Huntingdon Valley, PA
If you’re looking for something entirely different, look no further than Julieanne Dous. The Huntingdon Valley singer/songwriter/pianist has overcome a debilitating injury to rise up as one of the Philadelphia-area’s rare, but truly original, artists. Julieanne doesn’t necessarily write the kind of songs you’ll find yourself dancing to or singing along with. Instead, she writes songs and instrumentals that capture moments and emotions, and that make you think.
Julieanne played her first gig as a solo artist in March at Whiskey Dix. Before starting her solo project, she worked with two bands, co-writing songs with Inner Mission and writing briefly for Marienkind. The up-and-coming Julieanne took the time to answer some questions to tell us all about how she overcame adversity in pursuit of a future in music.
You can read her interview below, and you can listen to some of her tracks at www.purevolume.com/julieannedous or www.myspace.com/julieannedous . A DVD of her Whiskey Dix performance will be available soon.
AX: How would you describe your music to people?
Julieanne: On a compositional level, it’s a complex hybrid of many genres of music, ranging from Classical to Industrial. At times, it’s ambient and hypnotic, and at other times, it’s edgy,
and intensely emotional. It’s highly structured, and I try to obtain a multi-tiered, almost symphonic effect.
Lyrically, my songs are very introspective, poetic, and personal. At the same time, however, they also address some very important current issues, including eating disorders, the challenges of adolescence, the disabled culture, today’s medical system, and prejudice.
AX: What can you tell us about yourself?
Julieanne: Throughout my entire life, I’ve been a consummate, multi-faced artist. To me, there are no boundaries among the creative media, and all are catalysts to the healing process. I began singing at the age of three, after hearing one of my father’s beloved Petula Clark records. Soon, I was receiving piano instruction, and maintaining active involvement in both my school and church’s music programs. At fifteen, I took a 4-year break from music, in order to concentrate on academics, fine arts, and my competitive figure skating career. With the advent of my college career, however, I soon returned to my first passions: fine arts, music, and writing. Tori Amos’ “From the Choirgirl Hotel”, specifically, inspired me to return to the piano. By the age of nineteen, I was writing timeless masterpieces that appealed to audiences of all ages. I am now embarking on professional music and fine arts careers. This summer, I plan to enroll in Lesley University’s Expressive Therapies masters program. My dream is to one day create therapeutic programs that utilize all forms of creative expression.
There are three particularly memorable performances I can think of. I’ve already mentioned the first one—the talent show at Ursinus College. If it hadn’t been for that event, I probably never would have found the confidence to begin this project. The second took place at a state-wide talent show when I was eleven years old. Prior to the event, my mother and I requested to have a piano I could play, and the people from the hotel promised us that it would be provided. However, when it was time for me to perform, there was no piano. Because it was due to their own negligence, they told me I could withdraw, and receive a full refund, however, I decided to perform accapella, and ended up winning, anyway. The story was covered in several local newspapers.
Just one year prior to that, I earned the lead role in our school’s annual Christmas musical. I missed about half of the rehearsals, because I was admitted into the hospital with a very severe asthma attack. Even though I couldn’t be around to participate, I studied the script carefully, and listened to an audio copy of the music everyday. The show was a complete success, and I ended up winning the school’s top music award that year.
AX: When did you start performing?
Julieanne: I began performing when I was six years old. Every year, ILS held an annual Christmas musical. Because I was one of the shortest children in the choir, I was placed in the front row. Everyone noticed that I enjoyed singing very much, therefore, our music instructor let me sing a solo number the following year.
AX: What brought you into music? Is there anything that you want fans to take from your songs?
Julieanne: I can’t say that there is any one thing or event that brought me into music. It’s just always been in my blood, and has consumed me ever since I was a baby. When I was a small child, I’d join my father in our basement, and sing along to his Oldies records for hours. I suppose it was pretty unusual for a three-year-old to belt out “Kiss Me Good-bye” by Petula Clark on a regular basis. However, for whatever reason, the song moved me, and I had to sing it.
Since then, very little has changed. I still love Oldies, as well as just about every genre in existence. Basically, I just love music. The beautiful thing about it is that, as a mode of self-expression, is not only therapeutic for the writers and musicians, but once it’s been created, it has the intense power of captivating the listener’s emotions, as well.
If my songs accomplish this task, I know I’ve done my job.
Furthermore, my background as a young, physically disabled songwriter adds a very unique perspective to my lyrics. Over the last twenty-four years, I’ve suffered and endured an excruciating amount of devastation and discrimination with class and grace. Now that I’ve found my voice and an audience, however, I have plenty to say about it.
