Juliana Richer Daily take two

One of the most talented recording artists I’ve heard in a while. This is our second interview; take one. In the summer of 2011, I conducted an interview with the extremely talented young recording artist Juliana Richer Daily. It was a fairly free-form exchange in a Q&A format. You can find that initial transcript here: This past week Ms. Daily graciously consented to do a follow-up interview, which we kept in the same free-flowing format. Daily, 24, lives outside of Syracuse, N.Y. for now (guess you’ll have to read further to find out what that means!) and works currently as a junior designer at a historic preservation architecture firm.

Daily has developed a loyal online following largely due to the videos of her original music and a number of covers; you can find her music at julianaricherdaily.com or at her YouTube channel. Ms. Daily is an active user of social media with a popular page on Facebook and tweets @julianaeveryday. Her covers are largely available for free on her website, and her two original EPs Falls From Trees and Birdsongs can be purchased via iTunes, bandcamp and amazon.com.

This interview was conducted by phone on the evening of 15 October 2012. I want to thank Ms. Daily for taking the time to have this conversation. The following edited transcript is unique to benjaminntaylor.com and will not appear in any other format. Edits made were for clarification and flow, but in no way affected content.

Ben: So first of all, thank you for speaking with me again; it’s a privilege. I wish I had asked this last time, but tell me about the “Richer Daily” thing. Err, your name that is. Is it Juliana Richer Daily or Juliana Daily?

Juliana: Haha, it is actually Richer Daily. I was named entirely after my father’s mother, Juliana—“Richer” was her maiden name and Daily is my last name.

Ben: Right on and thanks for the clarification. I wasn’t sure if “Richer” was a play on words or your actual legal name.

Juliana: It’s something I get asked a lot.

Ben: While we’re on the topic on names, could you tell me about the “Bird” nickname? I’ve read on your website that it’s a nickname your parents gave you that just sort of stuck. I’ve also noticed in your YouTube videos that you’re almost always wearing a
necklace that says “Bird.” Do you mind talking a bit about it?

Juliana: Well, I’m an only child, and it’s a nickname I acquired when I was very young. My parents have told me that I used to make a lot of high-pitched chirping noises that sounded like a baby bird, so they started calling me “bird” and it just stuck with me through the years. Honestly, if anyone were to say “bird” in my general vicinity I would turn around. I think it’s especially fitting now that I’m pursuing music full-time, but the story is nothing too crazy, just a chirping young child.

Ben: This past spring, you informed your fans that you’d been invited to perform at a festival in Holland, then shared the videos of your live performance. How did that come about? What was your experience like there? How did you think it went?

Juliana: That was a very cool opportunity. I got an email last December from this young woman in Holland telling me about this music festival — it’s called the Holland-Amerika Lijn Festival — that brings together American and Dutch contemporary folk musicians for a full day of music with several different acts. It’s held in Westwoud, about an hour north of Amsterdam. The daughter of the festival organizers had found my performances on YouTube and really liked my work, and they invited me to come and perform.

I actually said no at first, because I was preparing for my third and final spinal surgery (Ed: Juliana suffered a fractured spine as the result of a snowboarding accident in January 2011 and has been steadily recovering) and didn’t know if I’d be recovered enough in time to be able to travel. Then I thought about it, found that I was healing well and figured you only live once. It was an amazing experience with a really neat mix of musicians from the USA and Holland. I had an hour-long set all to myself — which is something I hadn’t really had the opportunity to do before. The venue was completely packed, and I played mostly my own music.

It was just a phenomenal experience, and was very flattering to be invited to travel internationally to perform. It was wild, and so great to get to meet actual international fans of mine. Folks came from all over Holland and Europe — one of my fans from Germany drove five hours to see me! It was incredibly humbling to meet face to face these people following my journey. Meeting everyone was just phenomenal. It just felt so good to have the opportunity and everything was really well-received.

Ben: Can you talk a little about your creative process? How you go about song-writing, composition, etc.?

Juliana: When I first started my YouTube channel, I don’t even know if I had any original material yet. I think maybe I’d written “Take Over the World,” (Ed: Final track from Ms. Daily’s “Birdsongs” EP, released in May 2010 and available on iTunes, amazon.com and other online music retailers) but initially I was putting up covers, because that’s all I had to work with. As far as viral experience, people are going to look up songs they already know, and as an artist just starting out and just trying to get new listeners, having a cover of a well-known song can be a good “in”.

Ben: Makes sense. I first found out about your work looking up Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” on YouTube and came across your cover of it.

