It's true, artists do get nervous. Even captivating singers like Julia Henning. Currently on a national tour of Australia to promote her new debut album Fledgling with four piece band, Melbourne based fans will be able to catch the outfit on the 22nd of August at The Catfish Bar, Fitzroy and a free all-ages gig on the 23rd of August at Grumpy's Green, Fitzroy. "I always get nervous before shows and this is the biggest tour we've ever done, I'm kind of squirming in my seat at the moment!"
December, the second single from the album, is a rich tapestry of lyrics, supported by a high impact filmclip - a heartwarming and engaging visual love story, "it was actually made by Eli (Green, drums) and I on a shoestring budget." The behind the scenes footage is available on the bands Youtube channel, and a great prism into the mechanics of how it all came together. Henning creates the kind of content she loves consuming, I like to share with people the things I do that excite me, it is really fun." The album was crowdfunded through Pozible, a way to include fans, "we were blown away by the level of support we had, a lot of people are interested in online music - but for those who come out and see us and share our music, we are so incredibly grateful."
Hailing from Adelaide, the band came together in 2011, "most of us met at TAFE studying music, following our dreams, and just got along really well together." They know being diverse in the music industry is key to survival, "we pretty much do everything ourselves, we have a really great booking agency who organised this tour, and we are working with the team over at Footstomp who are helping us with publicity." Australian artists and bands are increasingly needing to be hands on, with the band producing their own flyers, music videos, promo photos, and creating their website, "literally everything is us. We work very hard as a team to save money, it is very expensive to do things. It is really difficult to get anybody to believe in you, you put yourself out there and you really hope somebody takes an interest and likes what you do."
With so much incredible local and national music coming out of Australia, the band know the realities, "it is difficult to get in front of somebody who wants to produce you or put you on their label. But we've got the tools, thanks to social media and stuff - a lot of musicians are saying 'I am not going to wait around, I am going to do it myself', which is good for the industry." Henning explains she sees the increase of ideas, a positive and healthy shift for talented musicians, with "less record labels controlling what people do."
The bands entry into the music scene, was indicative of their passion, they performed at the Sydney Opera House with a string quartet made up of members of the Sydney Orchestra, "and various amazing places like that." She laughs, recounting the event, "it's a funny story actually, it was our first ever performance as a band, and how we decided to launch ourselves as musicians. That was a crazy time, it was a very ballsy decision and I think it paid off."
The string arrangements and orchestral additions, are powerful emotional accompaniments to the bands haunting and melodic sound. With more and more bands adding these compositions into their songs, it's creating depth for audiences. This style captures the evocative sentiment behind lyrics and the resurgence, is one to watch, "for us we do string quartets and real strings, there is a certain emotional control players have over their instruments. If you take the player out of the equation, it really takes away somewhat from the instrument, especially with strings. They are so expressive and beautiful, and they just instantly bring a new level of emotion to any song."
Henning confides if she could play strings, she absolutely would. "I love, love strings. I think they are an incredible instrument, I am just terrible with string instruments - it's one of my weakest parts as a musician, I am the worse guitar player you'll ever hear. I admire people that play guitar, I am very envious of anyone that can play guitar. I have double jointed fingers, I don't have the strength or dexterity in my hands to hold the strings for a long time, and it takes a whole lot of concentration!"
The band certainly take the pressure off needing to learn any new instruments soon [she also plays the piano and harp], "they are good guys, lots of fun to work with, although Matt is a much better piano player than me!" Music has been in Henning's blood from a young age, "this is what I wanted to be doing." Her parents were very supportive and even entertained her childhood dream, "technically I wanted to be a mermaid, The Little Mermaid always sang so beautifully - as I grew up I realised that singing was much easier to get into than being a mermaid!"
Much like The Little Mermaid's survival of challenges, the band have encountered their share too. Debut single Tempest came after an altercation with another band that was splitting up, "there was quite a bit of nastiness". Lyrics Eli had written were stolen, a hard situation, as all were close friends. "For a little patch it seemed like the whole world was against us, we were having altercations with people - staying true to those around you and weathering the storm was what we were aiming for with filmclip."
Ethereal, romantic and conceptually rich, the video shines a new dimension onto a confronting set of circumstances. With songs like In White and If and only if also written about relationships, Henning has a reflective view on it all, "it wasn't a great time for me, both songs are about a nasty break up. I think in the end, I just wasn't the right person for that person, I couldn't be right for them - I was wasting time and energy trying to be what they wanted, in the end I realised I needed to be myself and stand on my own two feet." She explains that seeing people get stuck in relationships, fuelled her to write these tracks - her way of showing you can get out of these situations - rather than spend a lifetime unhappy.
When asked why we as listeners are inherently drawn to intensely emotional songs, she wisely advises that songs represent a catharsis, "I was talking to a friend of mine about this, and I think that there are messages people need to hear in their lives, there are certain things we have to remind ourselves of and I think that art delivers that. It connects with people on a different level to say, your friend, parent, or co-worker giving you advice. In a way, you are giving advice to yourself by choosing to listen to that song. I think by listening to sad songs, it enables us to feel happy again, to feel and acknowledge that emotion, and give it the credit it deserves before you can move on. I've been thinking about this a lot!"
It's this thoughtful and considered way of approaching songwriting that makes Julia and her band an act to follow. An incredibly endearing band, they were picked up by Unearthed (triple j) and acclaimed tv series Offspring last year, "we got featured on one of the episodes, it was the first time I had ever watched it, we were up in Coolangatta recording the album. It was right at the very end, and over a bit of a montage of some character's going through various struggles, it was a really nice, emotional episode."
Fans in Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane still have time to catch the band with performances scheduled from late August to early September, with the beautiful singer confiding she still feels slightly anxious, "when I get on stage I am a nervous wreck and my legs are shaking, I think I have very high expectations of myself." When asked what exactly is running through her mind at the time, she reveals: feeling petrified of getting sick and not being able to perform at her best. "Once I am on stage though, it is the best feeling to have actually accomplished that. As I'm not behind the piano anymore, and it is me in front of people - you feel completely vulnerable and naked, it is quite scary."
Audiences will definitely see her transform though, a metamorphosis of sorts, "when I get into the flow of it, it feels like you are a superhero and you have all the time in the world to remember the lyrics, up until that stage you are just freaking out!"