Live full, sing loud: Indie-pop artist and queer activist Julia Weldon talks music and identity

Julia Weldon

by Galen Chuang ‘17

Assistant Arts Editor

Julia Weldon

Julia Weldon
Photo courtesy of Shervin Lainez

Julia Weldon’s favorite cuisine is Japanese food. Their dream venue is the Bowery Ballroom (“Not too unattainable”), and their current favorite album is Lorde’s “Pure Heroine.” When they were eight years old, they had a mullet. But there is clearly much more to Weldon than that; a listen to their new album “Light is a Ghost” immediately reveals a deeper look into Weldon’s personality and experiences.

Weldon began taking piano lessons at eight, picked up the guitar at 12 and wrote their first song at 15. They grew up listening to classical music and Bob Dylan and consider their main influences to be Elliott Smith and Ani DiFranco. Despite the styles associated with these artists, Weldon has what they call “folkophobia” and dislikes being categorized as a singer/songwriter. “There’s this image of a bad folk singer/songwriter in popular culture,” Weldon said, “and my music has more of a pop edge.”

Still, folk influence can be heard in the occasional quiet acoustic guitar and strikingly honest lyrics. Weldon grew up acting for film and TV, and to prepare for their roles, learned to be empathetic toward different types of people. “When I stopped acting, songwriting became my outlet for expressing my emotions,” Weldon said. Songs like “Marian,” which is about the first person that poured their heart out to Weldon, is a touching example.

Weldon’s Brooklyn-based performing career started gradually: “In 2008, my first album was recorded on GarageBand in my bedroom.” With the encouragement of friends, Weldon started playing college shows and bigger venues in New York City. The idea of “Light is a Ghost” started when they realized they needed a more comprehensive representation of their music. Working with producer Saul Simon MacWilliams for about a year, they released the album in August, pouring “sweat, tears, money, energy, love and heart” into the enormous project. “I was lucky to have Saul as a creative partner because he knew which songs to leave alone and which songs to turn into something else,” says Weldon, “we added drums, but also things like viola, synth, organ and a Kazakhstani instrument called the dombra.”

Now mullet-less, Weldon is portrayed as fashionably androgynous in their marketed image. They consider themselves a queer activist, playing concerts at schools and “hanging out” with students and queer groups. “Because I have the privilege of feeling comfortable with my identity, I feel that it’s important to get onstage and show that it’s okay.”

Weldon is interested in normalizing queerness, not marketing themselves as a gay artist. “Being gay doesn’t have to be dramatic, and it doesn’t have to be your entire identity,” Weldon says, “it’s an important part of me, but my music should always be there as well.”

Weldon is currently working on their Masters in Music from Columbia University. A backup job would be teaching guitar and songwriting to children and beginners, but their ultimate dream is to go on an “indefinite tour.” “I would book a two-month tour and then just keep booking until I get tired,” they said. “I like grassroots tours. I’m a people person and I love seeing the country.”

What’s Weldon’s next project? “I already have another album’s worth of material. I’d like the next album to have an intimate Bon Iver sound but also a bit more layered pop.”

To aspiring musicians, Weldon’s advice is simple. “Write about what you see around you, and just keep doing it. Be as honest as possible.” And their life philosophy? After much thought and a few laughs: “Live full. Sing loud. Love big. Hug hard.”

Julia Weldon and special guest Mal Blum will be performing at Punch’s Alley on Nov. 22 at 7pm. Check out their website, like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

Galen Chuang is a first-year interested in studying computer science and music. She plays violin and Ultimate Frisbee.

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