Julia Stone: daring to voice herself

JULIA Stone’s fractured voice has a haunting quality that is almost other-worldly.

Her heartfelt and brutally honest lyrics about life and love, on the other hand, are very much of this earth.

Her second solo album, By The Horns, is an exploration of the wonder, fragility and cruelty of the human condition. Stone is not afraid to reveals her own strengths and weaknesses. She is an open book.

The older sister of Angus Stone, and half of the successful duo that is Angus and Julia Stone, is warm, friendly and good-humoured, and happy to talk about anything and everything, including their decision to go solo.

Somewhat frightening to Stone at first, she is now enjoying touring and performing alone.

‘‘The more that I’ve travelled and played music, the more confident I have become with my voice,’’ she said.

‘‘When Angus and I started I was really self-critical and unsure. It’s getting easier to accept who I am and to like who I am. It’s like I don’t hate myself as much as I used to (laughs).

‘‘For all of us as humans, it can sometimes be a struggle to find self-love. I am still on that journey and always will be. But each year it makes more sense.’’

Music and adventure have been the two constants in the life of Julia Stone, one of three children in a musical family.

‘‘I always felt lots of joy singing. And when you go through the things that you go through as a teenager, like falling in love, I found that it was a nice way to express what I was experiencing and feeling,’’ she said.

‘‘That’s what singing was about for me, rather than thinking I had a voice I could use as a career.

‘‘Singing was a nice way to let go of things that I needed to let go of. And then it just evolved into doing this as a lifestyle.’’

Stone describes her life as a ‘‘pinch yourself kind of experience’’.

‘‘Sometimes it’s just such a whirlwind,’’ she said.

‘‘You end up at weird parties in the backstreets of Berlin and you’re like, ‘Where am I again? What the f--k is going on?’ I didn’t expect my life to unfold like this. I have moments where I think it’s really strange but there’s a part of me that is used to it, too.’’

Stone’s mother and father were sailors and often took their children with them to abandoned beaches on tiny islands. Her grandparents, too, felt at home on the high seas and used to take Stone and her siblings on overseas trips – when they weren’t racing their yacht from Melbourne to Osaka, Japan.

‘‘I always got the sense that it was natural to put yourself in strange situations and do things that are slightly uncomfortable at times and just go with it. It’s in my blood, I think.’’

On By The Horns Stone worked with respected producers Thomas Bartlett (The National, Doveman) and Patrick Dillett (Mary J.Blige, Mariah Carey).

‘‘Angus and I worked with producers but we have always been co-producers, and we make certain aesthetic choices that have an impact on the sound.

‘‘I didn’t get involved as much with this record, I let those guys do their thing,’’ she said.

‘‘I love that there are so many songs on this record that I don’t actually have to play an instrument on. In the past I have always had a guitar in my hand or been on the piano with Angus, but this time Thomas and Pat wanted me to take on the role of just singing.

‘‘It opened up a new world for me. I could use my body to express myself in a way that was entirely different. I had physical freedom.’’

Stone has played in Newcastle several times before, but two gigs in particular stand out in her memory. One was at ‘‘that beautiful theatre, the Civic’’, and the other was at a pub as the support for friends, The Goons of Doom.

‘‘That was the very first tour we did. Angus and I were just babies. It was such a loose night – they played crazy amazing rock’n’roll, and there was Angus and I, 19 and 21, playing folk songs,’’ she laughed.

Stone is playing four new songs in her live sets, and expects they will be on a new record she plans to make ‘‘at some point’’.

But, solo albums aside, one can’t help but feel Julia and Angus will be collaborating again in the not-too-distant future.

‘‘People always ask me about Angus but it doesn’t bother me because I love him so much and there’s nothing negative about the change that we’ve made,’’ Stone said.

‘‘We both write music from the same place and for similar reasons, but we have always written separately.

‘‘It felt like doing this was the right thing to do because we were ready, creatively, to put together our own bands and collections of songs.

‘‘But in saying that we are very changeable people. Before we decided to do our solo records this year we were in the process of working on another record together.

‘‘I love what Angus does and he is one of my favourite people to make music with. Singing with him is such a dream, I know for sure in the future we will collaborate again. But when that will be and what it will sound like, we will just have to wait and see.’’

Julia Stone will perform at Lizotte’s Newcastle on September 13. Tickets are on sale tomorrow.

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