Everyone can contest to the fact that 2020 has been a year of immense highs and low lows. It’s unprecedented times, and if there’s a chance to derive any sort of creativity or pleasure from it, then we’re here for it. And one artist that has experienced this ebb, flow and surge of inspiration is rising singer-songwriter Julia Church – who returned to her native South Africa earlier this year – recharging and remembering the emotive and raw musical landscape.
And the result is “don’t really care what we call it”, a blissful new track about “being in that limbo phase of a new relationship and trying to navigate feelings while being on different pages. It’s about how I became increasingly unattached with the more affection I received and ultimately wanted something less serious.”
Characterised with playful hazy guitar strums, melodic production flourishes and Church’s euphoric vocals, “don’t really care what we call it” is one to play and repeat.
We caught up with the singer and talked about her South African roots, unusual inspirations and her brand new music video…
Hi Julia – how have you been during this uncertain time? How has it impacted your music and creativity?
Hey! This year, like for everybody, has been a total whirlwind. I definitely started this whole thing on a high note as I was home in South Africa where I felt really creatively energised. Over the months since then, things have definitely ebbed and flowed but I think I’ve learnt to be more patient with myself, give my writing the time it needs to breathe and just accept that its a weird year and i’m not going to feel 100% okay all the time!
How did growing up South Africa influence you sonically? Who are your musical heroes?
One of the things growing up in South Africa exposed me to were stunning vocal groups like Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Soweto Gospel Choir. I was always fascinated by choirs and vocal ensembles and I think that has definitely fed into the work I do today. I love big vocal arrangements and using them as instrumentals. I think that hymnal sound can be so emotive and raw and I think I can owe part of that to my upbringing in South Africa.
And how would you describe your genre?
Always one of the hardest questions to answer. My catalogue has stripped back orchestral piano tracks like “Shiloh”, “Tremble”, which has more R&B influences and the latest single which is more pop. I think overall lets call it pop!
Where are the most unusual places you pull musical inspiration from?
Poetry and art. I love putting poetry to music, especially when it has unusual words. I love words. I actually have a memo on my phone with a bunch of weird words that I write down when I learn them. I also love expressionist/abstract art and think they are so musical – kind of how Kandisnsky would listen to music and paint, I like the idea of drawing music out of art.
Congratulations on your new single “don’t really care what we call it” – what is it inspired by?
Its inspired by the age old “I like you but i’m not looking for a relationship right now” scenario. Trying to navigate the early stages of a relationship when you’re clearly both on different pages – him ultimately wanting something more serious than me not really caring what we called it.
How do you feel like your sound has progressed since your 2019 EP “Take What You Want, Do As You Please”?
Before that EP I was in uni and doing most of my writing on my own. Since I moved to London I’ve been exposed to so many wonderful writers and artists that my music has naturally matured and embodies things i’ve learnt from the people i’ve worked with. Its probably slightly more pop and “radio friendly” (hate that term haha) from doing more collaborative writing and covering more universal topics rather than things pertaining just to me, if that makes sense?
The music video splices footage of you basically doing everything – singing, playing the guitar, keyboard – what did you want to convey with it?
I always loved the idea of being a one-woman show. I think its something we don’t see enough in the industry and it gave me a chance to play these different characters that each had their own energy. It was like playing different facets of my personality. It was so much fun to create and It was my way of really owning the song and the music!
You’ve been really vocal about navigating the music industry as a woman – how important is it for you to really highlight these frustrations?
I think at this point acknowledging those gaps in the industry where woman are missing or not held up to the same bar as men isn’t just important, its necessary. And balancing out the stats is totally achievable! Like so many societal imbalances, its systemic and it requires a collective effort.
And how important is it for you to have total creative control over your music – as the producer too?
Its pretty important to me. The reason I wanted to focus my energy on production at uni was so that I could essentially have my stamp on each part of the creative process. Even if its not full control, I like that I can have my input and be involved in each step. It means the finished product can feel like its really from the heart and I can connect with it from a personal level – thats really important.
What do you want fans to take from your music?
I would love for my listeners to feel heard and understood. I make songs that are often hard to write but also ones that I feel need to be written to find some sort of relief. Thats something not everyone has access to, so I hope I can put into words where they can’t.
What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to next year?
An album hopefully! Looking forward to putting together my first large body of work, something I’ve been gearing up to for so long! I also have a few dance collaborations in the works which are out soon.