Juliana: I did a Lady Gaga cover — of “Bad Romance” — which I’m not even particularly fond of, but it’s my top most-viewed video (Ed: 1.43m views as of 18 October). As far as my presence on the Internet machine, I don’t know if there’s any way to chart my YouTubing (Ed: How long until “YouTubing” is in the OED? Just a nerd interjection). As of late, if there’s any way to measure my output, I’ve been trying to put out more original material and covering fewer top 40 tracks. Not that I have anything against top 40 stuff, I don’t. And I know that’s where you get the most views. So far, my output has definitely involved a higher cover-to-original ratio, which is just the nature of the beast. All that said, in the past several months I’ve come close to doubling the number of originals I’ve put out, and that just comes with being more confident in my own ability.

It’s humbling as an artist to have several tens of thousands of people who like what I’m doing. I’m lucky enough to have genuine listeners who care about my work; I honestly never could have imagined I’d be pursuing music at this point in my life. Having that active support, people sharing my music and caring about what I do is unbelievably important.

But back to the original question about my creative process. I always have something in the works. I have bits and pieces of songs scattered all over the damn place; I don’t know if there’s a specific method to my madness — it’s a little bit all over the map. I have no formal training either in voice or songwriting, and I find my process changes every time. I have a notebook with me at all times; I collect things everywhere. For instance, there could be a newspaper article I’m reading and come across a word I haven’t heard in a while, so I’ll write it down. Or it could be a conversation I have with someone that leads me to scribble down an idea; oftentimes it’s just those bits and pieces that come together when I’m in the mood to write and resonate with me, and will serve as the jumping-off point of a song.

Like in one of my newer original tracks, “Walking”: the “son of a gun” line has been hanging out in my head for two years now; I really needed something and that line just felt good. Sometimes there’s just a spurt of stream-of-consciousness, and a song just falls out of me. For “In your arms” (Ed.: Juliana laughs here) — I don’t know where the muses hang out, but sometimes they just see through you and songs just flow straight out.

Or sometimes there’s a chord progression bouncing around in my head that I really like and I just play around with it on my guitar. And then there’s the times a song really isn’t working and I have to give it some space.. Then I’ll come back to it, see it in a new light and immediately know how to finish it. I know I have a tendency to write a lot of songs in sort of a pensive and melancholy vein, so lately I’ve been trying to mix things up and start writing songs that explore different moods so my songs aren’t so one-note. I think that’s one of the primary goals in my writing—to give people a space to feel something in. That’s one of the most beautiful things about music…that you can create something that a complete stranger can relate to and feel.

Ben: So is that sort of how music as a whole works for you? One of the things I have found really striking about your work is how well and confidently you can take a song — even a well-known one, “Bad Romance,” for instance — and put your own spin on it entirely, like completely transform it and make it yours. What’s that process like for you?

Juliana: I love that music is so transcendent as a medium. There is literally no other form of art that transcends space and time quite so much. Right now someone across the globe could be listening to the same album I am, experiencing what I’m experiencing even though we’re thousands of miles apart. And I can still enjoy and listen to the same music my parents grew up listening to. I can play a song written by Mozart several hundred years ago and put my own spin on it. It’s so cool when you can take a song and make it your own. Prior to covering [Birdy’s cover of Phoenix’s “1901”] I had never actually listened to the words, just the music itself. I use words, that’s my thing. I love the poetry of it, love taking a song and having people listen to the words. And you really have to get to know a song before you can cover it in your own way. It’s a fun process, and it’s neat to see how people react to the way you interpret the song.

Ben: Absolutely. Let’s talk a little bit more about your musical history quickly; I know we talked about it last year, but it’s a good segue into talking more about your future.

Juliana: It’s funny—you’d never know it but for a very long time, I was extremely shy. I’ve always been drawn to music, but never performed in public. Singing was strictly for the shower or the car. It was just for me. So performing was something I hadn’t really explored. This is a bit of a digression, but I had this solo I actually still remember from my fourth grade musical, and I remember refusing to let my parents buy the tape of the performance because I was mortified at the thought of having to watch it again. I was that extremely shy. Ha, my mom recently told me that after that fourth grade play she literally didn’t hear me sing again until my senior year of high school. I’ve always loved it for myself, I just never sang for anyone else. I’ve been coming into my own though, and for someone who’s a pretty laid-back social animal— I’ve never been the person who walks into the room and demands everyone’s attention. I’m more of a listener and observer, you know? — the stage has been a place where I have really blossomed. I love performing.

