Artist: Julian Talamantez Brolaski
Hometown: Goleta, California
Latest Album: It’s Okay Honey
Personal Nicknames (or rejected band names): Julian & the Knockouts
Which artist has influenced you the most … and how?
JTB: Probably the poet William Shakespeare. I know that sounds cliché to say. I love the way he combines words which have their roots in Old English with words of Romance origin, like his line: “The multitudinous seas incarnadine / making the green one red.” He drank deep from the fount of English, and I’m grateful for what he gave us — language that sings.
What other art forms — literature, film, dance, painting, etc. — inform your music?
Poetry, in both its written and oral forms. I think of folk music as a kind of oral poetry. And I love to see the trajectories of the way songs are passed down, change, and mutate, like a game of Telephone. The song “In the Pines,” for instance, or “Wildwood Flower.” There are so many versions of those songs, and stories around them, wayward histories, misheard and remade lines. I like to think of my songs as operating in that tradition, rhyming and stealing, dressing up old songs in new clothes. My song “Goodbye Brother,” for example, is a rewriting of the Carter Family song “Lula Walls.” And “Covid-19 Blues” is basically a ripoff of “Long Gone Lonesome Blues” by Hank Williams.
What rituals do you have, either in the studio or before a show?
I do these vocal warmups before I sing that a teacher in Philadelphia taught me. They’re very annoying sounding, like a bratty baby crying, and then like a whining witch, and so I get kind of self-conscious doing them, but it really makes a difference. I meditate and try to get myself into a calm place, and focus on my intention to really be there with the songs, to sing them with my heart, and to give my all for the audience.
What has been the best advice you’ve received in your career so far?
My grandmother Inés told me whenever you are speaking or singing, always do it from your heart. Over the years, I came to understand that that is not a metaphor, that the feeling is actually quite literal, and bodily. So I try to feel that heartspace physically, and to remember to direct my songs from there. I think that’s a good piece of advice for life, too.
Which elements of nature do you spend the most time with and how do those impact your work?
I live near the ocean in Goleta, California, near Santa Barbara. I love to sit and feel my toes in the sand, walk along the cliffs, smell the enmineralated air. I go to the ocean whenever I feel upset, and it always helps me. Sometimes, I write poems down there, or I bring my guitar and sit on my tailgate and watch the water. It’s very meditative to be in the water, too, swimming or surfing, and it’s humbling and exhilarating to feel the ocean’s power. I always get ideas in the water — if someone could invent a wetsuit with a zipper pocket for a waterproof notebook, that would be amazing.
Photo Credit: Owen Duncan