A Chat with Sometimes Julie (27.01.21)

Melding elements of blues, hard rock and Americana, Sometimes Julie is a high-powered San Diego rock band that will knock your socks off! Formed in 2012, the sextet has released three albums, one EP, several singles and all to critical acclaim. We speak with singer-songwriter and frontwoman Monica Sorenson about their new album Where Are You?, greatest achievements, favourite smells and future plans.

OSR: How did Sometimes Julie come about?

Sorenson: Rick and I met through mutual friends back in 2012. I don’t really remember how it came up, but Rick told me that he had written a lot of music but was in need of a good lyricist. With a background studying poetry, I thought to myself, “challenge accepted”. The next day Rick sent me a recording of one of his songs, and in the matter of a couple of hours, I had written the lyrics and melody for our first song, ‘What a Rush’ (which ended up appearing on our first album).

Fast forward a few months and we had written 14 songs. So, we booked some time at  Bigrock Studios to record our first album, Head First. The next logical step was to form a band so we could perform our music live. It’s funny how you can strike up a random conversation one day and before you know it you’re writing, recording, and performing a bunch of songs.

OSR: What is the backstory to Where Are You?

Sorenson: The songs on Where Are You? are all about the “ride” you take in different kinds of meaningful relationships. When do you need to be alone, when do you need someone, are you both on the same page, is it still working? We are telling love stories (‘Love Me Gently’, ‘Knew It All Along’), loss stories (‘Lost Art’), and then there are songs about fighting to get back up after having lost (‘Own Kind of Savior’, ‘Minerva’, ‘She Can’t Kiss You’).

With this being our fourth album, I feel that we have really come into our own as a band. We know who we are and are comfortable in our own skin. The music on Where Are You? reflects that confidence.

OSR: Did you face any challenges during the recording process?

Sorenson: As you can probably guess, it is extremely difficult to produce an album during a pandemic! Fortunately, the band recorded most of the tracks for Where Are You? at Pacific Beat Recording in February 2020 before any stay-at-home orders went into effect. So, all we had to do was find a way to complete the remainder of the project in a safe way. Between July and November, Rick and I worked from a distance with our bandmates to record instrument overdubs like percussion and guitar and saxophone solos.

I am really proud that we were able to find a way to produce the album under pandemic conditions. Although I’ve missed having all of our bandmates in the same room making music together (we haven’t all been in the same place at the same time since March 2020!) I couldn’t be happier with our finished album. Despite the challenges we faced while making it, Where Are You? rocks hard and is everything I imagined it could be.

OSR: What do you hope people take from the album and your music in general?

Sorenson: I want people to be moved. Whether it is the melodies, the lyrics, the music or the overall feeling, I want each listener to connect with our songs in a way that is meaningful to them. Our lyrics cover themes that are both specific and universal – difficult relationships, unrequited love, loss of a loved one – and the music is about feeling what you feel when you feel it and giving yourself permission to do so.

Hopefully, people will sense the blood, sweat and tears that each of us in Sometimes Julie poured to every song. We wear our hearts on our sleeves and make ourselves vulnerable. I believe that it’s that vulnerability that invites people in, to “be with us” for a while, and share the experience.

OSR: What is your greatest music achievement to date?

Sorenson: Being able to share and build musical ideas with Rick and the guys and develop them into songs in sometimes surprising, unexpected ways feels exhilarating and scary every time, and is ultimately so rewarding. Having spent so many years together as a band, we all feel safe exploring new ideas and debating musical direction. It is all about trust – we trust one another enough to take risks. Those risks result in the reward of creating beautiful art together. To me, there is no achievement more fulfilling than that.

I feel we have really grown as a band since Rick and I began in 2012 – literally and figuratively. Although we started as an acoustic duo, in the ensuing years the band has morphed into a six-member rock ‘n’ roll powerhouse. Collaborating with the very talented musicians in Sometimes Julie has allowed Rick and me to grow as songwriters and musicians. All six of us build on each other’s ideas, supporting each other while at the same time standing on each other’s shoulders. It is rare and remarkable, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of it.

OSR: What do you hope people take from your music?

Sorenson: It would be cool to know that people hear something new and something that feels like it belongs to them too. Our music is a reflection of the time and place we are in. We get to capture a moment and share it. I’m saying “hey, I see it this way” or “I hear this, do you hear it too? Has your heart ever hurt like this or have you ever felt this kind of joy?” I want it to live with them for a while even after they have stopped listening.

OSR: What is the best part of having to stay at home during this pandemic?

Sorenson: It has been an opportunity to put things in perspective and understand what is important and what can I do without – at least in the short term.

Professionally, although the pandemic took away the opportunity to perform live, it did not prevent the band from creating new music. We’ve recorded this amazing album that we are so proud of and I am truly grateful we’ve had that opportunity.

On a personal level, I feel fortunate to still be breathing. Without disregarding what a lot of people are going through right now, I have also appreciated the “downtime.” I am playing the piano a lot, writing songs and eating really well. The pandemic has slowed my life considerably, allowing me to take stock of and appreciate what I have. I am blessed to live where I live and spend time with my sweet family who I love very much.

OSR: If you could perform with any artist who would it be and why?

Sorenson: I would love to have Lukas Nelson sit in with our band, both on-stage and in the recording studio. He is a tremendously talented artist and seems like a cool person. I think our voices would blend well together – ‘Counting My Lucky Stars’ could be a duet, right? I’d love to just watch him play his guitar. Maybe we could cover one of his tunes too. He has such an authentic vibe and I would just love to hang out and play with him.

OSR: What is your favourite smell?

Sorenson: I am going to cheat a little and tell you all of my favourite smells: rain on hot pavement in Phoenix, Arizona, the trees in the mountains just outside of Boulder, Colorado, and mundane things like pencils being sharpened, new books and suntan lotion. I also really like the smell of fresh-baked pie. Just about any pie will do, but especially pumpkin pie and apple toffee crumble. I love pie and my husband makes the best pie in the world. As I’ve said, I am very fortunate.

OSR: Do you have any future plans?

Sorenson: When we are all able to get together again, everyone in the band, I want to have a huge party to celebrate the release of Where Are You? and just play, play, play! I love it when we have a ton of gigs lined up. I desperately miss the exhilaration of playing for a live audience, as you can imagine.

Oh and of course…Write! Rehearse! Perform! Record! Repeat! And eat more pie.

Thanks to Monica Sorenson for chatting with us! You can find more about Sometimes Julie on their official website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify.

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