Becca Damante ’17
Demarree Ruthrauff ’18
Ukulele sensation Julia Nunes is returning to Northampton after a packed performance at Smith College on Dec. 1. This time she is opening for The Mowgli’s at Pearl Street Ballroom on April 17. Check out our exclusive interview with her below.
I read that you started to play the ukulele in 2005, but you first played the piano and guitar. Why the ukulele?
I started playing ukulele because I was going away to summer camp, and I had just gotten a ukulele for free in a deal with my friend who got a guitar at a music shop … Then I was leaving for camp, and my guitar was my dad’s. He was like, “You’re not gonna take my guitar to a place with water guns.” So I brought the ukulele, and it was so easy to carry around. It was so easy to go off by myself and write songs, so I think that’s why it stuck … I’m a lazy songwriter, I guess is what I’m saying. I like it portable and tiny.
Who are your biggest musical inspirations and influences?
I grew up on Motown, The Beatles, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Steve Winwood, James Taylor and Carole King. Those are all still huge influences because that’s just the kind of songwriting that is timeless or meaningful regardless of … how old you are. In present times, I’ve been very into One Direction … I [also] love David Bazan for his lyricism, and I think his songs are pretty timeless.
What was the songwriting process like for your latest album “Some Feelings?”
I wrote “Some Feelings” basically in the fever dream after a breakup. Songs come to me most easily when I am showering or doing some other activity where I can’t be distracted by much else. So when I was writing “Some Feelings,” I kept my phone right outside the bathroom, and I would sometimes dry my sopping wet hands off enough to press a couple things, find Voice Memo and record some stuff. And at that point it was just melody and lyrics. Then later I would fine tune and find chords.
You’ve had more of a direct relationship to recording and funding albums through Kickstarter and your own label. What are the pros and cons of being an independent musician?
Woo! I love being an independent musician. I get to talk about what I want to talk about. I don’t think I would be able to talk about the politics and world issues that I think are important if I was working with a big company PR team. And I kind of got to handle everything this year the way I wanted to and talk about relationships the way I want to. I think that is the stuff that is important, not like brand deals. That is also the downside to being an independent musician: the money. You don’t get as much money, but what I realized is that I don’t want “dirty money.” It’s so pure to me that there are people that just want my music or want my lyrics put out on a poster or want a ukulele, and I can give them that, and I have control over the quality of that.
If you could collaborate with anyone in the industry, who would it be and why?
The answer is Drake. I want to do a song with Drake about feelings and emotions, and like my dream job would be to go on tour with him and just come out for that guest spot every night and jam out on stage.
Why do you do music?
I think that I would be doing music no matter what my job was. I think it just comes out of my head; I process my feelings and thoughts by almost truncating them into songs that are easier to grasp. And the reason I polish it up and make it sound good is because eight years ago, people on YouTube thought I should. And then I realized it was really fun, and I could do it all the time. Now I’ve built this thing that I’m really proud of, and I have a bunch of people that care what I do. It’s such a wonderful feeling. I can’t imagine dedicating my time to anything else now that I know how rewarding music is.