Juliet Strong - connecting to the experience
Growing up in Oakland California, Juliet Strong was fortunate to still have music and theater in public school during her elementary years. In addition to that, her mom is a dancer and her dad is a folk fiddler involved in a folk community that gets together every summer and camps out, playing and passing down traditional Americana, Middle Eastern, Indian, Brazilian, Irish and Scottish music and dance around a campfire.
Even though she didn't make the concise decision to become a musician until going off to college, she started paying piano at the age of 5, eventually progressing to picking up the accordion and spending lots of time in her backyard “making shit up”. With varying influences like Nirvana, Dave Mathews, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, and Stevie Wonder, along with listening to lots of her mom’s vinyl collection from her San Francisco hippie days, Juliet felt that even with a musical edge, she had a lot to prove to her dad that she could be a “true” musician.
Dabbling in both Classical and Jazz music, by default Juliet went back to her folk roots, but this time exploring for herself. About 5 years ago her and some buddies banded together to play some of the tunes she has been gathering, leading her to playing them in-front of family and friends, receiving lots of positive feedback fueling the momentum to pave forward.
Taking her strong background in the arts, she went on to produce her first album defining lots of her past influences such as Jazz, soul and musical theater, coming through her with her own music and even being compared to Carroll King. Constantly “flushing out her process” she takes Ira glass’s philosophy of “the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work” or as she translated that “it’s not quality it’s quantity” very much to heart, making it a point to sit with her instrument as much as possible, stretching her creative muscle.
When asked to explain her influences for her creative process, here is what she answered: “I try and find ways to bring urban influence into my work, which challenges me. I’m fortunate to have this great view out of my Buswick window where some locals fly their flocks of pigeons, I sometimes go up on my roof watching these different flocks of pigeons fly as the sun is setting. It’s this kind of dichotomy of something really Urban, with this softness that comes into it. I also find inspiration on a daily bases in the humanity with-in the man-made NYC structures, where inside the hard concrete face there are these gooshy souls having these beautiful human connections”
Using these influences and urban experiences, Juliet will sit in her apartment with her keyboard and piano, repeating melodies and humming tunes as the start of her creative process. When she comes along a tune that “fits”, she breaks out her notepad and starts writing using that momentum to propel direction for creative juices. Once finding the musical progression, creating the bridge is where most of the work usually goes in for her, tinkering and fitting to craft more into what was just created.
Concluding our interview, Juliet shared her most profound musical experience, the one that had sealed her fate to journey the path as a musician, along with some words of wisdom for others in similar situations. “I am a huge Bobby McFerrin fan, he is a prolific vocalist, but it’s the humanity in every performance that always chokes me up. What sealed it for me is, I went to see him at the San Francisco Jazz Festival were he opened with an improvisation piece, when a baby started crying in the crowd and instead of ignoring or disconnecting from it, he incorporated that crying into that song. It was in that moment that made me want to do what I do. Tagging on to that, music is a connecting force and I feel that everyone who creates, it’s their sole obligation to find ways to connect through the creative process. It may be very isolating at times to do this, but it’s in those periods when you connect to something greater than yourself. Also know, there is no straighten arrow, there’s no one way to do something and it pointless to compare yourself to someone else!”