Interview with: Julia Freifeld, Singer & Songwriter,
Interviewed by: Moriah Hope
The Shakti Journal: To start, share a little back-story on yourself and your motivation to share music with the world.
Julia Freifeld: I’ve always been singing my lungs out. I remember in public my mom was always cracking up because everywhere we went I would be singing at the top of my lungs for anyone willing to listen. In middle school due to some bullying I became extremely afraid to sing for anyone and this stuck for many years. I played at one open mic in high school and I remember almost fainting because I was so terrified, and even afterwards I was consumed by the thought of everyone judging my performance. It was not until college that I began to face my fears again and start singing for people.
It was around the time that I started writing songs about sexual violence awareness, I felt as though these songs had the capacity to heal and that it would be selfish for me to not share. I got such an incredible response that I have been actively fighting my stage fright ever since and recently felt so over my fears that I started considering music as a career rather than a hobby. My motivation for sharing music with the world is to help heal survivors with my lyrics and to prove to myself that I am an empowered woman who will never give up on my dreams. I hope to stand for all women and help them find power within themselves through my songs.
Shakti: Every artist has a unique sound, often inspired by the sounds of others. You cover some popular songs but also have tons of original music. Who are your inspirations and how would you describe your style?
Julia: Growing up I was utterly obsessed with Aretha Franklin, I knew all of her songs by heart and would belt them non-stop. She was my first role model, and just hearing the sheer passion in her voice ignited my love for music. Because of her I fell in love with all soul music; the feeling and emotional depth to it is incredible to me. I have also always been a massive fan of the Beatles, but who isn’t? I listen to them all the time and gravitate towards the really weird and almost creepy songs. I also love Frank Sinatra, and growing up I would perform at retirement centers so I know all of his songs and love his smooth and heartfelt style.
Ultimately I have hundreds of musical inspirations and the list changes daily as I discover or rediscover musicians who touch my soul. My music currently is mellow acoustic with a flare of soul, funk, and pop. The album I am currently working on sounds like Joss Stone meets Adele meets Jack Johnson. The theme of the album is women and survivor empowerment. I listen to such an array of music and pull inspiration from it all, so I hope to eventually create albums of many different genres and styles.
Shakti: Pick a song of yours that you created with the intention of eliciting a specific experience for your listeners, and describe what you envision that experience being like for them.
Julia: It’s called “I’m Losing Time”. The first line is: “I want to paint a picture of the way gravity pulls me, that bittersweet it lingers all the way to my first memory.” I wrote this song in my childhood home on our last day before my parents sold it. I was sitting in a room that I had sat in thousands of times before and I had the realization that humans are really just a collection of memories that elicit emotional responses.
The chorus talks about how time takes us on a journey through life and we are just passersby in a sense, taking in all of these beautiful moments that fly by. To me this song reflects the human journey and how it is so beautiful that we go through life and have all these experiences that shape us. To sit with a single moment and paint a picture in your mind is hard to do because we are constantly shifting and moving forward.
Shakti: Speaking of lyrics evoking a specific experience, you made a cover response to Post Malone’s song Rockstar, which plays frequently on mainstream radio stations. I quote you:
“Derogatory lyrics that objectify women have become far too normalized in the mainstream music industry. I am taking a stand by exposing these lyrics with the hopes of enacting change so that pop stars use their fame to spread compassionate messages.”
What kind of an effect do you feel these lyrics have on individuals and the collective as a whole? Find Julia’s cover response here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHZY6fum-Eg*
Julia: It’s so cool that you bring this up because a couple days ago I got a call from my best friend who told me about an incredible experience she had just had. She showed my Post Malone video to her college mates who were all 22-year-old men, and she said a few days later they were at this party and the Post Malone song came on and apparently they all stopped dancing and started talking about how horrible the lyrics were, and proceeded to educate their friends at the party about it. That is exactly the impact I am trying to create.
I want people to be cognizant of how harmful mainstream music can be and how we cannot allow these messages to be blasted into the public. The main issue is that Post Malone and similar artists rap their lyrics and this makes it hard to understand every word they say, so subconsciously we hear that it’s okay to call women bitches, it’s okay to joke about taking advantage of a woman, because these are the underlying messages in these songs.
Shakti: What compassionate messages do you hope to see pop stars spreading in the mainstream? Do you think that could contribute to global awareness and behavior? If so, how?
Julia: I am not expecting all pop stars to start singing about world peace and ending world hunger, I am just trying to clap back against harmful lyrics that make certain groups of people more vulnerable. If the world was a perfect place and musicians were singing the right messages, I think they would sound like whatever reflects the heart of the artist.
I sing about sexual violence awareness because those are the songs in my heart that I want the world to hear. If someone has love songs in their heart, that is beautiful! If someone has songs about protecting wildlife or fighting the prison industrial complex, that’s amazing too! What makes artists beautiful is the genuine spirit they pour into their music.
