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TC in Conversation with Julia Cole

Julia Cole made her UK debut back in 2016 at The Troubadour in London and returned earlier this year playing Pizza Express Live in Holborn but now in November 2019 she has returned for a more extensive tour of Europe playing dates opening up for James Barker Band in England, Scotland, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Germany and Switzerland along with a now SOLD OUT full band headline show at Buck N’ Bull Saloon in London.

I think that my favourite part about being in the UK and Europe or just out of America in general is not just how old everything us but how people respect and remember. America is just really young, it’s a baby country compared to everywhere else and I’m just fascinated by history. When I get over here I get on this European history kick, I’m just enthralled by these crazy stories about things that really happened and how countries formed then culturally it’s so different to what I’m used to which is probably my favourite part, just really feeling like I’m somewhere else. Before you leave America you kind of live in a bubble so how would you know how different things are?

2019 has been a big year with her breakout single ‘Trust You’ amassing over a million streams and just last week released 2 new singles which there is hope will continue to build on this success with ‘Be Where We Are’ and ‘Call It’ which you can find HERE. Julia talked about how the music she has in her locker, was almost created as a collective but is looking to release it gradually because:

Singles are easier to promote, musically one song at a time for me and I think when I released that first single in February, I had no idea that it was going to take off the way that it did and break a million streams then really started getting recognised. I think the way that a lot of people are doing it is releasing singles and once you have enough content, putting them together as a project. So I kinda recorded this project as one thing but instead of releasing it at once, just breaking it down so I can give each song the attention that it deserves. Even this past Friday when I released 2 singles it’s so difficult to balance and feel I’m showing one more love than the other so that’s what is hard about releasing multiple songs at once especially if it’s 5 or 6 or an album of 10, how do you get them all the love that they deserve?

All three singles released in 2019 are songs that she has both co-written and co-produced so has been involved in the entire process resulting in both releasing and performing on stage. Some artists feel their calling is tailored more towards one avenue over the others but Cole feels her perspective is right down the middle and has the equal high priority on all aspects.

I think it’s a pretty even split. I couldn’t pick one or the other if I had to and I think if someone sent me a song that I didn’t write that I thought was incredible I would still want to perform it! I still want to spread a positive message or an empowering message even if I didn’t write it but I’m thankful that I also have the ability to write songs, so I love both and I’m not precious about it.

This current run of European dates with James Barker Band with the exception of her headline show in London (which will have a full band) just involves her on stage on her own where she does have the opportunity to connect with the audiences that we so regularly hear are very prepared to actively listen and absorb everything about the songs which she said “I love playing acoustic shows and I feel I can still spread the word of my music with just me and my guitar.” This was clearly evident during the second show of the tour at Bush Hall when due to some technical problems with the sound she resorted to going completely unplugged and had that big old ballroom completely captivated as both a storyteller and vocalist. Her sound is recognisable then her likeability and delivery on stage draws you in to want to hear more and the UK audience in this setting do hang on every word or want to sing them back to her on what is only her third show over here and having people knowing the words “It just validates you as a songwriter because the message that I’m getting across is resonating with people.” The flip-side to this is what she can bring with a full intensity show with a live band as she is a lot of fun and will absolutely bring it for anyone that has managed to get a ticket for the Buck N’ Bull show in Islington:

I think it’s fun that I get to do both this trip because I like to have like the party crazy shows but they each make you respect the other. In the sitting and listening shows you feel your songs are getting more valued but with the party ones you can just feel like you’re providing people with like the best night of their life with people celebrating. So going back and forward, I like both.

Julia has been in Nashville for 7 years now as she moved there back in 2012 and the city has changed dramatically over that time and is a completely different place to when she moved there but talked about how it has changed in the best possible way! The reason is because the city is becoming so popular with everyone making a tour stop there, the NFL Draft, CMA Fest and how there is always something happening every night as even in London it is still all about the weekends still. “Monday nights are popping! Wednesday is the closest thing to an off night” which the beauty of all this is you don’t have to do too much to convince friends to come and visit! Beyond the city being so vibrant she emphasised it being a city full of ‘transplants’ like herself that are not originally from Nashville so with a vast number of people arriving every day in a similar position it is so welcoming that people instantly make a lot of new friends as soon as they move there. This is something you pick up very quickly from talking to her that she is a very social creature that loves to make new friends and connecting with people so the city really is a perfect fit for her.

However her upbringing like so many people in Nashville for music is outside of Tennessee. Hailing from Texas and the 4th most populated city in the United States, Houston which is a vibrant musical city with really strong connections across the entire genre spectrum. Country music is huge in Texas and the ‘Texas Country’ scene is amazing yet very different to Nashville then on the other side there is such a large urban music scene through rap, hip-hop and R&B so there is a lot that people can incorporate into a sound and be influenced by. Beyonce who is one of the biggest names in all music was born and raised in Houston which also was where Lizzo who right now is the hottest property on the planet began her craft as a performer so it is natural to be looking into these different styles that take place in the city without just being constrained to making country as would be typically expected amongst the Texas scene. Cole has a very distinct style that pulls all of these influences together, when you become familiar with her as a musician you can listen to a track and think that sounds like a Julia Cole song based on melody and arrangement which is quite significant to try and stand out whilst still remaining true the the heart of the music being country.

I think it just kind of pulls from the different influences of music in Houston. Beyonce is from there and hip hop artists like Slim Thug as well as all the Texas or country musicians. Then I grew up in an area where pop music is pretty big too so my playlists growing up were all having so many different sounds across so many genres so I feel like I learnt to respect each of them for what their strength is and pick my favourite pieces of each one. I love the beats from hip hop, I love the melodies and vocal arrangements of R&B then I love the lyrical content of country!

