Tag: Macy Gray

Interview: A Q&A with I AM SNOW ANGEL’s Julie Kathryn

Julie Kathryn is a New York-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, sound designer, producer and creative mastermind behind I AM SNOW ANGEL, a critically applauded solo recording project that has received critical praise from the likes of Huffington PostIndie ShuffleMagnetic MagazineCreem MagazineRefinery 29All Things Go and others.

The acclaimed New York-based artist and producer has developed a reputation as a highly sought after sound designer and producer working with Ableton and Splice.com – and she’s the co-founder of Female Frequency, a musical collective dedicated to empowering women and girls in the music industry.

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Photo Credit: Julia Drummond

TowerOfSONG

Last year, Julie Kathryn released her I AM SNOW ANGEL full-length debut MOTHERSHIP. Recorded in a cabin in the wintry Adirondack woods, the album is a concept album that touched upon themes of isolation, longing, love, paranoia and the paranormal. Since, the release of MOTHERSHIP, the New York-based artist, producer, sound designer has managed to be rather busy: she gave birth to her first child, collaborated on Sophie Colette’s attention-grabbing “In Love a Little,” and continuing on the momentum of a rather big year for her both personally and professionally, the New York-based recently released a gorgeous and spectral cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song,” featuring shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars, atmospheric synths and Julie Kathryn’s vocals. Interestingly, her interpretation of the song is centered around a plaintive yearning and vulnerability.

I recently exchanged emails with the I AM SNOW ANGEL mastermind for this edition of the JOVM Q&A. For this interview, we discuss the difficult balance of one’s creative live with being a parent, her collaboration with Sophie Colette, leveling the playing field for women producers and of course, her aforementioned cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song.” Additionally, as a result of governments across the world closing bars, restaurants, nightclubs and music venues to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the impact on the music industry – especially on small and mid-sized independent venues and the indie touring artists, who grace their stages has been devastating. Much like the other artists, I’ve interviewed this year, I’ll continue to ask artists how they’re getting by, how they’re keeping busy and of course, how this period is impacting their careers.

Julie Kathryn’s full-length album Mothership and her rendition of “Tower of Song” – and below the jump, check out the interview.

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WRH: You’re a new mommy. So before we start: Happy belated Mother’s Day. How do you balance the obligations and responsibilities of motherhood with your creative and professional life?

Julie Kathryn: Thank you! Being a mother is wonderful. It’s definitely been challenging to balance everything. Taking care of a baby feels like a full time job, as I expected it would, but I didn’t realize all the ways that I personally would be changed by motherhood – emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Everything feels different now. I’m finding a way to make music in this new normal and I’m excited to see how it turns out.

 WRH: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions in almost every aspect of our lives. For most of us, the seemingly indefinite fear, anxiety, uncertainty, loneliness and boredom of the past few months of social distancing and quarantines have been overwhelming. How have you been holding up?  How have you been keeping busy? Binge watching anything?

 JK: This is such a strange and uncertain time. I try to make a gratitude list every day to keep me balanced and thankful, particularly for my health. Also, I’m lucky that I have a clear and immediate purpose right now – to take care of my son! He keeps me focused and in the moment. I’m very grateful to be able to spend this time with him. In my free time, when I can find some, I make music, practice yoga and yes, binge watch! Dead to Me (Netflix) and Breeders (FX) are two of my recent favorites.

 WRH: How did you get into music?

JK: I’ve always been very musical. I took piano lessons as a kid. I taught myself how to play the guitar during high school. For a while, I was an acoustic/Americana singer-songwriter. Eventually, I started engineering and producing my own material, and it became much more electronic. That’s how this project – I AM SNOW ANGEL – was born.

WRH: How would you describe your sound for those, who may be unfamiliar with I Am Snow Angel?

 Dream pop. Melodic, electronic. Ambient and earthy at the same time.

 WRH: Who are your influences?

 JK: For this project, I was definitely inspired by Imogen Heap, Portishead, The Postal Service, Massive Attack, and other electronic and trip hop acts. Over the years, there are a lot of songwriters that I’ve studied, like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Bill Withers. The National is a band whose albums I’ve played on repeat for months at a time. I also love the artistry of Thom Yorke, Lou Reed, David Lynch. I love moody electronic soundscapes by artists like Trentemøller and The Knife, and 80s synth /new wave music like Roxy Music and Yaz. I also spent a lot of time listening to late 90s female R&B —  Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, Macy Gray.  The list goes on and on and it’s hard to encapsulate it.

WRH: Who are you listening to right now?

JK: Today, I’m listening to meditative sounds – Max Richter, Brian Eno. Recently, I’ve also been listening to rootsy alternative rock (Wilco, Neko Case, Sharon Van Etten).

 WRH: Earlier this year, you collaborated with Sophie Colette on “In Love a Little.” As you know, I wrote about the song earlier this year – and in a lengthy statement for the song, Colette wrote:

“Working with Julie was an amazing experience – it was very hands on and communicative. We sat side by side and made decisions together from the tracing to the comping to the mixing. I learned so much about Ableton and the possibility of different soundscapes that could be created outside of traditional instrumentation.

