In Conversation With... Julie Thompson on her album 'Eye Of The Storm'
Singer/songwriter Julie Thompson starts 2015 with the release of her superb second artist album ‘Eye Of The Storm’. Over 11 sensational tracks, the British singer has crafted the album follow-up that fans from across the electronic music lands have long sought.
The album process is never a straightforward as the polished finished product suggests though. To get a more of an insight into its process, we sat down with her to have a conversation about it all. As it quickly transpired ‘Eye of the Storm’ was a labour of love, and one that held a mirror up to much of what was happening in Julie’s personal life at the time…
Hi Julie, where do we find you today and what are you up to!?
Hello! Right now I'm sitting on my bed editing a promo video for a new artist called Annie Shambler. A colleague and I have been developing her for the last year. She's amazing; I'm really happy with the results!
Nice! Now we’re here to have a one-to-one about your new album ‘Eye of the Storm’, which is finally out. It’s the follow up to your debut, ‘Feeling For Corners’. Tell, us, how did you approach the making of it and what was your mission & ambition for it?
The approach was pretty much the same as for ‘Feeling For Corners’. I began writing the songs on a piano and when I was happy with them, Arny (Black Hole Records MD) and I began putting a list of producers together I wanted to work with. My mission is always the same when I write. I wanted it to be an honest reflection of my experiences at the time.
Over what time period was the album in process?
This album took a long time to make. I think about two years. I guess that was because I was writing it alongside trying to get my life back on track. I was homeless when I began writing the songs for this album so I had plenty of inspiration, sitting in my parents spare room, where they'd kindly let me set up my studio! In the beginning I was crashing on friends sofas Monday to Friday in London working as a jobbing songwriter so the work on the album could only take place when I went back to my parents at the weekends. It was a slow process!
There’s been 5 years since the last album. Does that feel like the right interim for you?
Stuff going on and I didn't have the headspace to make an album at that time. I write for a lot of artists but when I finally sat down and wrote the song ‘Eye Of The Storm’ it was so personal I knew it was for me and that I was ready to make a new album.
In terms of songwriting and singing (ie; arriving with the right harmonies/inflexions/intonations, etc), do you find one or other more challenging? Or are they two sides of the same coin and too interwoven to make a distinction?
The song is everything so the most challenging part is to get it absolutely right. In my opinion you can hear the crappiest vocal with the wrong harmonies, but if the song (lyrics) are amazing it always shines through. I've been lucky enough to have worked in studios my whole life so I'm so used to it I instinctively know what I want to hear vocal-wise and as I record and produce the vocals in my own studio I keep complete control of that side.
Are you a morning, afternoon, evening, night-time or anytime type of songwriter!?
Very flexible! Over ‘Feeling For Corners’, the listener can perhaps hear more of a tonal/artistic mix to ‘Eye of the Storm’. What do you put that down to and how would you categorize it yourself?
I'm no good at categorising music so I have no clue! I definitely think that Eye Of The Storm has more of an artistic mix but that's the nature of the beast when you're working with different producers on each track. The continuity only comes from the songwriting and vocal production although I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing! As Andy (Duguid) produced the whole of ‘Feeling For Corners’, that album has a thread running the whole way from beginning to end whereas ‘Eye of the Storm’ is more of a journey.
Is the album’s material something that you could see working as a live on stage?
I've already been performing ‘Secrets Safe’, so I know that works. I honestly won't know until I try them out. Ask me again in the summer!
If you had to choose three adjectives to describe the album to someone who’s not heard your work before, what would they be?
Emotional, Uplifting and Honest.
If you had to pick out three key tracks that best exemplify ‘Eye Of The Storm’, which would they be?
'Eye Of The Storm’, ‘Secrets Safe’ and ‘Skin And Bones’.
As with ‘Feeling For Corners’, ‘Eye of the Storm’ is released through Black Hole Recordings. What kind of input did they have to the artistic orientation and general A&R’ing of the album?
I'm lucky as they pretty much leave me to the writing but they are invaluable when it comes to choosing the producers and deciding on the final track list.
That is lucky! In terms of demos produced to actual tracks featured, what was the ratio?
I probably wrote about 20 songs and chose 11. Tracks were discarded for various reasons. For example, I didn't think the songwriting was on point, the production didn't feel right, the track didn't fit the vibe of the album.
Many of your tracks have had significant impact on the electronic music landscape over the years. Which one do you think (pre ‘Eye of the Storm’) has had most impact thus far?
Thanks! I think that Holden & Thompson - Nothing has had the most impact. I still meet DJ's today that say they began making music because of that track and without that track I wouldn't have had the opportunity to be an artist!
What memories do you recall most quickly from that recording experience?
I learned the most important lesson of my career. When we wrote that track we didn't ever say ‘we want to make a massive track’ or ‘lets make it like this song or that song’. We just did what felt right and that's a rule I live by to this day. I always try and do what feels right and if I like it maybe someone else will too.
And which one from ‘Eye of the Storm’ do you think will resonant most?
I honestly don't know. I never go into writing a song trying to second-guess what people will think of it. I just hope something resonates!!
Ha, well I’m sure there’s no doubt about that! Tell me, which singers, from the electronic music and beyond, would you say inspire you the most?
I'm really loving Banks and FK Twigs at the moment but I get most inspiration from the actual events happening around me rather than other artists music.
Now, collaborations with producers make up a significant part of the album. Tell us a little about your specific experiences in the collaboration process on ‘Eye of the Storm’. What do you find most satisfying and most challenging from them?
Most satisfying would be hearing how the producers take forward the songs in their own unique way. Most challenging, having to rely on remote collaborations. ‘Eye Of The Storm’ is like a ‘United Nations’ effort. The producers who have worked on this album reside all over the world and it would be impossible to have had ‘real-time collaborations’ which means everything takes so much longer which can be frustrating.
Through ‘My Enemy’, ‘No Frontiers’, ‘Let Go’ and others, you’ve had quite a history of recording with Super 8 & Tab. What do you think it is about that particular equation that works so well?
That's the million-dollar question! We're friends so that's a great start. They are also great producers and they get me as an artist. We just have great chemistry and we also do real time collaborations. I go to Helsinki and we work in the studio during the day then we get drunk in the evenings so maybe that also helps!
‘Eye Of The Storm’ is fully out now. What kind of early reactions are you picking up through your social media?
People seem to be liking it, I've had a lot of lovely messages. xoxo!
What seem to be the fans early favourites?
A lot of people have been taking about ‘Natural’, but that one's too happy to be my favourite!!
Finally any future plans you’d care to share for 2015?
There's a few exciting things in the pipeline, but if I told you about them I'd have to kill you!