Interview with Julie Neff
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I was always involved in music as a kid, but usually in the context of church or school. It wasn’t until university that I started to sing in a band and later write and play my own music. I think what I had loved during that time was the community that music brought, and I eventually developed a house show series in Toronto to feel that warmth and togetherness there. It was through those shows that I really began to share my own songs and develop them more. If I hadn’t gotten into music, I think I would still be working full time as a video producer - something I also love - but I feel that the time for music is now!
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
When I’m not playing music, I love to be spending time with friends, traveling, watching shows and movies, or exploring fashion through thrifting, designing clothes and in the past sewing a bit as well. I truly feel that everything influences creativity. It is through living life that we have things to write about. For me, traveling and being in motion has a more direct influence on my writing that I have experienced. I often come up with melodies and ideas while biking through the city, write lyrics on trains or planes where other options for distraction have been removed. Fashion has always been a big passion of mine, ever since I was a kid I was always designing clothing and sewing dresses and costumes together, and it always leaves me feeling so inspired. I really value down time as well, watching tv series or just at home cooking, sometimes it’s what I do when I am not “being productive” that can lead to the best formation of ideas for me.
How long have you been making music?
I’ve been writing my own music for about 6 or 7 years, just releasing the first songs just over 4 years ago. But I have been singing ever since I was a child.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I am currently based out of Toronto, but have also lived in Spain and more recently, Brazil. I think the rock and indie singer-songwriter undertones of my music are definitely influenced by my time here in Toronto. Spending time in Brazil and travelling around has really opened things up for me rhythmically and melodically. Even speaking or hearing other languages has a big influences on the melodies I create - though I wouldn’t be able to pin point exactly where - for me it kind of washes over me and comes out eventually in song.
Tell me about your most memorable shows, if you haven’t played live what is your vision for a live show?
I played a show for 80 people in a planetarium in Brazil once and that has to be one of the coolest shows I’ve ever played. Such a unique space to play in and a truly incredible audience for my first show in Brazil. Before things shut down, I played a lovely show in Toronto at B-Side lounge with my friends playing in my band with me - three part harmony and a full band - that is the dream!
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
I really and truly love the intimate shows - house shows, and Sofar gigs in odd spaces. I just played a beautiful one in a warehouse on the west end of Toronto. B-side, who has sadly closed, and the Painted Lady have incredible sound and are lovely to play at. There are lots on the list of places I’d like to play: The Drake Underground, The Horseshoe Tavern, The Rivoli, The Dakota Tavern, Massey Hall (one day!), If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into making music and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
To someone who is just getting into making music, I would say to just write, write, write. Find some trusted people to share the songs with and co-create with, and keep writing. Finding your own sound and having people around you to encourage you is so essential. You are not going to like - or release - everything you create, and that is okay! It’s part of the process!
To my younger self, I think I would just say to enjoy it more - enjoy the process. Sometimes we are so focussed on going somewhere else that we forget to enjoy where we are. But I honestly wouldn’t change much! I had to experience the things I experienced to be where I am now.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Oh that’s a tough one! “A Lot Left to Learn” is incredibly meaningful to me as it helped me process something really sad for me - I find beauty in the pure emotion of it now. “Get Me” is one that has evolved in its meaning to me over the years. When I wrote it, I was viewing it as almost a fickle chorus, but have since grown to see it (often through the eyes of others) as being something to celebrate - experiencing all of the emotions that life has to offer. “I’m happy when I’m sad and full when I’m empty. Smiling when I’m mad and most people don’t get me.” That’s what life (and art!) is about - feeling through the things that we do and it’s a joy when others can appreciate those moments too.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Usually my favourite songs to play are the new ones! It’s always exciting and fun to sing and play something after it’s emerged. From the other songs, Siren Call is one of my absolute favourites because of the way it came to me - the fastest writing process I had ever had at the time and it yielded a song that I immediately felt great about. It’s still one of my favourites to sing - such a fun and dynamic musical journey. I think the most requested might be Get Me, Siren Call or Those Dreams - all favourites of mine as well, so that is nice :)
What is your creative process, and what inspires you to write your music?
I am generally writing to process things in my life - so sometimes it comes out as a melody first, and I sit down to pull out the threads of what I need to express and form them into lyrics and chords and a song structure. Sometimes it can be the other way around, sitting down to play and seeing what comes out. Often it’s a very visceral need to play, express, release something.
Do you have messages that you like to get across in your music, if so please tell me about them?
Most of my music is written as reminders for myself of things I’ve gone through and want to learn from. Part of that learning has been setting stronger boundaries for myself and learning how to honour them. I also talk about the importance of consent and respect - particularly in the music industry. Those Dreams talks about that - how hard it is to just be kind and professional as a woman in music - there is always someone there to remind you to keep your guard up.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I’m currently working on my debut album! I’m very excited about this project and really enjoying the writing phase right now. I’ll start to share the process of that online soon, so stay tuned! Also, if you’re in Toronto, I have a show coming up in December - can’t announce the details yet - but I’ll keep you posted!
How can your fans best keep up to date with you, any socials you want people to check out?
I love keeping up with fans on instagram and it’s where I share the most! You can find me there https://www.instagram.com/julieneffmusic/