 It became apparent to me, that working with a female producer, who inherently applied these types of sounds to her own work, came with the advantage of being able to feel the same nuances of emotion without having to explain them to each other. Each session was an open-ended conversation and quite nurturing to be honest. Something about that female-to-female energy in a room is really powerful when the ego isn’t there.”

How was it like to collaborate with Sophie Colette? Do you find it easier to collaborate with women artists and producers?

JK: Working with Sophie was a lot of fun. I really like how our collaboration turned out. We were able to tease out some interesting emotional undertones in her song. I remember her showing me moody photos of an urban landscape at night in the aftermath of a storm, with the city’s colored lights reflecting in puddles on the dark streets.  She said, “this is my inspiration for the bridge.” We spent the day sonically recreating this idea, and it became the soundscape for the bridge of her song. It was a really organic process. I do end up working with a lot of female artists, and I find that we often have similar communication styles and a shared experience of coming up in the music industry.

WRH: How do we level the playing field, so that there are more women producers?

JK: For me, being visible as a female producer who can do it all – instrumentation, engineering, sound design, mixing – is important. When I was starting out in production, it really helped me to see other women who were doing it. Also, when I work with other artists, I share my knowledge and encourage them to learn production and engineering, in whatever capacity is appealing to them.

 WRH: What advice would you give for women artists and producers trying to make it?

JK: Have fun!! The process of producing music is intense and quite involved, so it needs to be a fulfilling one. If the production process is merely viewed as a means to an end (ie, the finished product), it’s more likely to feel like a chore or an insurmountable feat. But, if the very act of creating music is thrilling and emotionally rewarding, the finished product is just the icing on the cake – a bonus. Don’t worry about doing it “right.” There are many ways to produce music. When possible, seek out mentors and collaborators who support and elevate you.

WRH: You recently released a slow-burning and atmospheric cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song.” What drew you to the song?

JK: I love Leonard Cohen. His songwriting and performance style have inspired me for a long time.  I first visited the song a few years back when my dear friend Gus Rodriguez (he performs under the name Silbin Sandovar and is a wonderful musician, talent buyer, and connector of artists in NYC and beyond) asked me to cover a few Leonard Cohen songs in a tribute show he was putting together. I immediately felt connected to the lyrical content of this song, to the existential themes of isolation and loneliness that Cohen associated with being a songwriter.

 WRH: Instead of a straightforward note-by-note cover, you turn Cohen’s song into your song. Was that an intentional decision – and was that a difficult thing to do, considering how beloved his work is?

JK: It wasn’t really intentional. It felt very natural for me to re-imagine the song in this way, and I didn’t overthink it.

 WRH: So what’s next for you?

JK: I’m working on a new EP. In some ways, it’s a sequel to MOTHERSHIP, which I put out last year. So far, it feels ambient, emotional and layered. We’ll see where it goes. I’ll keep you posted. And thank you for talking with me!!

New Video: Pom Poms Return with Sultry and Psychedelic Visuals for “Gimme You”

With the release of their debut single “Betty” and “123” the Los Angeles-based duo Pom Poms, comprised of singer/songwriter and frontwoman, the mononymic Marlene and Grammy-nominated producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Billy Mohler, who is known for his work with Awolnation, Liz Phair, Kelly Clarkson, and Macy Gray, were quickly thrust into the national spotlight for a sound that owes a debt from classic garage rock and pop such as Connie Francis, Pasty Cline, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, the girl groups of the early 60s and others; however, lyrically, the material drew from Marlene’s own personal experiences, covering a wide spectrum of emotions from yearning, loss, perseverance, lust, desire, coquettish flirting and just wanting to have a good time with a very modern, unguarded frankness while possessing a loose, off-the-cuff, improvised feel. And as a result, of the early buzz the band received, they opened for The Psychedelic Furs and went on a West Coast tour with The Mowgli’s.

That off-the-cuff, loose feel has filtered into the duo’s highly-anticipated full-length debut Turn You Out, as you’ll hear on the album’s first official single, the sultry, late night, come hither, come on “Gimme You,” a song that’s essentially about being desperately lonely and lusting for someone so badly that you crave them and their loving– to the point that you’re trying to set up a booty call; but in the case, of “Gimme You,” Marlene’s vocals posses a subtle hint of menace, that conveys the idea that the song’s narrator gets what she wants — by any means necessary, if possible. Sonically, the single will further cement the duo’s reputation for crafting soulful and gritty 60s-inspired pop reminiscent of Amy Winehouse, thanks in part to its incredibly transgressive feel.

The recently released video for “Gimme You” is deeply indebted to both the mod 60s and psych 60s as it features Pom Poms frontwoman broodingly posing, dancing and singing in front of a projection screen featuring psychedelic imagery — and in a some way, the video feels voyeuristic, as though the viewer is watching the act’s frontman putting on a burlesque-like tease for someone else, who’s off-screen.