Shakti: What is your motivation to use your musical platform to shed light specifically on the issue of sexual violence? Why are these the songs in your heart?
Julia: In my first week of college, my two closest friends were sexually assaulted and this changed everything for me. I became a crisis counselor for survivors of sexual violence shortly thereafter and helped hundreds of survivors regain their footing after trauma. I learned that survivors are the most badass and incredible people on the planet and wanted to create music that showcased their spirit. I want to create a brighter future for people who have been through so much – to help as many survivors as possible. As a survivor myself, I know how hard it is to come out of a dark place, and if I can be that light for anyone I would be honored.
Shakti: Tell us about your business Jewels For Change.
Julia: Jewels for Change is a sea glass based jewelry company, sea glass representing the journey of a survivor going through rough ocean waters and coming out a beautiful jewel. When I worked as a crisis counselor, my organization had its safe shelters full for 10-11 months out of the year, and full time therapists had 6-week waiting lists. It broke my heart to turn away survivors every single day at my job. So I donate 20% of proceeds directly to organizations that work with survivors and as my company grows, I plan on donating a higher and higher percentage.
Shakti: How do you see Jewels For Change expanding or changing with time?
Julia: Ultimately, I hope to make this a national organization that raises enough funds so that no survivor of sexual violence is turned away from the resources they so desperately need. I am planning on creating a lot more products, since jewelry is not as gender inclusive as clothing and other things. I want to one day go beyond providing resources for survivors by create educational programs that teach young children about emotions and consent and what healthy relationships look like, in hopes of building a brighter more knowledgeable future.
Shakti: Every lyricist has a unique way of writing songs. What is your process like? Is it different every time?
Julia: I am a very emotionally charged person and my emotion usually comes in bursts. So when I am feeling overwhelmed I sit down with my guitar or piano and press record. I would say 80-90% of my songs come out in one take and I only change a couple things. I find inspiration in everything and if time allowed, I would write 20 songs a day! I also write poetry non-stop and convert some of those poems into lyrics.
Shakti: I’ve been listening to your new EP from your band Cake The Bakery and personally resonate with the song Loud. What inspired these lyrics? “Slow down your roll man. Take it slow man. We got nowhere to go, sit down. Livin’ is easy if you catch the right breeze- so catch it right now.”
Julia: It’s interesting because this song has such a different meaning than people probably interpret. Although it is a chill mellow song, it holds a lot of anger and frustration. The whole idea is that sometimes I feel like I am living in a box and I just want to be heard, I want to be LOUD.
I feel like when I sing passionate lyrics about important topics it can be seen as a negative in the music industry because I am not fitting into the box of what a 22-year-old girl should sing about or be like. People were furious about my Post Malone cover because it is unlady-like to stand up against sexism with anger and frustration. But I don’t care who is telling me to slow down and curb my intense passion. I am me and me is LOUD.
The whole “Livin’ is easy if you catch the right breeze, so catch it right now,” is about how it would be really easy for me to get some marketing job like what was expected of me, and to live a normal “acceptable” life working to live and living to work. To me that option feels like a waste of a life because I need to be able to do music or I am not myself. Music is a huge struggle with a lot of uncertainty and self-doubt but I am so beyond blessed to be able to work through my struggles and follow my dream.
Shakti: Another personal favorite track of mine from your new EP is Walk With Me. “Walk with me, walk with me. I’ll tell ya ‘bout philosophy. I’ll tell ya ‘bout the walls we built inside our brains electric trains…. I’ll tell you ‘bout the flaws I see in nature and technology – these thoughts they always follow me.” Tell us about those lyrics.
Julia: I was a philosophy major going into college and one thing that I hate in life is small talk. I want to know what makes people tick, what their deepest fears are, what they are living for, what they think happens when they die. I want to know a person at their core not their shell and this song is about how I love having deep talks but sometimes get lost in my mind and seem to lose touch with the outside world.
At times I find myself staring into the distance and without realizing it an hour has passed because I am so deep in thought. Call me crazy but I get a high off of just plain thinking because it is the most beautiful thing we have, thought.
Shakti: Do you have upcoming tour dates we can look out for? And where can people find your music?
Julia: I am so excited to start playing gigs! Since my music career is brand new, I have really been working on building and organizing my song collection and gaining the confidence within myself to believe I am worthy of going on tour. I have started just this past week talking to booking agents so hopefully I am going to start playing gigs soon, and as much as possible! My music for my band Cake the Bakery is available for purchase on Apple Music but I will be coming out with my first solo album in the next month, which will also be for sale there.
Shakti: How can our readers stay in touch with you on social media?
Julia: I put the most effort into my Instagram. I’m constantly post random song clips and fun! You can find my solo music @juliafreifeldmusic or my band @cakethebakerymusic. We also have Facebook pages set up for our music. My music website is juliamusicofficial.com and on Soundcloud you can hear our EP at Cake The Bakery. You can also check out my company Jewels for Change at jewelsforchange.com. Thank you so much for the support!