Rising Music Star Julia Klot On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Music Industry

An Interview With Elana Cohen

Elana Cohen
Authority Magazine

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Over the years, I’ve collaborated and networked with musicians to work on my original music, and it’s been one of my favorite things about being a music artist. With that being said, I wish someone would have told me that I need to set boundaries when it comes to recording my original work with other people. I’ve had a few instances where someone has tried to undermine my role in the studio, and as someone who has a lot of production and mixing input for my own songs, this was a tricky situation to navigate. I’ve learned that it takes a bit of trial and error to find the right people to work with, but that it’s so important to work with someone who values your role in the process just as much as they do working on your music!

As a part of our interview series with leaders, stars, and rising stars in the music industry, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Julia Klot.

Julia Klot is a NYC based music artist writing soulful pop music. With her original compositions, she creates melodic and intricate piano parts accompanied by her dynamic vocal range that throw it back to singer/songwriters like Carol King and Elton John. In her most recent release “Boxing Gloves”, Julia introduces an upbeat, funky sound that demonstrates the storytelling nature of her lyrics paired with her fun and captivating musical arrangements.

Julia began her musical study at age 6 and was exposed to the world of songwriting through her teachers. In 2011, Julia began working with an independent record label Radian Records at Redbird Studio, eventually releasing her debut album “Julia Klot” (2014). Since then, she’s established herself as a frequent performer throughout NYC, playing at well-known venues such as the Bitter End, Rockwood Music Hall, Mercury Lounge, Pianos, and Arlene’s Grocery.

Julia’s sophomore release “Brooklyn” (2019) unfolds a captivating story that draws inspiration from missing home and starting anew. The album was recorded in the Music Conservatory studios at Purchase College. Her release “Ghost” (2021) introduces the listener to a more serene and soulful sound, with stories about the cycles and progressions of relationships. While still true to Julia’s piano-based style, the EP showcases experimentalism with synths, keyboard sounds, and arranging.

Julia recently returned to the NYC live music scene, and is recording new music that she can’t wait to share!

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit about your “origin story”. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Thank you so much for having me be a part of your interview series!

I was born and raised in Brooklyn — I grew up with my mom, dad, and little brother. I was a very energetic and outgoing kid, but at the same time super shy when it came to meeting new people and speaking in front of big groups. Funnily enough, when I started writing music it correlated directly with getting up in front of crowds and performing my songs, but it became a fun and expressive way for me to share my stories. I always surrounded myself with friends who were supportive and caring, and a lot of them I’m still really close with now. My family was always very supportive of my creativity and passion, and really encouraged me to pursue music in an academic setting which I’ll always be grateful for.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I got into music when I was 6 years old and my parents enrolled me in piano lessons with a music teacher who lived in our building. I had so much fun in my lessons and I loved learning and playing the piano. I started out learning classical music, but my teacher also introduced me to contemporary and the world of songwriting. I started to get really into writing my own music when I was 10, and my mom and dad were very supportive. For my 11th birthday, my dad booked some time at an independent label’s NYC recording studio called Red Bird Studio, where I recorded some demos for my original songs. The label showed interest in my music and I went on to record my debut album with them. It was a super cool experience as a middle schooler to go into the studio and work on my music with professional producers, engineers, and session musicians. Seeing my music coming to life for the first time made me so excited at the prospect that this could be my career, and with the encouragement from my family, it was an easy decision for me to keep writing and recording my music.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When I was in middle school, I released a Christmas single called “Christmas Time”. Looking back on it years later, I was super embarrassed by it, but of course all my college friends and peers found it when they went to look at my music profile. The single artwork (me in a gigantic Santa hat sporting the nerdiest glasses) became an inside joke between me and a few of my friends. Very recently, in 2021 on April Fool’s Day, I opened my Spotify for Artists stats to check how my EP streams were doing, and I saw that “Christmas Time” had randomly been streamed about 1,000 times. I thought it was the funniest thing, but none of my friends would fess up. It remains a mystery to this day, and “Christmas Time” still remains on all streaming platforms to haunt me!