Her other great love outside of music like many Texans is sport (unfortunately not the pair of Texas sides I really would normally like to be talking about yet she did unsuccessfully try to convince me that I should ditch the Cowboys and Rangers but my Dallas love goes way beyond our often imitated, never equalled, internationally acclaimed Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders) and this trip to the UK began with seeing a win for the Houston Texans over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium which was obviously a nice feeling compared to seeing her other team The Astros being the first side to ever lose all 4 games at home in The World Series a few days prior than she said was both confusing and upsetting for the baseball fans in the city. The love of live sport is more evident when we discussed the hypothetical parallel universe currently co-existing in another dimension which hopefully will one day transfer onto this world’s lower Broadway where it is the girls who have celebrity bars in Downtown Nashville (which she loved answering this):

It’s called the Cole Team Sports Bar, we’ve already talked about it. It’s gonna be on Broadway or what could be even crazier would be on the river like a casino boat!

Her connection to the teams in Houston is much deeper than just as a fan due to being a regular performer of the National Anthem before fixtures for a number of years and as recently as 2 weeks ago before the Texans home game against the Oakland Raiders. For anyone reading this in the States, you may not be aware that in the UK we don’t typically have the National Anthem performed before domestic sports matches that are not a major final (the NFL International Series is the exception where both God Save The Queen and The Star-Spangled Banner are performed prior to the game) so was curious to find out if there are gains to be made in regard to a fan-base with performing on the field.

It’s an OK way to gain fans but a great way to excite fans that already know you. So when people see you singing the anthem after they have heard you sing on Spotify or follow you on Instagram they can be like oh that’s who she is! It’s a good way to stay relevant I suppose. You respect the song, I try and keep it really consistent but as well as being respectful to the song you still try and make it your own without being too crazy. It’s been crazy, I’ve been doing these for like who knows how long and when I did it last Sunday for the Texans at home, that was the most people that had come up to me or stopped me in the hallway which was because of ‘Trust You’ which shows the music is actually getting heard.

My first discovery of Julia Cole came through social media, which is such a powerful way for artists to connect with their fans but also to find new artists by association, writing or playing shows with other people that you are already aware of. This for me came through Kalie Shorr and Song Suffragettes at The Listening Room which is one of a number of things happening in Nashville looking to highlight women in country music and make the conversation relevant about the disparity in opportunity between the genders.

I think the founding of that group was really cool to showcase how many girls are that talented and in the pool and there’s been a lot of different companies in town: there’s been a change the conversation movement where a few different companies started to not just complain about things but bring up the data, pull up the analytics, pull up what’s going on and why it’s going on. I’m not gonna lie but I think over the last couple of years the music has gotten better, I think rather than complaining a lot of girls have just stepped up their game. I’ve been listening to all of the up and coming female artists and there are a lot more, I mean I’m friends with everybody but there’s a lot more now that I’m genuinely a fan of, not just the big ones. It feels like it’s more authentic and not all trying to sound the same.

From listening to and seeing a lot more of the girls this is something I definitely agree with as the bar is constantly raising for what people are doing whether that be performing, writing, producing or creative emphasis on what is coming out of music city. One view may be that the difficulties faced regarding country radio and exposure of female artists drives this rather than trying to fit what has traditionally been expected but more and more of these girls are using every inch of creativity to bring their A Game in every level to do just do what is the best fit for themselves regardless of any potential impairment.

I think for some women, that is what they are doing but for me it’s just doing what I feel I have to do. It’s exactly the combination of my favourite different types, some of my songs are right down the middle that may fit for country radio but that’s just how they came out rather than intending to produce them that way.

Production is something that Cole is really big on and you do get that from listening to her music as her sound is recognisable and not just vocally but how she wants a song to sound which impacts the way it is expressed in a recording. Being involved in the production side of recording allows a vision and perspective to be explained which as she described streamlines the process of communication because she knows what she wants something to sound like and how to explain something in particular which only comes with spending as much time as possible in the room and being actively involved in discussions.

If it doesn’t sound the way I want it to sound, I know why and I know what to change where as if I hadn’t spent the time learning production I would understand what was missing or was too much.

The UK and Europe is an interesting and intriguing market for Nashville right now where over recent years that commitment over here pays off when this fan-base invests in an artist. I feel she is definitely someone that fans will connect with over here with her style and her personality that will be able to excite audiences either acoustically or with a full band. There is something that is a bit different with what she does, that bit of swag whilst still offering the relatability and core as a country artist that people crave.

There are further UK dates to catch her on this tour with James Barker Band for shows in Glasgow and Newcastle along with the sold out show next Friday at Elektrowerkz in London. Julia has the added pull to our capital as her elder sister Kristin now lives in London, who (as much as Julia would love to smuggle her back to Nashville with her) is due to get married next year so we can be pretty sure she will not be shy to make the trip to this side of the Atlantic again if you don’t manage to catch her on this tour. In the meantime fans everywhere can join the #ColeTeam and keep up to date with Julia Cole on her Instagram / Facebook / Twitter


Annette Gibbons
Hi, I’m Annette, I have been a huge country music fan since the early 90s those were the days we were lucky enough to have CMT in the UK. I enjoy nothing more than listening to country music whilst having a cold beer (or a moonshine) with friends. I try to as many gigs as I can here in the UK and in the USA; I think of Nashville as my second home and I am lucky to have made some amazing friends in Tennessee. Think Country is something I am very proud of, I just want to share my love and passion of all things country music related with you all.
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