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Friday, August 01, 2008 

GoGirls Elite Interview with Julie Christensen

GoGirls: What drives your music. When did you first know you had to do this thing called music or bust?

I think I have an drive to communicate strong emotions; that explains most of what I choose to sing. That seems like a pat answer, but I don't think it's true for every singer: I could name a few pretty famous pop stars who practically avoid strong emotion. I don't remember not singing--Even the neighbors told my parents they liked to hear me sing my way home from school. I know it made me feel connected somehow to sing for people, and I'd arrange little shows for my folks or for the neighborhood. My brothers played guitar and drums, and my mom could play piano, so I didn't learn an instrument thoroughly and not until later. In my generation coming up there weren't as many women instrumentalists, but there were starting to be lots more who accompanied themselves. I just learned enough to write and to be conversant in the musical language...

GoGirls: Explain the dynamics with the band. How do you come together and make it work. (looking for some advice here for readers).

I've gotten very lucky with the world-class musicians who are agreeable to playing music with me. I write mostly on piano (sometimes guitar and now autoharp!) but as I said I unfortunately don't play well enough to do it onstage while singing. My voice is my axe. so I learned early on to write out charts that players who play sessions and jazz could read and play. It's always understood that unless called for, ya leave the jazz to the other gigs, not mine! I did make a jazz album released in 2006 to account for all the jazz I have played in my life--my reason for meeting many of these fine players. I also want to keep up my chops in that dept. My musician friends all have complicated lives; most have families or second careers as writers or recording engineers or are on tour with other musicians, so it's special for me when we can come together, and for better or worse, having the charts saves lots of rehearsal time. These are real pros! In my first bands it wasn't like that--there was much more rehearsal, and I miss that time for cooking the music and just hanging--though we sneak in our share of that. I write by myself or with Joe or Karen, and we make a chart and rehearse it. As far as band dynamics go, it's important to be able to eat together and enjoy each other's company. Musical shortcomings can almost always be made up for with a good vibe and connection between those onstage. If you don't have that, rethink it.

GoGirls: Describe your ideal venue.

My ideal venue would be a listening room like someone's living room or a small theater. I like to see to whom I'm singing at least a little so I can feel intimately connected. I'm a hog for a spotlight, too. Give me a good key light, and from what I gather, everybody gets a closer experience with the music. It's not an ego thing so much--It's like having the right paintbrush or reed or strings.

GoGirls: Describe your music's evolvement since your first release, compared to this awesome 4th release?

The first record came out of a residency in a club where I'd bring in charts and we'd basically rehearse on the gig. Then, when I booked time, we were already well-oiled. My second record was live, but I lost my voice producing the events that were recorded, and had to overdub most of the vocals. Don't do THAT! Use your "street team" or something to help you. The tracks for the jazz record and three tracks for the new one were laid down in Brooklyn in two sessions in June of 2004. The jazz cuts are mostly right from those tracking dates with very few overdubs, vocal or otherwise. The band's gotten really good now at playing the material on "Where the Fireworks Are" after only a handful of gigs. Thanks for the nice compliment on that! I think in terms of evolving, it's just that I (hopefully!) am maturing as a human and spiritual being.

I long to make another "live record. And the next album I make will be a combination of new songs and unplugged favorites from the other records in a stripped -down acoustic version that can easily be assimilated by those who book and attend the smaller listening rooms.

GoGirls: Are you planning a tour outside of California for any length of time?

Well, we're getting good airplay on the eastern seaboard, (among other places) especially Connecticut and Pennsylvania and Virginia Beach... if anybody knows some places that fit the kind of rooms of which I spoke above, let me know! I'd probably be able to come there on my own and pick up musician friends from the New York area. And in October I've been working on booking a few dates up the west coast.

GoGirls: What makes or breaks a musician just starting out in your opinion?

It's disconcerting to see someone who's ego gets in the way, and it's also hard to see young players and singers trying to be someone other than who they are to fit a trend. Be true to your inner rudder. If you haven't found your "voice" yet, keep digging deep and not reaching too far afield.

GoGirls: Talk a little about the fourth release, and tell us about the inspiration for its tracks.

Like I said, I had cut the jazz record, with a few singer-songwriter cover tunes, and then the 2004 election began to unfold. It was such a vast disappointment for me, after having been real active registering voters and slamming on my blog. In about July, I started on a writing jag the likes of which hadn't occurred to me in many a moon. I usually had to be a jilted lover to come up with so much stuff, and I've been in a good relationship for years! Well, the way Kerry caved, and the fact that there would be four more years of Bush I guess felt like that kind of betrayal, and I was just documenting what it was like to be in this world in light of that. The song "Something Pretty"--which is pretty much about the greatest activism an artist can accomplish-- was actually the last song to be written for the record. It was recorded just two weeks before we mixed in mid 2007--almost 3 years after I'd begun the saga!

GoGirls: What do you think is number one for a musician to think about before recording a CD - and do you have any tips on saving time in the studio?

Ha! After the answer to that last question I'm not sure I'm qualified to answer this one!
I did do all of it on the typical indie shoestring. But it's so important for me to pay my engineers and musicians that I make sure I can before I book the time. I was so lucky to have people who cared about this project give me good deals, and I did not squander their goodwill. That right there hopefully creates a good working atmosphere. Be rehearsed and/or charted out before you go in. Don't expect magic to happen. Have your practical ducks in a row, then you have a prayer of creating magic. CAST it well, and let the music unfold. If I try to control MY vision of it too much, those happy accidents and left turns the creative people around you take don't happen as easily. There's a dance that involves letting go.

GoGirls: Tell us something you want the independent music world to know about you.

On the one hand, I want them to think I'm a new, fresh face. On the other hand, it's important to know I didn't just get off the boat. I'm grateful to have a world of experience in me.

GoGirls: What can your fans expect at a show?

I love doing this. I want to share that joy. And though some of this new music seems dark, there's hope in it. My band is great, but the smaller spinoff units are like musical pot-luck--It always seems to work out that you have enough main course AND dessert.

GoGirls: On gogirls music…

I can't say enough good stuff about the hardest-working woman in show business, Madalyn Sklar. And the fact that she is able to harness the energies of people like you and me to get this group of talented women's work into the marketplace is the quintessence of the indie experience. If you want a band to work for a few months, give them a record contract. If you want them to work for a lifetime, give them the tools to make and promote their own music.
Thanks for letting me hold forth here, and good luck to all go girls everywhere!

More on Julie Christensen at http://www.stonecupid.com/

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WHO IS MADALYN SKLAR?


    Madalyn Sklar is a music business coach & consultant, blogger, social networks expert and author. She has spent over 15 years helping independent musicians and music business professionals achieve greater success. Her motto is: working smarter not harder. She also founded GoGirlsMusic.com, the oldest + largest online community of indie women musicians.

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