Alex Julia – Interview

 Linda Buongermino: It was a pleasure seeing you the other night at Bowery Electric. It was an exciting night for you. Was it the first time you played there?

Alex Julia:  Yeah, it was my first time at that venue.

LB:  What do you think about it?

AJ:  I really liked it. I liked that it was a smaller kind of intimate room. It was kind of different than what I’m used to.

LB:  Do you usually play bigger venues?

AJ:  I’ve played other small places, too. But this was a little bit smaller. This was my first set with a drummer. It was a different dynamic, because we had played little sets here and there. 

LB:  Do you have a band you play with or are you usually solo?

AJ:  I usually do solo acoustic. And recently, I just got a drummer. So I’ve been doing it like a full band kind of gig with the drummer. So it kind of depends on the vibe. I do collaborate with other artists and I would like to have a full band at some point. 

LB: The drummer was very good, by the way. 

AJ:  Thank you. 

LB: Do you write most of your own music?

AJ:  I write all of my music. I do have a lot of help with the production of my music, but all the chords of music and lyrics are all composed by me.

LB:  I heard you say something the other night at your gig. Does writing and singing these songs, that come from angst or “shit,” as you mentioned you go through, help with healing? Is it your therapy?

AJ:  I forgot I said that! Yeah, for sure. It’s very cathartic for me. It’s definitely been a form of therapy. I’m really very introverted too, so its always been my way of just expressing my emotions. And I think I’ve gotten better at it. But it definitely started as an angsty teenage kind of thing, where I would just let out all my emotions.

LB:  It’s funny you say you’re very introverted. I hear that from a lot of musicians. But you play in front of an audience filled with people. How do you maneuver around that?

AJ:  I kind of become like a different person when I’m on stage, and I just really get into the zone. And then nothing really else matters at the moment, except for the performance. So I almost kind of tune out the audience. I do try to feed off their energy as well, but there are times where I just disassociate. I would just jam it, you know?

LB:  Is it scary to open yourself up like that, because when you do so your songs are basically letting everyone know the issues that are going on? 

AJ:  It is, my songs are very personal. And a lot of them are very literal as well. So it took me a long time to put my music out officially. I didn’t put out my songs on platforms until a couple of years ago, and I have been writing for over a decade. And then at some point, I was like, “You know what, I’m just gonna release it. I’m just gonna do it.” So it definitely is scary. But it’s also very rewarding once you hear people say that they relate to what you are saying. That definitely helps a lot getting that feedback from people.

LB: As you grow and experience life, how does your music change?

AJ:  I think my songwriting has become a bit more mature now that I listen to my old kind of lyrics and stuff. I’ve definitely developed a sound and I’m trying to just evolve from that. And I consider myself a multi-genre artist so I definitely want to dive into even more different genres and stuff. 

LB:  You sound like a soulful rock artist to me. What genre would you put yourself in or how do you classify yourself?

AJ:  People say I’m alternative. I’ve also gotten indie, indie rock, pop rock. Some of my songs are more on the pop rock kind of spectrum. Some of my stripped down songs can be very folksy as well.

LB:  What comes first, the music or the lyrics?

AJ:  I think definitely the music first, and the melody. But there are times where I’ve just had lyrics stuck in my head that have turned into a song as well.

LB:  Describe the creative process that you go through to write new music.

AJ:  It depends. There are times where I have a really big writer’s block, or I don’t write for months. And then there’s days where I feel really inspired, and I’ll just be writing all night. It really comes from, usually, if I’m going through something, it’s the easiest to write about. So usually if I’m going through something I’m trying to like sort through how I’m feeling and kind of just hone into the music and then it all kind of comes together. I always write with my acoustic guitar. There are a couple songs where I did a little piano melodies first, but 90% of my songs have started with just a little acoustic riff, me just kind of seeing a little melody. And then I just keep going from there. Usually the chorus is first and then I’ll start adding different verses. I think adding additional verses is the most difficult, and then it all comes together at some point. But some songs have been really random. There’s been songs where I’ve just written it in five minutes. And I’m like, “How did I do that”?

LB:  So let’s go back to the beginning. How did you get into music? How old were you when you realized that you wanted to sing and how old were you when you wrote your first song?