AX: What made you decide to start on this solo project?
Julieanne: It’s interesting…this project almost never came into fruition. During my senior year at Ursinus College, there were several things that I wanted to do before I graduated. One of these things included performing in the annual talent show. When the time came to sign-up, I was very hesitant, because I knew that my sound was very different, and I was afraid that it wouldn’t be well received. However, I really wanted an opportunity to showcase my talent, therefore, I decided to sign-up, anyway. That one performance changed my life. Afterwards, people I didn’t even know approached me, thanked me, and some even said that the song (Reflection with a Different Hue) moved them to tears. It was at this very moment that I realized that I needed to start taking my music more seriously.
I’ve decided to become a solo artist simply because it’s what works best. I’ve tried working in various group situations, and none of the attempts was remotely successful. I have a very distinct style of playing the piano and writing music, which makes any major collaboration extremely difficult. Besides this, I have a very concrete vision of the way I want things to sound and look, and it’s not fair to others who have different ideas. I trust my artistic and musical instincts, because they’ve been extremely kind to me over the last 24 years.
I have yet to find any artist within the area, or for that matter, anywhere, whose sound’s like mine. I think that I person’s music is a direct reflection of a person’s personality, and my music is no exception. I’ve always been an individual, and have never been afraid to be different. My background, gender, appreciation for many genres, and respect for foreign cultures distinguish me from other artists, even within the Electronica/Goth/Industrial scene.
AX: How do you go about coming up with material?
Julieanne: There really isn’t one concrete songwriting method that I adhere to, although I do have one rule: I must be alone; free from all distraction and scrutiny. Many times, when I improvise on the piano, I’ll suddenly come across a series of several notes or chords that I like. I’ll take this small piece, and build from there. In most cases, I’ll come up with the Piano composition part first, and then add the melody and lyrics later. There have been several exceptions, though. Sometimes, I’ll come up with material while I doing something not even remotely related to music, such as preparing a meal, or sleeping. This is, of course, the most annoying method, because you have to stop what you’re doing in order to write it down, however, some of my most imaginative, effective songs have come from this process.
AX: What are some of the best and worst parts of doing what you do?
Julieanne: Quite honestly, there isn’t a single aspect that I don’t enjoy. I love listening to my favorite artists, absorbing their influences and applying them to my own writing, and I immensely enjoy sharing my music with others.
The most difficult aspect is figuring out how to circumvent the state of today’s music industry. There has been so much corporate and genre consolidation, that has become extremely difficult for truly original, accomplished artists to become successful. I find this extremely unfortunate, especially because the quality of the music has taken a ridiculous back seat to image. Music has become a highly disposable commodity, just like any other product you can buy at the store, and that’s just not right.
AX: Where do you see yourself and this project in the future?
Julieanne: I’ve just started this project fairly recently (last November), so it’s amazing that I am already enjoying this level of local success, especially without the support of a label. It would be amazing if I can reach an audience on a statewide, or perhaps, even a regional level. In August, I am planning to begin my masters studies in Boston, and while I’m there, I will try my best to establish a following there, as well.
Perhaps this is unrealistic, but eventually, I’d love to establish an international following, and tour across the world. I’ve always loved foreign cultures and languages, and yet, still have not had the opportunity to travel outside of the US. It would be incredible if I could combine two of my deepest passions.
So far, I’ve learned to write, perform, and produce high quality material. The internet is the future of music, and I am already utilizing several of these resources. Therefore, my plan, in its simplest form, is to just expand upon my current efforts: record more songs, start releasing albums, and then advertise and distribute them as much as possible. In addition, I plan to publish my songs, and license them for television and movie soundtracks.
Trends come and go, however, there are certain things that never go out of style. One of those things happens to be the concept of a true “lady”, which is why, even post-mortem, many people remain fascinated with the grace, class, and elegance of the late Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, And Princess Diana. Never before has the concept of “sex sells” been so poignant in pop culture, and to be quite honest, it sickens me. Some things, such as self-respect and dignity, are far more important than money and fame, therefore, I have absolutely no plans to succumb to such shallow offerings of glamour and decadence.
Furthermore, truly good music is also extremely enduring. Pop stars may come and go, but true music legends never die. My music has been put to the test, and has managed to captivate young children, the elderly, and everyone in between. Obviously, this alone speaks volumes of its potential for endurance.
“Anyway, this is the story of the Enchanted Casualties: confessions of a self-committed piano pixie/darkwave diva.”