Photos / Hadassi Reuben
Styling / Victoria Garcia
There were no squeaky clean bubblegum beginnings for emerging pop star Julietta, the indie-pop singer whose 2017 debut single, the humid summer anthem “Beach Break,” became a bona fide breakout. The songwriter instead spend her teens raising hell in New York City, experimenting with drugs and alcohol before a stint in rehab gave her the refresh she desperately needed.
These days, Julietta’s only addiction is to making flawless pop, like her latest infectious single, “Hard Love,” which glistens like a little red corvette speeding away into the California sunset. The track boasts a considerable ‘80s new-wave sheen, through the singer-songwriter insists the era of Aquanet and spandex isn’t a conscious influence. As for the lyrics, which Julietta delivers via airy melodies, the song “represents wanting to be in a relationship with someone that’s honest and real, who isn’t scared to love me all the way, no pullbacks.”
“Live it to the fullest and if it doesn’t work out, then that’s life,” she shares. “But at least the time we spent together was full.” Below, Julietta opens up about her character-forming youth spent getting into trouble, her upcoming EP, Smooth Sailing, and why summer in New York City is so damn special.
You had a pretty tumultuous youth: drugs, alcohol, rehab. How did the experience shape who you are today as a young woman?
I never liked to play by the rules, especially as a teenager. When life would throw painful challenges at me I would always find a way to beat it. It was the New York hustle bubbling in my blood. But at that age, I didn’t use that strength in the “right way.” I used my hustle skills to make sure I had the right drugs, alcohol and popularity with a side of promiscuity to numb myself. By not feeling I thought I was winning. I put a lot of work into making sure I was numb. Now, I use that same drive that New York once taught me for a better use. I work hard out of the respect I have for myself.
What sort of hardships did you face growing up in NYC? And in contrast, what were the best parts of being a teen in NYC?
I feel like it’s so difficult growing up anywhere nowadays, especially with the amount of junk we are exposed to through our smartphones. That’s how it was in NYC, except we didn’t have smartphones like we do now. We didn’t need one! We had access to pretty much anything whenever. I would fantasize about running away, the constant high energy and pressure was a lot to handle at times. I felt very alone in a city full of people and it was too easy to go down the rabbit hole.
There were also a lot of amazing parts of growing up in NYC. I have so many beautiful memories in Central Park with my family and friends, from the innocent walks as a kid to the high school rituals of getting high on the great lawn. I am a huge foodie, too—NYC has always spoiled me with food. Whether I was home eating my momma’s Italian food, or in the hood eating bagels, pizza, Chinese or Japanese, I always ate so well. Those 7:30 a.m. morning bagels with bacon, egg and cheese before class were highlights of my mornings. There’s really nothing like an NYC bagel.
What advice would you give to young people going through similar struggles? Is making music part of the catharsis for you?
Honestly, find what you love and always go with it. Let love guide you and fill your voids. I know it’s hard to do when you’re in a rut, but love and passion is the formula for true happiness. Writing and singing out how I’m feeling through melodies has always helped me get through the hurdles. It helps me clear my heart by giving me strength to cry, or just to be loud and let it all go.
Tell me about the poignant meaning behind your EP title, Smooth Sailing: Is that where you’re at in your life today?
Smooth Sailing is about the turbulent time I had as a teenager… I’m always riding on highs and then dragging my feet in lows a couple of times a year. There’s never a time in my life that it’s always going to be 100% good, something’s always gotta go a little downhill to remember perspective. But at the end, everybody’s gotta grow someday!
Your music, no matter the time of year released, all sounds a little bit like music to blast during a humid summer night on the coast, with the convertible top down. If you could describe your music with a season, what would it be and why?
Definitely summer! I’m a summer baby, born in August, so it’s always my favorite time. I’m not the biggest fan of the freezing weather. All my music, I guess, sounds like my sweet escape!
Summer in the city is such a special, unique time. Can you describe your perfect New York City summer day?
Breeze under my arms and some freckles on my face… drinking a glass of wine with a lot of ice along the river, or on a friend’s roof, overlooking the summer sunset reflecting off of the high-rises… Sounds pretty nice to me
There’s also an undercurrent of ‘80s synth-pop and new wave. Is that a conscious inspiration? If not, what sort of things are on your music inspiration mood board?
It’s not a conscious inspiration, actually. Two producers I worked with, Stray Echo & Madge, tend to go that direction when we create for some reason! I guess it’s our vibe. I usually listen to a lot of chill music, like Rhye, jungle, Fleetwood Mac and other similar sounds!
Your breakout track, “Beach Break,” was recently featured in a fashion campaign. How did that come about?
Canadian brand Rudsak heard “Beach Break” around and wanted to have their jackets dance to it! I love it when my music visits different markets. It’s fun working all together!
Would you like to do more fashion collaborations?
Yeah, for sure! It would make me so happy to see my music inspire different industries. Tom Ford actually featured my song “Runaway” in his fashion week show.
“Beach Break” was recorded in Nicaragua. Is there anywhere else in the world you’re dying to visit and record in?
I love working out of remote places that are full of animals and the presence of nature that I don’t get to breathe in when I’m New York City. Anywhere with all of those factors encompassed would be my ideal!
What’s next for you?
I hope to keep creating the music I love and go on tour this fall. Just wanna keep making music and do what makes me the happiest.
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