Julie Fader, Singer/Songwriter: The Text Of Young America

Posted by Maximum Fun on 1st September 2009

Julie Fader is a Toronto based singer/songwriter and artist. She’s also a touring member of the Chad Van Gaalen band, Great Lake Swimmers, and the Sarah Harmer band, among others. But on 09/08/09 Hand Drawn Dracula will release Outside In, Fader’s first solo effort. It’s a sonically gorgeous, multi-layered record full of warms textures and heartfelt sentiment. Fader spoke to me about the influence of environment, the importance of trust, and learning to let go.

Chris Bowman: Outside In is your first solo record, but you are not new to this. How did you get your start?

Julie Fader: Seventh grade. When I moved back to Hamilton, Ontario. I had to make a decision between vocal and instrumental and the thought of singing was horrific. So I chose flute. My parents made me take private lessons because my dad was super excited that I was going to try and learn an instrument. They had never forced me to take lessons. My brother and sister had to go for violin lessons and piano lessons and they didn’t take to either. So (my parents) decided with the youngest child that they wouldn’t make me do that. But having to take lessons was fun. Years later, being such a music fan, I was drawn to people that played music. I would hang out and listen to them jam. So when a bunch of people were playing, I brought my flute and a couple of songbooks because the idea of playing by ear seemed far fetched. So we learned some Neil Young songs and that’s how I got my start.

CB: You played Neil Young on the flute?

JF: (Laughs). Yeah I played the melody lines, like, the vocal lines. Do do do-do do dooo! (Ed. Note: to the tune of Down By The River!) It was pretty funny. But that’s all I could do for a while was sight read.

CB: After years of playing with bands your career is about to shift focus. How does working as a support player in a band compare to stepping out on your own?

JF: I thinks it’s equally as exciting and probably a lot more pressure on me, if I want to make it pressure. I don’t know. I’m not releasing a record so that people’s focus shifts on to me or anything. I’m releasing a record because I’ve been chipping away at it for quite some time, and it’s recorded, done, and there’s artwork for it. I don’t think it will be a huge difference. I think I have to relearn how to speak into a microphone, which is not really my favorite thing. One thing I really like as a support player is that I don’t have to say anything. I don’t have to explain how a song was written. I just have to do my thing.

CB: All of your songs are (or sound) deeply personal. Is it difficult for you to let people in like that?

JF: I don’t think so. I think that even though they sound deeply personal, people can personalize them too. I’ve seen some emotional reactions to my songs, people getting choked up. And I don’t think it’s because they were wondering what that experience was like for me. I think it’s just people relating.

CB: I suppose you’re not thinking of anyone else when you’re writing the songs.

JF: Yeah. It’s kind of like when you sit down to work on art, it just happens. I don’t think you worry too much about what people’s reactions are going to be or what they’ll think about the song. You just put it out there.

CB: Graham Walsh (Fader’s boyfriend and member of the band Holy Fuck) produced (and preformed on) Outside In. HF is known for their eclectic electric sound, and your roots are that of a singer/songwriter. You can hear where the two sounds meet.

JF: Yeah, well, that’s Graham’s background in some ways but he’s pretty multi-faceted with music and what he can contribute. Whether he’s sitting down and playing nice supportive piano, bass, drums, or guitar. And Brian Borcherdt (also of HF and contributor on Outside In) has the most sensitive, delicate, beautiful songs as a songwriter, the complete opposite to HF. But working with Graham, was really inspiring. I knew I was in the best hands possible. He cared about the songs as much as I did. He cared about the album sounding good as much as I did. It’s definitely about trust, when you say to someone, “OK, what’s your idea? Capture it.” We didn’t really have any major battles. We’ve been working together for a while musically and I think I’ve learned to let go. We have really good communication. He can get a vocal take from me in one or two takes. Sometimes we’ll listen to take five and it’s almost always take one that we go with.

CB: The album was recorded in a few different places, but mostly at home. Does environment influence your sound?

JF: The environment may have contributed to what took so long for the sound to be recorded and released, (Laughs). I almost think that if you record things in a studio, immerse yourself in it and leave your home it might get done faster. But, yeah! It was great. I know how to tell whether I like a mix from the kitchen. I would leave Graham to work on stuff while I would make us some meals. I’d be chopping away and I’d lean in to the room to make a comment like, “That guitar should be turned down.” Or, “I don’t like that there.” (Laughs). I’d mix from the kitchen a lot of the time, which was great. That’s been one of my favorite things to do in the studio. Is to put that trust in again and make sure that we’re eating really well. It’s good to walk away for a bit once I’ve laid down some guitars or harmonies. Because if I hover to much I start to say, “Well, I don’t know if you should play it that way. I think maybe it’d be better…” So it’s good to just allow someone the freedom of trying things out before you start before you start making suggestions. That’s what I’ve learned.

CB: Many of the people you have worked with in the past appear on Outside In. How much input/say do collaborators have when they sit in on a session with you?

JF: I think I was pretty trusting. I let go. Considering these are all songs that I’ve written. I don’t think I really gave anyone a strict guideline as to what they had to play. I let people try what they things, try what they were thinking. With the harmonies I had specific ideas I guess. But, once again, I didn’t shout out orders or anything. Even when I’m rehearsing with my band, I’m noticing, other than a couple of things, I’m pretty laid back. Maybe it’s from playing with people like Chad Van Gaalen. When I’m playing with him he sometimes says, “Oh do whatever you want there fader, yeah, that would be great!” And I’m not 100% in that court of telling anyone who plays with me or on my record, “Whatever you want!” But I’m feeling more and more laid back about people expressing themselves without a rulebook.

CB: Most of the songs on Outside In have been worked and reworked for a number of years. But you are involved in the write, record, release cycle. Do you feel a new kind of pressure to the writing phase of the process? Or are you constantly writing?

JF: I’m not constantly writing but I’m definitely chipping away at songs and melodies all the time. Recently, I’d say almost more than writing the songs, I’ve been going through the books that I write in while I’m traveling. That’s where a lot of my lyrics come from, just the random entries in to a book. It’s not a journal like, “Today I went for a walk in Brussels.” I don’t write anything like that. It’s the random thought process stuff that I write. It’s a combination of spontaneous writing and poetry or something that I can revisit and start viewing melodically and then it becomes a song.

CB: Outside In is only just being released. But are you experiencing any pressure for a follow or is it too early for that?

JF: It’s not pressure, by any means. It’s more excitement. I want to record a record this winter. I want to take a couple of weeks this winter to hang out in the country, go for hikes and record a record. I also still want to be a support player. I’m not removing myself from playing with the people I play with because I have a record coming out. I don’t think my next record will be as long in the making as this one, but this happened the way it was supposed to happen I think. I put a bit of pressure on myself because this one took a while, but I’ve been busy. I’ve been touring and I’ve been painting. I’ve had good reason for it to come out as late as it did.

CB: You just mentioned that you’re also a painter. What (if any) relationship exists between the two mediums?

JF: I think because they both demand a certain amount of creative focus from me, they’re similar in the way that I can’t focus on both at the same time. When I’m painting 12 hours a day, I’m not writing songs and when I’m working on music I’m not painting as much. I think they both come from, if not the same place, a very similar place. The way I write is very similar to the way I paint. It just sort of comes out. There’s no guideline, stencil, or plan beforehand. It’s a very honest, organic experience for both.

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