Growing up listening to an eclectic variety of music including Patti Labelle, Jill Scott, Bob James, Stevie Wonder, D’Angelo, Bjork and The Black Crowes among others, up-and-coming, Edmonton, AB-born, Toronto, ON-based soul artist Tanika Charles quickly developed a reputation locally as an emerging solo artist, whose puts a modern spin on the classic Motown soul sound — frequently meshing it with swaggering, hip-hop-like beats and deeply, confessional and honest lyrics, reminiscent of Mary J. Blige, Kelis and others. And as a result, within Canada’s soul scene, Charles has largely been considered her country’s next big thing; in fact, interestingly enough, over the past couple of years Charles transformed from being an emerging solo artist to being a commanding performer and bandleader, as well as one of the scene’s staples. Adding to a growing national profile, Charles has collaborated with Estelle, Lauryn Hill and Macy Gray, and has made regular appearances on CTV, Global and CBC Radio.

Produced by Slakah the Beatchild, best known for collaborating with Drake, Charles’ latest single “Soul Run” is the first single off her self-titled, full-length album, slated for an April 7, 2017 release through Italian soul label, Record Kicks, and the single will further cement the Edmonton-born, Toronto-based singer/songwriter’s burgeoning reputation for crafting confessional lyrics based around her own personal experiences with “Soul Run” based around Charles’ experience of feeling trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship in rural Canada — until she decided to “borrow” her then fiancée’s car and left for Toronto to start her music career, never looking back. Considering the personal nature of the song, Charles as the song’s narrator expresses regret over her own foolishness that wound up with her being hopelessly trapped in an abusive and fucked up relationship and desperate desire to get away and start over. You can almost picture Charles, jumping into the car with whatever possessions she could manage and hitting the road without an idea of where she was going or what would happen — and yet feeling true freedom to do whatever she wanted.

 

 

 

New Video: REMI Teams Up with Sampa The Great on Wild, Surreal and Heartbreaking Night in Melbourne

Remi is a 23 year-old Melbourne, Australia-based emcee and along with collaborator and producer Sensible J, the duo have quickly risen to national and international prominence with 2014 being the duo’s breakthrough year as their Raw X Infinity was critically […]

Guaranteed that if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past month or so, that you would have come across a couple of posts on the Los Angeles-based duo Pom Poms. Comprised of singer/songwriter Marlene and Grammy-nominated producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Billy Mohler, who is probably best known for his work with AwolnationLiz PhairKelly Clarkson, and Macy Gray, the duo have been thrust into the national spotlight for a sound that owes a debt from classic garage rock and pop such as Connie FrancisPasty ClineRoy OrbisonJohnny Cash, the girl groups of the early 60s and others —  but with a subtly modern (and anachronistic) twist that makes the sound seem as though it could have been part of a a Quentin Tarantino film.

The duo’s debut single “Betty” first gained the attention across the blogosphere for a subtly scuzzy, lo-fi-like garage-based guitar rock sound that would make you think of the aforementioned Roy Robison and Buddy Holly the song possesses a similar urgent and swooning Romanticism. The heartache expressed by Marlene’s aching vocals is a heartache that we all have known at some point — being desperately in love with a fickle and thoughtless lover, who you know will inevitably break your heart. Following up on the buzz from “Betty,” the duo released a hushed and spectral alternate version of Betty that featured Marlene’s vocals paired with a sparse arrangement that includes a subtly Bossa Nova guitar line. Sonically, the alternate version channels Patsy Cline — in par — in particular, “Crazy” and “Walkin After Midnight.” And as a result, the alternate version aches with a similar desperate loneliness and longing.

Pom Poms latest single “123,” is a swinging and swaggering 60s-inspired soul song in which the song’s narrator describes playing a cat-and-mouse game with a potential suitor, who the song’s narrator sets upon having as hers and hers only. And as a result, Marlene’s sultry and soulful vocals possesses a come hither and stop wasting my damn time quality. Sonically, the song pairs Marlene’s vocals with period specific staccato bursts of organ,  propulsive rhythms and some funky guitar chords; thematically (and to my ears), I’m reminded of several songs including Amy Winehouse‘s “Rehab,” and Nancy Sinatra‘s “These Boots Are Made For Walking,” as the song possesses a similar brassy confidence.

 

New Video: Pom Poms’ Super 8 Film Channeling Video for “Betty (Alternate Version)”

  If you’ve been following JOVM over the past two weeks or so, you may recall that I’ve written about Los Angeles-based duo Pom Poms. Comprised of singer/songwriter Marlene and Grammy-nominated producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Billy Mohler, who is probably […]

New Audio: The Spectral and Aching, Alternate Version of Pom Poms’ “Betty”

Comprised of singer/songwriter Marlene and Grammy-nominated producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Billy Mohler, who is probably best known for his work with Awolnation, Liz Phair, Kelly Clarkson, and Macy Gray, the Los Angeles-based duo Pom Poms have […]