It has been said that sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I definitely agree with that sentiment! I do have a funny story about my first ever performance way back when I was just 10 years old! I performed at my 5th grade graduation an original song I wrote for my class, and the microphone was placed in a relatively awkward position to the piano I was playing so that it blocked my hands from reaching certain notes. I remember panicking in the middle of my performance and instead of adjusting the microphone, I stopped mid-song and nervously called out for my teacher to come help. I remember the audience laughing and thinking that they were making fun of me (although that was definitely not the case, it was more of a supportive laughter). That moment was so formative for me and influenced my mindset going into future performances. For a long while, I had pretty bad stage fright and a deeply ridden anxiety of messing up on stage. It took years of me performing for me to realize that every performance is going to have its imperfections and that’s part of the beauty of it being “live”. Now whenever I get on stage, I just try to let loose, have fun, and give the best performance I can ☺

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are so many people I’m so grateful for! I’m grateful to all my teachers over the years — my piano teachers, vocal teachers, guitar teachers; I’m grateful to the producers and session musicians I had the opportunity to work with when I was first starting out; and I’m so grateful for all the colleagues and talented musicians I’ve been so lucky to work with throughout my college career. I am especially thankful for my family for finding a lot of the opportunities for me when I was younger to record, release, and perform my music and for encouraging me to pursue a higher education in music. If I had to pick a person I am particularly grateful for, it would be my mentor and college professor Rebecca Haviland (Grammy winner and lead singer of the band Rebecca Haviland & Whiskey Heart) who has been my songwriting, private voice, and masterclass professor for the past 5 years. She has helped me gain so much confidence in my craft, and has always given me the best music and life advice. I genuinely don’t think I would be the musician I am now if not for her!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I don’t know if this counts as a life lesson quote, but as I am a huge Taylor Swift fan, there is a quote from her Billboard Woman of the Year speech back in 2014 in which she reflects on her personal struggles with the music industry and wishes for a change for the next generation: “I really just feel like we need to continue to try to offer something to a younger generation of musicians, because somewhere right now your future Woman of the Year is probably sitting in a piano lesson or in a girls’ choir “and today right now we need to take care of her”. This really stuck out to me as a 14-year-old musician hearing one of my favorite artists say this — because at the time I was sitting in piano lessons and girls’ choir and I had no idea what to expect out of going into a career in the music industry. Taylor speaks a lot about sexism and adversities in the music industry, and everything she says has always been a guide for the way I approach my career. She is truly a businesswoman just as much as she is a singer, songwriter, recording artist, and performer — and she’s made it clear that as long as you have that drive and mindset, you will thrive in the music industry.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am currently recording some new songs for my next batch of music I’ll be releasing! I’m really excited about it because it’s a step into a new direction for my genre and sound — very similar sonically to my new single “Boxing Gloves” which is why I’m grouping all these songs together. I also just recorded a live album that I’m really excited to share in the near future!

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in music, film, and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

I think diversity in the entertainment industry is super important. I think it’s especially necessary for younger generations who are consuming media to see representation of different ethnicities, cultures, genders, and sexualities because so much of what you see or hear at a young age influences the way you perceive the world around you. I also think that diversity is very important for marginalized communities — success in the entertainment industry gives people a platform and voice, and I think it’s necessary that people from different backgrounds are given that platform to create unique works, share their artistry and wisdom, represent their beliefs and culture, and raise awareness on issues that are important to them. In regard to music, as a woman in the music industry, I’ve noticed a gender disparity in the music production field. I think it stems from years of the music industry being a male dominated field and having gone to a music conservatory with a production program lacking female representation, I’ve concluded that a lot of the time it’s not taken into consideration that a woman might be just as interested in producing, mixing, and engineering. I want to see more women feeling empowered to enter the field despite this disparity!

