Julia Stone going it alone
After the stratospheric success of their sophomore album Down The Way, it would have been easy for Angus and Julia Stone to maintain the same trajectory, rest on their laurels and continue to be Australia's favourite sibling musical duo.
However, after almost two years solid on the road together, during which the pair achieved nearly every accolade the Australian music industry has to offer, from a swag of ARIAs and Platinum certifications to Triple J’s coveted top spot in the Hottest 100 in 2011 for their single Big Jet Plane, both Angus and Julia have returned to their roots as solo artists with fresh offerings in 2012.
Cairns will get a chance to experience Julia Stone’s album By The Horns in full effect at the Tanks this Sunday (in turn, Angus will present Broken Brights in December), and as Hit found out recently, the ever-lovely Julia is loving the challenge of standing on her own again.
“When we both started playing music and writing songs, we saw ourselves as separate artists. That did sort of unravel a bit when we started having success together, but it happened of its own accord. We just started doing backup vocals for each other on our own shows, almost as a matter of a convenience. But it turned into a fun thing for us, both being on the stage together and there is something really easy about having Angus on stage, and for him having me on stage, I think.”
However ‘easy’ isn’t something that either Angus and Julia are interested in too much, preferring to challenge their craft rather than allowing it to become stagnant.
Their recent solo endeavours are by no means the last we’ll see from them together, but Julia says she and Angus felt like a challenge was in order after two years on the road together.
“It could be really easy, with the success Angus and me have had together,” she says.
“But I guess we’re both not really the kind of people to make life easy for ourselves. We’re just ready for another challenge. We’re really comfortable on stage together and it was getting a bit too familiar for a while. We’d gone as far as we wanted to go with each other for that period of time. I was talking to him last night on the phone about how different it was getting on stage without each other. We were just laughing about when it’s just yourself, you really have to put yourself in that place that it’s your show. You have to own it and be confident, if you struggle with what you’re doing, there is no one to fall back on.”
However, defining herself as an artist in her own right has never been something Julia has struggled with and she says she’s loved the freedom of creating a work in her own right again. Everything, from the creative process behind By The Horns to the songs themselves are very different.
“To be honest, I think that the most fortunate thing about what we are doing now, is that it’s different,” she says.
“I think if Angus and I had made another record, there would have been more pressure to make another successful record. But what we’re doing now are entirely different things, there isn’t a connection to Angus and Julia Stone except that it’s us. The way I create and work in the studio has its own way, my head doesn’t even go into Angus and Julia at all. It takes away any possible potential pressure and actually makes you think what success is and what it means.
We’ve been really lucky with all our s--- and I never feel success has affected our work in a real way. It’s not like we’re the kind of people who walk down the street with people following us to take photos, or if they do, we don’t notice. Of course there are a few little things here and there, but it’s pretty mild.”
A perfect example of the freedom Julia was feeling in the recording process was one of her favourite songs on the album – Justine.
Perhaps defining not only the whole album, but the mindset behind it, the Utopian ideals of Justine are Julia Stone stripped back to the core.
“I probably wouldn’t say it’s my ‘favourite’, but I’m really enjoying Justine at the moment,” she says.
“I think it’s just because it was a song that came out of nowhere, there wasn’t really a story behind it, just something I imagined. It was a really unexpected song in the studio, I didn’t know how it was going to turn out. I was still making up lyrics as I went along with recording it. The funny thing is, I thought I’ll try this thing and if it works out, I’ll put it on. It ended up sounding to me more concise, I love the shape of the melodics and what I can do with my voice.
“The feeling of how it feels to sing that song is kinda like the thought behind a dream: maybe there is a place where one day we go and people are really just kind to each other. I don’t know if it exists, but a Utopia is not that difficult for me to imagine. I know it’s not gonna happen in my lifetime, but I do think it’s in the human nature to be kind. I feel like when I talk about kindness in my lyrics, I like being able to sing about that, even if it’s just for myself. It reminds myself of what’s important, this very basic human quality.”
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Solo effort: Julia Stone is relishing the challenge of singing solo.