OVERCOMING ADVERSITY: A CONVERSATION WITH JULIA KWAMYA

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on reddit

 

Julia Kwamya, a native of Brooklyn, is a singer-songwriter who is transforming the landscape of indie rock with her distinct musical genre, known as “moody disco.”

As an African woman raised in the United States, Julia adeptly challenges preconceived notions and societal expectations, providing her audience with a refreshing sense of liberation. Her music transcends conventional boundaries, encouraging her listeners to break free from the norm. Julia’s audacious commitment to self-expression is paving the way for her within the music industry, simultaneously serving as an inspiration for others to embrace their individuality.

Between studies, moving to new cities, and experimenting until she got what she wanted to say with her music and how she wanted to do it, it was finally in 2019, when she finally amassed enough songs for an EP. However, everything took a drastic turn when Kwamya was struck by a taxi, forcing her to start over.

Following her accident, Kwamya had to rediscover the basics – walking and even holding a fork became monumental challenges. Although it was devastating, the experience offered her a new perspective: “It intensified my burning desire to pursue my aspirations,” she expresses, “I was determined to continue creating.” 

Nowadays, she is actively shaping the vision for her debut album, a compilation of introspective dance tracks that encapsulate the past few years of Kwamya’s life and the challenges she’s overcome. One of those is ‘Say Yes’.

LADYGUNN – Can you share the inspiration behind your latest single, “Say Yes”? 

Imagine a group of bees swirling around your head thinking that your brain is their hive. 

This track is inspired by the relentless questioning, the cacophony of thoughts that I had swirling in my brain about why I was the one involved in a life-changing car incident. Inspiration struck in a bathtub, so perhaps I owe it to that brief moment of peace for this track.

 

LADYGUNN – How did the writing process unfold around that memorable moment in the bathtub? 

Ha! I made the most fabulous lavender bath to soak my ailing limbs in and as soon as I submerged in the tub the chorus for “Say Yes” popped into my head. I tried to sit still and luxuriate in the bath but I couldn’t shake the chorus and I knew that if I didn’t get out and immediately write it down, sing it out, put it in Logic, I would never forgive myself. Writing Wonderhow happened similarly. The song flashed in my head and I got to work. 

 

LADYGUNN – Can you explain the meaning of the lyrics to “Say Yes” and how the song reflects your journey and personal growth over the past few years? 

I can safely say, I have stopped drowning in thoughts and asking “why this happened to me”. I have accepted my fate and I am doing everything I can to move on with my life. 

After the incident, I had no idea what I was going to do, where I belonged, and what the point of surviving it was. I sustained injuries that left the right side of my body paralyzed and beyond not feeling anything physically, I couldn’t feel anything emotionally. 

Thankfully and gratefully with the support of my doctors, friends, family, therapist, theater, and music, I have been able to drag myself out of the mire. I’m not perfect and still have my limitations but I have a new joie de vivre. The growth that I feel the most is my ability to stand up for myself no matter the cost. In the past, my fear would have “paralyzed me” and yet here I was with a real paralyzed arm. I learned quickly that my fear is not a good enough excuse for me to ratfink on whatever I truly want to do.

LADYGUNN – “Say Yes” touches on deep emotions and personal experiences. How do you navigate the balance between vulnerability and empowerment in your songwriting and life, in general terms? 

When I write, I am searching for an answer. It seems as though the people closest to me aren’t necessarily able to help me find an answer to a myriad of my problems so I need to find a solution on my own. I allow myself to be vulnerable in tracks like “Say Yes” and in other tracks muse on possible solutions or sing about how my “solutions” didn’t work. I believe that the throughline of my narrative is resilience. In my darkest times, I get maudlin that my resilience has been tested so often but I do believe that there is a reason for my existence so I will always create, no matter the medium, to the best of my ability. 

LADYGUNN – After a life-changing accident, how did the recovery process affect your approach to music and what role did it play in the creation of your EP and subsequent projects? 

When I woke up from the coma the first thought I had was that “I need to finish this record”. It haunted me that I could have left this earth and never left anything behind. No legacy. My only desire in life is to build this legacy, no matter what form it takes (music, acting, finance). So I started to train my body, my voice, and my mind. Every skill set, new or old, that I train only adds to my arsenal in terms of what I am able to do musically/artistically. 

