Speaking with Julia Stone was more like catching up with an old mate than interviewing an internationally renowned musician. Perhaps, because we are both from Sydney and it was great to hear a voice from home (we even had a couple of mutual friends) and, perhaps, because she is an empathetic listener and was interested to know my story, how I ended up in the Twin Cities, would I ever move back to Australia, etc.
This empathy came through so clearly in every song from Julia and her brother Angus’ sold out show in Minneapolis last Saturday at the Cedar Cultural Center. It’s her ability to connect with the audience and draw you into her experiences that makes listening to her a delight. She sings with cheekiness – a mischievousness in so many songs that you feel like she’s telling you a secret she shouldn’t be telling you. In other songs the pain and emotion seem right at the surface and it takes just one small step to enter in to it with her.
It’s as if rather than trying to tap into some past experiences to try and write a meaningful song, the experiences themselves have birthed these songs – in fact -necessitated the song. In a grand romantic gesture, Julia wrote ‘For You’ to an ex-boyfriend and sent him the song, hoping it would re-kindle the flame. While his response was not positive, she ended up with a chillingly vulnerable and painful love song. Rather than draw away from this sort of pain, Julia leans into it. When I chatted with her, she said, “I’m a bit of a sucker for the Dark Side. I like lyrics that go into that part of life…‘Will you love me when I’ve got nothing left to give’, sort of thing.” Her performance of ‘For You’ on Saturday wasn’t just a window into her pain, but it sucked you into the very experience of it.
Angus is an engaging and talented performer in his own right and it was a joy to see the dynamics between the two on stage. The looks and smiles they gave one another during the performance showed how deeply they care for each other and how much they enjoy playing with one another.
“It’s a surprise…to both of us that we even ended up making music together” says Julia. “It’s a surprise to enjoy it as much as we do.”
After Julia performed a cover of ‘You’re the One that I Want’ from Grease, Angus remarked “I’m a lucky guy to be able to hang out with this lady”.
‘Wherever You Are’ was a highlight of the show for me. With a delay while waiting on a guitar change, and questions on tempo and whether Julia should start without Angus, even Angus doubted they could pull off this song. But he was wrong to doubt what turned out to be a mesmerizing and special performance. Julia sings the verse of this heart-pricking love song and on the chorus, Angus takes the lead with Julia harmonizing. Angus and Julia sang the upbeat melody and down to earth lyrics with a connectedness that amplified every part. It was beautiful to see and hear.
So while you can and should get their captivating new self-titled album, these soul-searching songs are best experienced at a live show. But don’t take my word for it. If you live near Philadelphia, you may still be able to get tickets to their show on October 29 – every other US show is sold out. If you can’t make it to Philadelphia, it may just be worth a trip to Europe to catch one of their shows there. You won’t be disappointed.