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Over the years, I’ve collaborated and networked with musicians to work on my original music, and it’s been one of my favorite things about being a music artist. With that being said, I wish someone would have told me that I need to set boundaries when it comes to recording my original work with other people. I’ve had a few instances where someone has tried to undermine my role in the studio, and as someone who has a lot of production and mixing input for my own songs, this was a tricky situation to navigate. I’ve learned that it takes a bit of trial and error to find the right people to work with, but that it’s so important to work with someone who values your role in the process just as much as they do working on your music!
  2. As a self-managed artist, I take on a lot of non-music related roles to further my career. I handle booking, promotion, social media, outreach, and scheduling. As much as I love having control over all these aspects, it takes serious organization and hard work to make all of it happen. I wish I had known at a younger age that it is not only about making the music, but also finding a way to actively build your audience! I don’t think this would have changed my outlook on being a musician, but rather given me a leg up on understanding how to make it in the music industry.
  3. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that not all criticism has to be taken as constructive, especially when it’s discouraging you from following your passion! I used to experience a lot of self-doubt, insecurity, and anxiety about my skills as a singer/songwriter because of negative feedback that I’d received that I took to heart. When I went to study music at a conservatory, I realized the difference between someone being mean (as I’d experienced previously) and someone giving constructive criticism. My college classes helped me grow so much as a pianist, singer, and songwriter, and I wish I could tell my high school self to believe in myself more!
  4. Being an artist in the music industry is super expensive! Recording and releasing music is an investment when it comes to paying for engineering, mixing, and mastering. I’ve been lucky so far as to have had the opportunity to network and work with people at discounted rates throughout my college experience but as I’m now graduating, I’m getting to the point where my next album is going to be a big investment. Sadly, the way music is consumed now, through streaming platforms, songwriters make little to nothing from streaming platforms. Sometimes it’s discouraging to pour so much time, energy, and money into recording and releasing music when streaming services do not properly pay artists, but for me it’s more about building my audience and connecting with people through my music. I just hope that I’m able to continue to put out my music and see growth, and I’ve learned that the best way to encourage that growth is through live performing and social media promotion!
  5. Building a relationship with your audience is very important! When I was younger, I was afraid to be my most authentic self out of fear of being made fun of or looking stupid in front of people. This caused a big stage fright issue for me, where I was afraid to talk to the audience and open up about my music. Over the past few years as I’ve grown as a musician and performer, I’ve realized how important it is to make the audience feel like they are experiencing the music with you. The most important thing to me is that I’m writing music that other people can relate to, and no one’s going to relate to me if I’m too afraid to let them in!

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

As a graduate college student working several jobs while also doing the full-time job that is my music career, I have had a really hard time with finding ways to not become burnt out. I’ve had to really grow my organizational skills when it comes to scheduling and communication, but I’ve found that writing everything out and planning thoroughly makes it much less stressful. I think it’s also super important to know when you need to take a step back and make time for other important things in your life, such as friends, family, and even some self-care time. Another big part of it is having a “can-do” attitude, and then doing what you can! And not beating yourself up for not being able to get everything done. My anxiety gets the best of me sometimes, and I feel that the clock is running against me, but if I don’t meet my personal deadlines, I’ve learned to tell myself that there is still time to get it done if I am still passionate about it.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would love to be able to inspire a mental health movement, especially for younger kids and teens who are still discovering their relationships with their identity. I remember how hard it was being a teenager in a performing arts school with the competitive nature, grueling hours, insane pressure, and lack of resources. There are so many young people who are struggling with their mental health whether it be due to school, life, or home — and I think making resources more available and placing less of a stigma around mental health in general will be two huge factors in the mental health movement.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

I would absolutely love to have a meal with Sara Bareilles ☺ She is one of my all-time favorite artists, and I’ve learned so much from her and translated it into my own songwriting and music career. She is an extremely talented songwriter, vocalist, performer, composer, and a very down to earth person who I would have a lot to learn from about the music industry.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can keep up with all my music and event updates at my website juliaklot.com ! My music is out on all streaming platforms, and you can follow me on my socials: @juliaklot on Instagram and YouTube, and @juliaklotmusic on Facebook and Tik Tok! Thank you so much for your support!

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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Elana Cohen
Authority Magazine

Elana Cohen is a freelance writer based in Chicago. She covers entertainment and music