Another advantage of recovery has been the ability to learn to be patient. I quickly realized that getting surgery doesn’t mean you are healed the next day! Naive but what did I know?! I had never been severely injured before. There are many silver linings surrounding this incident. I hope you never have to go through anything like it to find them though. 

LADYGUNN – Your music has been described as a fusion of genres such as disco, soul, and pop. How do you combine these influences to create your distinctive sound? 

I listen to a lot of 80’s music and David Bowie! I have a triton Korg LE (same keyboard Pharrell uses) and I sit and explore sounds and put together things that I think are interesting. 

I have been influenced by the greats like Tears for Fears (The Hurting), Pretenders, Karen Carpenter, Sade, ELO, Men at Work, Steve Monite, N.E.R.D., Ebo Taylor, Kojo Antwi, Kylie Minogue, JUSTICE, Metronomy, Rick Astley, WHAM, Todd Rundgren, Queens of the Stone Age, Hooray for Earth, Weezer, Herbie Hancock, Maurice Ravel, Blossom Dearie, Phyllis Hyman…the list can go on! They are all so fabulous. When I started writing I would get scared because my music didn’t sound like anything au courant. I am old now and appreciative of my differences. 

I am happy to build around sounds that I find fascinating and I am grateful that I have been well traveled in my time on earth. 

LADYGUNN – For years you were under the moniker ‘Germans’. But after your accident, you came back to Julia Kwamya. Why? Was there any specific situation? 

GERMANS was a great moniker for me to hide behind. I wanted people to listen to the music for the music and forget about me. I didn’t want there to be an assumption about what I was writing because of what I looked like. Ha! Good luck. But I tried. 

But after I woke up from the coma, I knew that the name change was mandatory. I work really hard putting the songs together and the shows and making the vinyl, all the while having a job, talking to fans, and healing my body. I’m going to take credit here and share what I know of the world with other people. At least they know who they can Instagram stalk now. 

 

LADYGUNN – How did growing up in various places around the world and your diverse cultural background influence your music and how does it manifest itself in your sound and storytelling?

To escape the Swedish winters, my mother would take us to her country, Ghana for Christmas. I have distinct memories of men in stilts lumbering about, drums singing loud, and women belting a mix of traditional songs and Christian incantations. Music was the throughline of it all. And if I am honest, there is something musical about being in a place where the roosters are crowing to wake you up, or the chicks are clucking, and the baby goats straggle behind you bleating for you to pick them up. Is that not an orchestra in itself? 

Living around the world has given me the ability to find beauty in many different types of sound. If you translate one sentence into 15 different languages they will all have their own rhythmic take! That to me is exciting. I also love listening to the way vowels are pronounced. Since I started taking voice lessons with Pamela Kuhn in 2020, I have become a lot more aware of what the mouth, face, and tongue do to establish sounds. So you start to realize the different ways people form sounds depending on where they are from. I find this endlessly fascinating. 

My storytelling is developing. I take influence from the plays that I read, whether is Shakespeare, Arthur Miller, or Lynn Nottage. Perhaps my greatest influence is Ernest Hemingway. I take to heart his rules about editing and dusting off the fluff from a sentence. I prefer not to overwrite. “Anne and Cats 4EVA” is an exception because that is a story that I challenged myself to tell within the structure of a song. I do suspect that the next body of work will be different. I am older, I am not 26, and unlucky in love and childish about it, and I have seen things that might only be said in a longer form. 

 

LADYGUNN – The upcoming show at Bowery Electric on January 28th is highly anticipated. What can fans expect from your live performance? And how are you preparing yourself for it?

Rehearsals, attempting to drink more water, peloton, vocal scales, and sleep. I want to be well-rested for this show. It’s my first show in 9 months and I want to live and be free on that stage.

I am so happy about this! It will be energetic, punchy, fun, sensual, and sincere. At the end of this show, the world will be wondering, “Why isn’t she playing at MSG already?”

 

Close Menu
×
×

Cart