Interview: Julia Bhatt – “I’ve Started Up Again And It’s Fun”

Julia Bhatt masterfully combines her past and present in her forthcoming sophomore EP, Grab Bag. Set to be released independently on November 17, 2023, the title pays homage to the early days of her music career. In celebration of the upcoming release, Bhatt has also shared another glimpse into the EP with the single “For The Word,” which follows her recent cover of Aminé‘s “Charmander.”

At just 21, Miami’s own Julia Bhatt is already turning heads in the indie scene following the release of her genre-bending debut album, it is what it is, late last year. Drawing from a vast range of musical influences, Bhatt’s sound is as unique as her songwriting approach.

From humbly belting out covers on Instagram to hitting over a million stream for her single, “Marco,” Julia’s rise in the music scene has been nothing short of meteoric. With her raw lyrics and infectious melodies, she crafts songs that resonate deeply, effortlessly blending introspection with pop hooks that stay with you.

Having caught up with Julia via email, we delved deeper into her musical journey, her shift from writing with guitar using software, and the impacts of pandemic with her mental health. Here’s what she had to say.

Hey Julia! Thanks for spending the time to answer questions, especially ahead of your upcoming EP release, Grab Bag. How are you doing/feeling?

Doing ok! Been quite sick lately, so I’m very sick of that, but otherwise I’m doing well.

The EP has a fascinating mix of covers and original songs. Could you share more about the journey of revisiting your Instagram “grab bags” and how it helped shape this EP?

Well, I think that’s how I got people to listen to me. I’m the kind of person who hates themselves quite a bit lol. I never think I’m doing something well and I received a response to those covers that kept me making more. It gave me confidence in my singing and that just kept going through a few stages of life. I stopped for a while when I paused my music life for a bit, but I’ve started up again and it’s fun. It made me wanna do something similar in a recorded setting, so I did a few covers that I really love singing. I love singing other people’s music, which may not be great, but I prefer it over my own songs. So much good shit out there.

The first teaser for the EP is a cover of Aminé’s “Charmander.” What about the energy of this song resonates with you, and how did you approach making it your own while keeping its vibrant essence?

It’s a song that most people wouldn’t expect I would cover to be honest. When I told people about it, I would get asked if it was like a folk version and that hurt a bit lol. It’s just that I listen to so much music apart from the stuff I make, and I never really venture into it in terms of actually recording. That song just has such a vibe of like IDGAF and I tend to give a fuck a lot, so it’s almost a mental break to sing it and work on it in such a carefree, fun style. It just makes me happy.

Watch Julia Bhatt’s “Charmander (Aminé cover)” music video below

Your genre-fluid approach to music is refreshing! How does it feel to continually explore different musical landscapes, and do you think it challenges or enriches your songwriting process?

It’s not quite a challenge, I would say. I tend to listen to so much and that usually shapes what I write. I’ve been listening to a lot of Fontaines DC and I ended up writing a song in that style. It just depends if I actually think I can pull it off, I guess. I have a bit of a weird specific style when I sing, no matter what the song is, so it’s gotta work. I can usually make it work with a few tweaks. It’s honestly just the evolution of my music taste I guess.

Transitioning from writing songs on the guitar to using software like Ableton Live must feel like a significant shift. How has this influenced your sound and songwriting process, and do you find one medium more liberating or challenging than the other?

I definitely feel less qualified. People who can do this shit by themselves are incredibly impressive to me. Using it may seem simple to some, but man it makes me so angry sometimes. Sometimes a button is off and the whole thing is off and I don’t know what it is until I find it because it’s just not intuitive to me. Thank God I have a producer and people who know what’s up.

I’ll always be able to write easily with a guitar, and a notebook, because I don’t have to think about structure. To me, Ableton deals a ton with structure and little details, so it’s a bit rougher for me to grasp. Not as simple as finding a melody and writing to it. It’s fun though, because I can do things I can’t with just the guitar. It opens up a bunch of different worlds.

It seems the pandemic brought an unforeseen halt just as things were gearing up for you. How did you manage to keep the momentum going creatively, and do you think the isolation had a significant impact on your musical journey and the making of Grab Bag?

I honestly didn’t do music for a year and a half. Not quite due to the pandemic, but it started around the “end” of all the Covid restrictions (not to say Covid isn’t still around and all that, but time wise). I stopped listening to new music and stopped writing. It just became a bit too emotional for me. I think a lot of people write because they wanna write a song, but for me I have a lot of problems. My emotions come a bit harder and I can’t really get them out in good productive healthy ways sometimes. Music is one of those good productive healthy ways. I don’t have to think about what I feel because it just comes out. Some people think it’s cool and noble and all that but IDK, for me it’s just kinda a necessity. For a while I stopped trying to feel my emotions so deeply, through means of advanced therapy techniques and meds and all that, but unfortunately nothing really stuck.

Watch Julia Bhatt’s “For The World” music video below

End of last year, you released your debut album, it is what it is. The title is quite intriguing. Can you elaborate a bit on the significance of this title in relation to the music it encompasses?

I mean honestly, I had to name this album and I had no idea. Some of the songs were songs I liked at first and the more I listened to the finished product the more flaws I would hear, so I just kept with the mantra that ‘it is what it is’ and I can’t change it now, and that’s what the album means to me. You’ll make shit and you’ll move on and you won’t always feel the way you felt when you made it. That’s how life is, always changing, and it is what it is.

What lies next in store for you? Should we be expecting another album, collaborations, or tour, etc., coming up soon?

Oh man, what a question. I’ve been working with some cool people that I really love, but nothing I can quite say yet. Definitely working on things though.

And, to close, what song/album have you been playing on repeat recently?

I’ve been listening to “Rose Quartz” by Toro y Moi on repeat for a few weeks. IDK what it is, but that song just feels good. “Twice” by Feed Me Jack too. It usually depends on how I feel that day and lately I’ve been a bit down, but hey… it is what it is.

Grab Bags Tracklist

  1. Charmander (Aminé cover)
  2. For The World
  3. Mom (Broox cover)
  4. Time

For more information on Julia Bhatt, to order your copy of Grab Bags, or to check out any upcoming tour dates, visit her website here.

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