As for my actual beginnings? I started playing a lot of music post Copenhagen [Ed.: Juliana studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark while an undergraduate) and following a very difficult breakup — nothing like some good emotional fuel to get the creative juices flowing. So like I said, music is something that’s always been with me; my friends would hear me playing and singing in my room and encouraged me to try doing open mic events at Cornell [Juliana graduated in 2010 with a B.S. in interior design and went on to earn a masters’ degree in spatial graphic design) so I started to go to play at The Nines. I mean, these were small, low-key events — a few students would roll through, some local folks, but that’s where I started to play. Oh God, I was nervous as hell. I’ve gotten to learn how to be comfortable being on stage, but singing and playing at the same time is definitely a learned art, and I was definitely not perfect at that. The beauty of an open mic is that it’s a very friendly arena to share your material; everyone is there to support you and you can come with whatever material you want and share it. I got to the point where I had a consistent crowd of folks, not big, but it’s a confidence-booster nonetheless. Gradually you figure out how to be more confident up there. I played plenty of benefit concerts as word got out that I was performing and was pleased to do plenty of that. So yeah, Ben, I guess that’s where I got my start. I knew I wasn’t going to downtown Ithaca — I wasn’t and am still not ready to play for some big crowd. Starting small is what I need.

Ben: Thanks, J. I guess the big question on your listeners’ minds is Nashville. So let’s talk about Nashville. Big move? What do you think you’ll gain from it? (Not denigrating Nashville, just asking) Where do you see your career going from here? Where would you like it to go?’ And why Nashville? You’re a native New Yorker, right? Why Nashville over NYC? You’re not a country musician as far as I’ve been able to tell, so I’m genuinely curious why Nashville is your destination of choice rather than NYC. Haha, sort of a confusedly multi-tiered question there. Answer in order of preference, if you would.

[Ed: Juliana is moving to Nashville, Tennessee to pursue music full-time at the beginning of November. Hiding the lede maybe, but we get into some really cool stuff from here on out]

Juliana: Where I’m looking to see my career go… unless you’re someone who aspires to have platinum-selling CDs, I think it’s tough to really quantify success in music. For me it’s a matter of mapping out a plan where I can check in and see progress. At the end of the day, what I would love to have is just a career playing music, being able to support myself and make a living as a musician. I want to be able to travel, perform, and have no aspirations to being über-famous. A small and dedicated following would make me extremely happy; if I can do that for ten years and then go back to design, I’ll consider it a worthwhile experiment. I guess it’s a test to see how badly I want it. I’ve never been in a position where music has been my full-time focus. Frankly, it’s always been sort of a hobby. But now? I’m putting myself in a place where it’s the sole focus and I have to make contacts, write all the time, find producers, et cetera. I think you have to be committed to put yourself in that place. If I’m not committed in my heart of hearts, I’ll be able to tell pretty quickly. It’s been easy to let music hang out at the level it has been, but if I’m surrounded by it everyday and there’s no fire, no drive, no progress, I’ll know.

I’m excited to get down to a city that’s purely about music. Everyone asks me what my plan is, and the honest answer is that I don’t really have a concrete plan; I’m not going down there into the open arms of a huge record label. But that’s okay, I’m so new to the industry and don’t want to waltz into something I can’t get myself out of. I really just want to engage in the musical community as much as I can. It will be exciting to throw myself into it. I’ve never really co-written with other musicians, I’ve never really played with anyone on a consistent basis. I really just want to engage the local musical community, meet other writers, artists, producers, and tap into in the wealth of knowledge in the industry.

One thing I’ve been learning is that there’s really no right way to approach it, the flipside being there’s no wrong way either — if I can be wise and learn from those around me, I can avoid missteps and focus on immersing myself in the community as much as possible. I don’t want to go down there and flail around for six months. It’s going to be interesting.

Ben: Right on. So what’s the impetus really? It’s a big leap.

Juliana: Why am I doing this? A lot of it stems from my snowboarding accident, to be honest. It’s a fantastic perspective to break your back ha. Life is short. Basically, if you’re not doing something that makes you happy, you should change something. I’m not content at this stage of my life to spend my week working at a computer. There have been enough little things nudging me to saying “you can do this” and that there’s really nothing for me to lose. I’m young. It’s so easy to say no to your dreams, to let life get in your way, get stuck on whatever trajectory you’ve been on since high school; to say “I’m not happy doing this” and change is something I don’t think enough people let themselves do.

