In a short time, singer-songwriter Julie Kathryn has made an indelible impression on the music community with her sensual Americana noir sound. In 2011, she graced Music Connection Magazine's esteemed annual "Hot 100 Live Unsigned Artists & Bands" list. The publication enthused: “Her solid alto voice is rich in tone…she uses it gently to tell her stories, never pushing or over-singing, which is a breath of fresh air.” Crushable.com described Julie as, “vulnerable and sweet but tinged with darkness.” Most recently, Julie was awarded third place in the Indie International Songwriting Contest in the Americana/Country category for her song “The Coast (Fast Johnny),” co-written with Brooklyn-based producer and fellow songwriter Felix McTeigue. It is the ninth track on her upcoming debut full-length album Black Trees, due out in August 2013.
Favorably compared to Leonard Cohen, Natalie Merchant, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Norah Jones, Julie has appeared at distinguished NYC listening rooms such as Rockwood Music Hall and the Living Room. On stage, her sultry stage persona reflects the slow-burn beauty of her music, and her uniquely edgy femininity only enhances her artistry—an overall aesthetic aptly described as “Audrey Hepburn meets Joni Mitchell.”
Currently, Julie Kathryn is gearing up for the release of her upcoming debut full-length album Black Trees, due out in August. The album was produced and engineered by Felix McTeigue (Carrie Underwood, Lori McKenna, sami.the.great) and Drew Guido (Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, The Bengsons) at Vel Studios in Brooklyn. Black Trees features an eclectic mix of seasoned musicians, including Byron Isaacs (Levon Helm, Ollabelle, Brazilian Girls), Rich Hinman (Rosanne Cash, Erin McKeown, Justin Townes Earle), Tony Leone (Levon Helm, Carrie Rodriguez, Ollabelle) and John O’Reilly, Jr. (fun., Rachael Yamagata). Most of the songs on Black Trees were written or co-written by Julie herself and draw from her personal experiences. “I wanted to make a record that was fun to listen to, but also really personal. Something that people could connect with on a deeper level,” she said about the new album. Julie included one of her favorite Bob Dylan songs, “Emotionally Yours,” off of his twenty-third studio album Empire Burlesque. Another highlight of the record is Julie's collaboration with critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Ari Hest on the Jay Farrar-penned track “Windfall”.
The Black Trees album follows Julie’s 2012 release, the Broken Love EP, an elegant 4-song collection that traverses all intersections of American music: folk, jazz, blues, and soul with a dreamy sprawl that’s both earthy and otherworldly. Similar to Julie’s last EP, Black Trees conveys an introspective melancholy and bold vulnerability. Additionally, the new album blends emotionally raw lyrics with uptempo melodies, such as in the dance-y electro-pop track "Nightingale“: Underneath it all / You are broken and you don’t know why; and with the hopeful-sounding "Johnny“: The crops are gone, the land is dead / And they’re taking all that we have left / The tractor, the horses and the barn. In the slow pop ballad "In My Dreams,” the lyrics juxtapose the bliss and misery of a marriage gone sour: In my dreams, we were always understanding / And I could not have guessed you’d be my nemesis / In the morning.
While growing up in Lake Placid, New York, Julie began studying classical piano at the age of 6 and took up the guitar at 17. She discovered her innate abilities as a singer during a songwriting course where the teacher quipped, “you could sing the phone book.” Prior to pursuing music, Julie had a promising social work career enriched by an impressive academic profile, including a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Cornell and a master’s degree in social work from Columbia. “I always had two things, playing music and helping people through social advocacy, but I wasn’t sure what path to take. I did advocacy work for homeless people, drug addicts, and criminal defendants who didn’t have any money,” says the singer-songwriter. “After interviewing clients in the Tombs [New York jail] during the day, I would go out at night and play gigs.”
It was Julie’s passion for helping people that eventually led her to pursue music full-time. “I always felt this deep calling to help people and my first response was social work,” she explains. “I always wanted to make an emotional connection to people. Social work informed my music because it helped me be in touch with my emotions and be empathetic, but when I stopped feeling spiritually connected to it, I realized I could serve a higher calling through music.”