Singer-songwriter, Julia Othmer, writes gorgeous songs that resonate with her listeners. It also resonates with music supervisors of such televisions shows in which her music has been featured, including “Witches Of East End,” “The Lying Game,” “Army Wives,” and “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” Her music has been applauded by popular publications like Billboard and independent publication, The Deli. She’s headlined some of the most lauded stages in the country, including Knuckleheads Garage in Kansas City, and has been featured on WXPN’s All About the Music Festival in Philadelphia.
With her new single “Purple And Gray,” featured on her upcoming album, SOUND, is a powerful and emotive single, and the video accompanying it is shares the mood of the song. She also shares her holiday single, aptly titled “Bring Peace For Christmas,” featuring toys and desktop objects turned into participants in an annual winter dance. Both music videos are directed by James T. Lundie, who also produced SOUND. Check out both videos in our interview with Julia, where she discusses her songs, working with director and producer Lundie, her special holiday traditions, and more.
You’re a woman of many talents, mostly known for your songwriting credits, which have landed in the popular shows Army Wives and Degrassi: The Next Generation, among others. Where did your love of music come from?
Julia Othmer: Loving music was my first memory – I remember hearing a song and wanting to somehow be inside of it. I continue to have that desire.
What creative energy do you get from writing and performing, and is there one you prefer over the other?
Julia: Writing and performing are my expressions of creative energy – transmutations of it. I sort of fear and love them both – I sometimes have a fear of performing badly or with disconnection; the fear of not having anything left to write. But working through those fears gives me more pride and pleasure when I feel I have done well. There’s a curious agony and ecstasy to it all.
What I love most about writing and performing is the connection and intimacy it can facilitate with people listening & the people you make music with – songs can build these bridges between us – create a space for us to congregate – allow us to have cathartic experiences with strangers. I love that.
Your latest single and music video for “Purple and Gray” is featured on your upcoming album, SOUND…what was the writing and recording process like for it?
Julia: “Purple and Gray” showed up one evening when James started playing guitar, I started singing, and we pressed record. It just flowed naturally and then I tortured myself for weeks and months on getting it right. Often when I am writing and improvising, I see the music as shapes and colors and pictures. I saw so many different stories in the song. It was hard for me to settle into it. In the end we used a lot of what happened in the first take, but exploring all of the possibilities helped us to arrive back where we started.
Your director for “Purple and Gray” and “Bring Peace for Christmas,” was also your producer for SOUND, James T. Lundie. What’s it like working with James creatively and personally?
Julia: It’s brilliant and unnerving and challenging and easy and curious and constantly changing. We have episodes of highly collaborative interactive sessions. We also have times where we work individually in isolation and then do a show and tell of what we have done and figure out how our different pieces fit together. When I play him songs that I am working on, I not only get his perspective on it, but it also helps me to know for myself what I feel about it – the sharing of it creates a mirror of my own – sometimes it is easier to see or hear things as a reflection. We are definitely harder on ourselves that we are on each other, but the dynamic keeps us pushing to get it better and better.
We can both get really intense while we are working – we don’t hold back. We allow ourselves to become really vulnerable and we also call each other out when we know something isn’t honest or true. Some of our exchanges can get defensive and dramatic. But all of the back and forth lends to a deeper intimacy and trust and allowance of one another and what we want to express.
“Bring Peace for Christmas” is a great ode to the holiday season. What about Christmas excites you the most, and what does Christmas mean to you?
Julia: Our version of holiday celebration is like a Winter-Solstice-Thanks-Giving combination – celebrating life and love and family and friends and food. If we are in Cornwall, we jump into the ocean and take a bone-chilling swim with the seals, drink mulled wine on the beach, and warm up by the fire in the drawing room playing games and having a good laugh. There is a lot of cooking and baking. We take long walks and eat huge amounts of food.
We don’t really worry about the gift exchange bit. We love giving gifts but doing that on ‘required’ days tends to feel really stressful. You are far more likely to get a gift from me on a random day than on your birthday or a holiday.
Who was your first concert, and do you have a favorite one, thus far?
Julia: First concert – Michael Jackson. My brothers took me. I swore Michael was singing just to me at least once or twice. I think everyone in that stadium felt the same way – an effect of his brilliance as a performer.
Favorite show – Pink Floyd – Before witnessing their concert, I had no idea how completely encompassing a show could be.
In a similar way but on a completely different scale, I once performed a concert with Regina Spektor and watching and hearing her created some of my most vividly lived musical moments. Her lyrics were transporting – intimate, imaginative, honest, fantastic. Her performance on the keys was sublime.
What was your first album on cassette, CD and/or vinyl?
Julia: Indigo Girls was the first album I remember buying. I would listen to my older brothers’ vinyl – The Beatles, The Cars, Neil Young, The Who – but not a lot of, if any, female singer-songwriters. It got me building my own music library.
What five albums and/or artists would you not want to live without?
Julia: There are definitely artists and albums that have been highly influential to me, but I could always play their music back in my head, in my memory. I could figure my way around it.
I would have a hard time not being able to sing or having an instrument to play. I don’t know how I would be able to work around that…
Do you have a guilty music or entertainment pleasure?
Julia: The New York Times crossword puzzles – especially Saturdays and Sundays.