As far as Nashville goes, I honestly thought I was going to go to NYC after school. I figured I’d move down to New York, get a job at a big architecture firm and do music on the side. But then I really realized this past year working at a smaller firm; it’s damn near impossible to do both. You’d either have to have a shit ton of money or a drug problem to do both, and I don’t really have either of those right now [laughs]. I love the city, I visit it often, but it’s a little too fast, a little too big and it stresses me out. And it’s fucking expensive! I want to put myself somewhere where I can afford to do music full time, time-wise and money-wise.

Nashville just kept popping up on my radar. I had the opportunity to host a great folk band — The Kopecky Family Band— while they were in my part of the state and needed somewhere to crash. It was amazing to have this talented six-piece band come to stay with me, such a blast. We ended up just staying up late, drinking a lot of wine and talking about everything. I really got to pick their brains about their musical journey and life in Nashville — all I heard from them was how wonderful it was, which was one of the first triggers.

This past summer, I sent myself on a road trip, wanting to check out Nashville and Austin; while Austin is an amazing city with a great music culture, Nashville ultimately just spoke to me. Everyone I met wanted to know my story and hear about my work and really reached out to me. It’s cool. You can go out anywhere and chances are 85% of the people you meet are in music. And they’re all such wonderful people. That’s really what I was initially taken by. Nashville, here I come!

[Ed: Juliana’s direct quote from her website has this to say, which I think relevant, revealing and not out-of-line to reprint as a journalist regarding her perspective about moving to Nashville: “It’s exciting. And it’s scary. I oscillate between being thrilled to absolute death and shaking in my boots at the thought of it. But I figure, I won’t be young and brazen and foolishly in love with my dreams forever, so I’m going for it. Life is short. I don’t want to look back on all this and regret never having tried. So, there you have it. I just told everyone. All of you, right here! No turning back now.”

Ben: Okay some fun random questions:

I asked you this last year, but it’s always a good question. What’s your ear candy right now?

Juliana: I’m listening to a lot of The Tallest Man on Earth — Dylan reincarnated in my opinion, and I absolutely adore his music. I think my next cover will be one of his songs. I love the new Fiona Apple album; glad she resurfaced. I really love The Lumineers. Feist. Josh Ritter. First Aid Kit. Don’t get me started, I’m so bad at this question. Basically, I’m following my interests and listening to random European folk music, making eclectic Spotify playists — like Julie Fowlis, for instance. Ha, I’m just listening to some strange folk music and whatever catches my fancy.

Ben: In the photo on your website, it looks like you have some ink on your left shoulder. Anything you’d care to discuss?

(Ed: I thought this was the most interesting part of our entire conversation; not to minimize anything else we discussed, but this has to be one of the most thought-out responses to a question I almost didn’t ask.)

Juliana: Of course! I have two. There’s a circle on my left shoulder blade and a triangle on the inside of my right ankle. They represent my two poles, the self-continuum I operate on if you will. The triangle is structurally the most sound geometric shape, and it represents all the parts of my life that are very stable, grounded, steadfast. It’s on the right side of my body, as the left side of the brain — the more logical, analytical, “mathy” side of the brain — controls the right side of the body. It’s on my ankle because it anchors me and grounds me. The circle on my back is the opposite. It’s the more spontaneous, independent, free side of me. And it’s on the left side, which is controlled by the more creative and artistic right side of the brain. Both of those run very strongly in me: I can be very grounded and logical, plan things meticulously. You know, the girl who got straight As and practically dated her planner in high school, got two degrees from a really good university and freakishly color-codes her closet. Which is the same girl who loves to paint and make music and shaved her head once and never makes her bed and is leaving a good stable job to dive into the musical unknown. That’s me, all of it. And for me to be most at peace, I have to acknowledge both sides of who I am. The design nerd in me thinks the shapes themselves are (Ed: Juliana laughs) just very cool, but there’s also this added dichotomy to each of them that I love. The triangle, while structurally the strongest and most stable shape is also the delta symbol, meaning change. And the circle, while infinite and complete in-and-of itself is also zero. Everything and nothing all at once. Beautiful.

Ben: Again, thank you Juliana for the time. Check out her music at the aforementioned locations and make sure to follow me @destroy_time.

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~ by Benji on 21 October 2012.

2 Responses to “Juliana Richer Daily take two”

  1. […] be remiss not to post this, but the very same Juliana Richer Daily whom I interviewed below (and earlier) somehow found time to record her cover of The Tallest Man on Earth‘s […]

    Like

  2. Every weekend i used to visit this site, because i want enjoyment, as this this web site conations genuinely fastidious funny data too.

    Like

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