On a cold Melbourne’s day, Julie Stone is all tucked up in a cosy room with a piano in the corner, warm white mood lighting, playing guitar with her dog chilling at her feet. Stone took some time away from this perfect afternoon to chat with Around The Sound’s Alexis Naylor about her new album, Sixty Summers.
“I feel pretty excited, and pretty overwhelmed because it has been such a long time and I think it’s been a bit staggered with everything…”Julia Stone
Stone’s new record, Sixty Summers, comes from the grit and glitter of the city, and all its attendant joys and dangers, romances and risks. No longer content to merely explore the wildernesses of folk and indie-rock, Sixty Summers finds the celebrated songwriter diving headfirst into the cosmopolitan, hedonistic world of late-night, moonlit pop. She is claiming every part of herself: fire, fury, love, lust, longing. “Life is incredibly confronting for most humans,” Stone says. “Sometimes, the only thing you can do when it’s really overwhelming is to dance or sing. Even in the most dark moments, when we play music, we feel free.”
A.N: How do you feel after five years of chipping away at this record?
J.S: I feel pretty excited, and pretty overwhelmed because it has been such a long time and I think it’s been a bit staggered with everything (Covid-19). The plan was mid-last year and then of course it was like, this music isn’t for now. I think as well, I was reluctant to put music in the world when I wasn’t going to be able to play it at all for a really long time. It feels like it’s been a long time but also I think what’s been nice about it, being this slow, was that I got to really build a world, like a visual world around it, so making all the music videos has been really fun and making all the single artwork with, that was wild collaborating from a distance during the pandemic. I feel like now, I am just so excited for people to hear the music, it is just an interesting body of work because it is done over such a long period of time so there are just so many different experiences and feelings and moods. It’s my favourite record I have ever made.
A.N: Your song, ‘Dance’, is a banging track, congratulations! You also have a French version on the record, how did this come about?
J.S: I always knew I was going to sing a song in French for the record. I’ve been singing in French probably now for the last 10 years, just when I play in France. Angus (Stone) and I started touring a lot, in the last 10 years we had a song that was on a big French film and things took off there in a really organic way and ended up being one of our biggest touring markets. And so, one of the things I tried to do on tour was learn a song or a poem or something in whatever country I was in so, some easier than others, I found Spanish, French and German I could get my way around but in Sweden and Norway, I’d say just a few sentences and try and introduce the band or something. But French became something that I was getting better at learning. I don’t speak French but I would listen and I would copy the sounds. A French artist then asked me to collaborate on his record so I sang on his record, I did a couple of TV shows over there and sang in French for that. So, I had it in the back of my head that I wanted to do a song for the French audience and ‘Dance’ just seemed to me to be the most French sounding, it was very romantic. I also felt like it would be easier for me to do the spoken word than to sing, I’d done a few poems in French as well and I really liked the way it sounded when I spoke in French. I have a really lovely relationship with an artist named Claire (POM), I showed her the song, I said, what do you think, do you think this with work in French? She said that it would and that she would love to translate so that was really fun as well because I then got to spend time with her collaborating and learning how to do it and her eventually getting it to a good place. That’s why I included it, I guess it’s been a huge place for us, and I hope I get to perform it there.
A.N: As a fellow singer-songwriter, I love that you have taught yourself to record and comp your own vocals in ProTools for some of this record. Were you going for a particular sound or did you have some artists in mind?
J.S: I feel like it is heaps easier, I started doing it when I was working on ‘Snow’ with Angus. I have a very specific way, particularly with backing vocals, with lead vocals I like to perform when there is someone in the room, I like the feeling of it being a performance, not all the time, but in general, that really works for me. For backing vocals, I use my voice like an instrument and when I’m doing that, I don’t need anybody to tell me whether it is good or if I’ve nailed it or say I can really feel what you are doing here. I don’t need that energy of performing, I just really want to get it how I want it to sound. And so I have found that when I was working on ‘Snow’ it was just so much quicker and more efficient if I was on ProTools and running it, I just hate to comp with other people, I feel like I am on their shoulder going, ‘No, no, no the second track, that one, no, no, just the end of that phrase,’ it just drives people crazy ‘cos I am so particular so I thought, you know what I am not going to put anyone through this, I am just working to learn how to do it and I got really good at doing it so then I thought on this record, I’d do the same.
A.N: There is a lovely sprinkle of brass throughout this record, is that something you planned?
J.S: I’ve played trumpet since I was a kid, it’s my first instrument actually. I started when I was five years old, then I played it all through school and played a lot of big band music. Looking back, it’s funny how much brass there is on the record, but also I guess it makes sense because I’ve been around it for so long and I love the trumpet and I love horn parts and I think it’s a really fun way to get a sneaky hook in a song, when you already have a chorus. I’m so in love with melody that you have a really fun chorus then you can have another little hook underneath. If it’s done with the voice, it’s too much, but when done in a horn part, it can kind of be there and not overtake the song.
Sixty Summers is out now. You can listen right here on Spotify.