in the shower because the tiles in the bathroom, in the shower create such beautiful acoustics for people’s voices. Everybody sounds great in the shower – it’s because they’ve got reverb! And the church is the ultimate of that.

GHE: After the tour is over what’s the next plan for 2013?

JS: After it finishes I’m going to spend a little bit more time in Sydney with my family. And then I have a plan, which may change because it always does, but I’m moving in with a friend. I haven’t rented a home for a long time and I sort of decided that next year I wanted to have a home. I’m going to try and sort that out come March or April. I think that will be my focus, to gather my bits and pieces from the storage units around the place and set up a house somewhere.

GHE: Lovely. Thank you so much for chatting with me today, I really appreciate it.

JS: No worries Gareth, it’s nice talking to you.

By The Horns is available now. The full list of dates for the Heavenly Sounds tour are below:

Thursday 14th February – St Stephen’s Uniting Church, Sydney, NSW
Friday 15th February – St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane, QLD
Tuesday 19th February – St David’s Cathedral, Hobart, TAS
Wednesday 20th February – St Michael’s Church, Melbourne VIC
Thursday 21st February – Flinders Street Baptist Church, Adelaide, SA
Friday 22nd February – St Joseph’s Church, Perth, WA

3 Comments

  1. December 21, 2012 at 13:32

    […] “Yeah, it’s very different from when we both made our first solo records, which were I think for both of us more side projects to Angus and me as a duo. This time around we definitely wanted to go and tour as solo artists and we wanted to play the songs that we had worked on. We felt really inspired to do that at the same time which was really a simple decision to make – it was just a conversion Angus and I had at the end of touring the last record Down the Way. We toured that for long I think it was pretty natural to want to explore the other stuff that we had been working on, even while we were on tour together” – Julia Stone chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here […]

  2. March 25, 2013 at 18:22

    […] we’ve seen high profile acts like First Aid Kit, Luka Bloom, Joanna Newsom, Archie Roach & Angus and Julia Stone but a surprising list of fantastic, relatively unknown international artists which gives the […]

  3. Lara said,

    November 1, 2013 at 13:41

    If you’re a fan of this lovely lady, give Leura a spin, another beautiful aussie voice x


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