Name: Julia Romana
Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Recent Release: Julia Romana's Blood Be Fluid is out now.
Recommendations: Book: Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose; Song: ‘A Reminder’ - Radiohead
If you enjoyed this interview with Julia Romana and would like to find out more about her music, visit her on Instagram, and Soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I always loved to sing when I was by myself and my parents weren’t home. When I got my first phone (probably I was 7 or 8 years old) I started recording voice memos and writing songs like that.
I was really into dressing up in big curtain fabrics from my grandma and pretending to be a singing elf lol. I also loved being near water and collecting small things like glass animals. Spending time on my own inspired me the most. It never got boring. I listened to a lot of Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake and MJ.
I always loved when people stacked harmonies in songs and once I got GarageBand when I was about 15 I started experimenting with layering my own voice. I never really learned how to read sheet music, I don’t play any instrument so I made the most of my voice. In my late teens my music taste kind of transitioned from r’n’b to folk and alternative music. My friends would recommend things to me or I’d find new artists on youtube.
Music has such a healing power it’s so magical. I was always inspired to create things that come close to “real” magic.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
Music can instantly spark emotion.
Sometimes a really beautiful song (A Reminder - Radiohead f.e.) feels like liquid light spreading in my body. It can feel like you’re gently being touched all over.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
In the last few years I’ve had the honour to create songs with my friend Veronika Hanl, who produced my latest album Blood Be Fluid.
Working with her and getting musicians on my songs (instead of just making my demos alone in my room) has been so good. Collaboration has been like a fertiliser for my sound. I feel like my music’s been starting to blossom more and more.
When I listen back to things I recorded 3 years ago and compare my voice with how it sounds now there’s definitely progress as well. I’ve been getting more comfortable singing in front of people in a studio setting. And I can channel emotion and soulfulness much more than I used to be able to when I knew someone was watching me.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
I tend to be a pretty emotional person. I mostly gravitate to soulful or melancholic music instead of party tunes because I love the feeling I get from raw emotion and sound.
For me, as a listener, a song should either make me want to undress or cry. Sometimes I like the combination of both of those things. Hahaha.
I love feeling sensual and expressing that in my music. It comes natural to me when I write songs.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
Empowerment, sensuality, reassurance and hope.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
There’s so much music out there. I’m not stressed about needing to be the most innovative musician I possibly can just to “seem different”.
I definitely take inspiration from other people’s music, art and style. In my opinion both traditional songs and more futuristic takes on music can live alongside each other. I’m very interested in exploring and mixing both.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
GarageBand and then later Logic have been really helpful tools for me. I also have a little midi-synth to play around with. And a small loop machine.
Sometimes I think it’s good to not know everything about how a program functions in order to make weird explorations and create unplanned, strange, cool results.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
I usually get up around 7 or 7:30. I make some green tea and wash my face. Lately I’ve been getting back into a little gentle stretching routine in the mornings before work. I work as a digital product designer from 8am until 4pm. Then I either clean the house a bit, take a short walk or draw / paint something.
When I’m working on music I use the time after work to create demos or send some vocal ideas to people I’m collaborating with. I don’t make music full time but I like that I’m still able to make money and create my songs with passion.
Much of my saved money from my day job goes towards recording instruments, creating visuals and PR.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
One of my latest songs “Blood Be Fluid” started with a midi-drum loop and a simple bass line that I made in Logic. I usually meditate on a loop for a while and sing whatever comes to mind on top of it. I never plan the concept of a new song. It kind of happens in the moment and if it doesn’t feel intuitive I just create a new loop and build on that.
For “Blood Be Fluid”, I then showed the song to my friend Veronika Hanl who produced all of my latest songs. She asked Alessandro Iannicelli to play drums on the track and to co-produced it with her.
After the drums were done we exchanged the midi bass line with a real bass, played by Kristina Rhodes. We also had a piano recording session with Tom Addison. Max Oliver (Legss, Hotel Lux) put the cherry on top with some electronic guitar chords and we had a finished song structure. The piece was mixed by Kristina Rhodes and mastered by Caspar Sutton-Jones.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
Lately I love to collaborate. I really enjoy working with other musicians and finding a sound together. Back in the day I did all of it alone but now I definitely love making songs with others.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
I make music and art in general to disconnect myself from chaotic thoughts and feelings. Art doesn’t really have to have a purpose for others, it can be just a form of expression. It doesn’t matter if it serves someone else or not because in the end, nothing matters.
I like the idea of bringing hope and peace to people though and make people feel inspired or calm or sensual when they listen to my music. It’s up to the listener to decide whether a piece of music feels important to their life or a certain situation but I hope some people resonate with my work.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
When I was younger, writing songs felt really freeing. A way for me to write my feelings down. I kept a diary on an on-and-off basis so mostly put my overall mood into a song idea when I needed to let something out. Being alone, just with my voice, was really calming for me.
When I was at my grandparent’s they sometimes went out to see some friends or do errands. I usually used that alone time to sit in their hallway and sing whatever came to mind. The room had really nice subtle reverb which kept me entertained for hours. In those highschool years I was pretty shy in school, had hopeless crushes on people and wasn’t the most popular. But singing and listening to music always kept me company and enabled me to daydream in peace.
Later in art school I listened to a lot of Radiohead and a lot of their songs still feel tied to specific events, old friends from that time, dramatic fall-outs. Songs can be like scents. A song can stay forever attached to a certain person in your life, just like their signature scent.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
I think music and psychology are definitely very linked. I love reading about how healing music / sound can be for humans. Music has such a massive effect on us. When I make art I don’t really think about the science behind it a lot. I just intuitively create something and feel into it.
Production, mixing and mastering can feel very complex and mathematical. I love making weird beats, layering my voice and creating synth loops but when it comes to equalising, curves and numbers I usually get a bit demotivated.
I’m lucky to get to work with people like Veronika Hanl who really know their stuff when it comes to production.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
I like this question. Yes, for sure.
Writing a song and singing it is one of the most intimate things. You can give away a lot of your personality, make yourself vulnerable or be really bold and sassy.
I like to embody different sides of my personality in my songs. An elf, a siren, a mermaid or a witch. I love channelling the more extroverted and enchanting parts of my inner self.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our eardrums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it’s able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
I have no idea haha.
Some things don’t need to be explained in order to be beautiful though. I love to see music as a magical medium of expression.