AJ: I got into music at a very young age. Both my parents were very heavy influences in my music. They would take me to concerts since I was a young kid. When I was seven years old, my mom took me to see Prince. And that was an amazing experience. That definitely moved me, it was something like I never saw before. And I looked up to a lot of female artists. I think in high school was when I really started practicing the guitar. I was obsessed with Paramore and their lead singer Hayley Williams. I used to go to a lot of their concerts. It was the first time I saw an artist that I actually saw myself in that artist. I was like, wow, I look up to this person, I want to be like this. My first song I wrote, I want to say I was maybe around 15 or 16. I used to write a lot. It started from a lot of poetry, and then I realized I can take these poems and make music out of it and it kind of all clicked together.

LB: I met your mom the other night at Bowery Electric. How does it feel to have a mom that is so supportive?

AJ: Oh, it’s really nice to have her support my music. She comes out to a lot of shows when she can. She came to the show wearing my merch and everything. 

LB:  It’s really great when you have a parent like that. So are you self taught or did you have formal music training?

AJ:  I started off just kind of learning from YouTube for a little bit. And then my mom saw I was serious about learning. So I had gotten lessons from a Mexican guitarist who was a friend of the family. He was teaching me little mariachi riffs. So that’s actually how I first started playing. And then I got formal lessons with this incredible jazz guitarist, Frankie Cicala from South Jersey. He really inspired me to start singing a little bit too, because he was also really shy about singing. He was like, “Alex, you have a really nice voice, you should enter a talent show,” or do this and I kind of just rolled my eyes. I was like, yeah sure, whatever.

LB:  And did you enter talent shows?

AJ:  Yeah, I’ve done quite a few, a long time ago. Many years ago I entered one of the Bamboozle contests, and I also tried out for The Voice. I never tried out for American Idol or anything, though. But I did do quite a few talent shows and stuff. We had some talent show on the boardwalk, and I think it was in Point Pleasant, and it was on the radio. I felt bad because I was competing against a lot of kids. I was the oldest one and I said they’re never gonna pick me. And they didn’t, but it was still pretty fun to perform on the boardwalk.

LB:  How did the pandemic affect your music?

AJ: It was really rough, because I felt like my gigs were starting to pick up at that time. And I felt like I was really doing something with my music. And then I just felt really lost because that was my therapy going out and performing. I did a lot of virtual performances, but it didn’t really feel the same as going out and playing. But I think a lot of us wrote a lot in that time, because we’re just going through so much. I put out my first little album during the pandemic as well.

LB:  And which was that?

AJ:  It’s called Better Part Of Me. It’s my first EP that I put out.

LB:  Given the environment that we’re in now, how does politics affect your music, if at all?

AJ:  It definitely does as an artist, because I feel they tell us you shouldn’t be saying things that are political, but we’re still people with feelings. I do have songs that are a little bit political, like my newest song “Skin And Bones.” I was going through a lot of issues with my health and I felt the American healthcare system was failing me. And I had all this frustration. So yeah, a few people had pointed that out. I don’t even think I realized it was a political song. 

LB:  Who are some of the musicians that inspire you?

AJ: There’s so many. I listened to a lot of Stevie Nicks growing up. So I feel like she definitely paved the way for me. And I mentioned before, Paramore was a big band that I got into. I think a lot of local artists as well just because seeing people, that are unheard of, but are so talented. Doing all these things really inspired me to start going out and playing more and putting my music out there.

LB: What do you like most about playing? What makes you feel really passionate about it? 

AJ:  I love the feedback that I get, like, people tell me that they’re inspired. Someone told me, “I just picked up the guitar the other day because I saw you live,” or “I saw a video of you somewhere.” Stuff like that is really amazing to me that I can affect people like this with my music.

LB:  What’s next for you? Do you have an album coming out or some shows coming up? 

AJ:  I host a monthly open mic at Sundown Bar in Ridgewood, Queens. I have a residency there now, on either a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. I’m also working on an album. I don’t have a name for it yet. It’s gonna be some of the singles that I have released, but a lot of new songs as well. I’m still in the process of recording but sometime this year I plan on releasing it.

LB:  If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?

AJ:  Oh, wow. That’s really tough because I feel like my whole life has been music, but I guess in school I always gravitated towards science a lot. So maybe something in that field. But if I didn’t do that, probably a journalist or something, because I’ve always just loved writing too.