For most musicians, the road to a viable and fulfilling career is gradual, not instantaneous. You get there by baby steps, by a continued presence in the music scene, and by the accumulation of life experiences and perspectives.
Julia Kirk, who always knew she had the gift of singing and playing music, just needed the right push in the right direction to make her love for music into a full-fledged reality.
"I've always loved music and knew I could sing and I played some instruments as a kid," Kirk said. "But I was always too shy to actually perform or show anyone, so I sort of stopped playing as I got older."
Getting on a stage and singing in front of others doesn't come easy to many but with the right amount of self-praise and drive, anything is possible. People will then hear the lyrics that's been waiting to be heard.
"I was 22 and working as a waitress at a restaurant and this musician named John Monnecka started setting up and he played throughout the night and it was incredible."
Just by meeting somebody by chance can give you the motivation and needed courage to show the world that you got the guts and talent to do anything and in this case, Kirk got the push she needed to become the singer and musician she was meant to be.
"We began talking ( with musician named John Monnecka) and eventually he found a video of me singing on Facebook and after that he would try and get me to perform while I was working," Kirk reminisces about the meeting that changed everything. "One day I did it, and it sparked everything."
When things are meant to be, even in unsure times, sometimes you have to put on your guitar string and hit the mic.
"I started doing open mics all of the time after that and then once I learned and had enough experience the idea to gig for money just seemed so achievable," Kirk said. "And I've never looked back, this has been my full time career since then."
Eventually when the time came to write her own lyrics, Kirk dove in fully and hasn't put the pen down since.
"I spent so much time listening to music and learning covers of other people's tunes when learning how to play, so it took awhile for me to start writing my own music," Kirk explained. "I always have snippets and hundreds of voice memos in my phone of ideas, but about three years ago I finished my first song ever."
Lyrics to a song tend to rely heavily on life experiences and emotions. Whether it's a happy occasion or a broken heart, a song comes alive when you pour your everything into it.
Kirk's experiences created her first solo release called "Alter Ego", a song about heartbreak, identity and a pool of dark emotions waiting to be spilled.
"I was just dumped by some guy that I really liked and I was living with my mom at the time and I just felt very depressed about my life and lack of direction," Kirk recalled of the feelings she had at the time. "I took my guitar and lyrics just came up out of nowhere and I wrote the whole tune in ten minutes.
Even the slightest of emotion or feeling can be poured into something light, beautiful, deep. It's empowering to re-find yourself again.
"The song is about my anxiety and depression teaming up and turning me into someone I barely know," Kirk said of her first solo single. "How once I'm that person, it can feel really difficult to change back."
Music is about expression, passion, and everything in-between. A song is formed from those elements to create a story. Kirk's first solo release was created and now it's out for all to connect with on all music streaming platforms.
During the months of quarantine, it was a time of rediscovery of oneself and adjustment to a new way of living and working. Kirk, being an independent artist had to make adjustments in her own way in order to still do music on a professional level.
Luckily, social media was the key route that many artists were taking to keep their talent on the radar and make money. When asked how she felt about managing playing music during the pandemic, Kirk of course was worried but she was able to get back in the groove by following the examples of friends and peers.
"It was hard at first not having any gigs and I was worried about money for a bit. I saw all of my music friends doing livestreams on Facebook so I figured I should do that too. I did live streams twice a week on Wednesdays and Sundays and it was awesome because all of my family and friends would show up and watch every time."
Live streaming personal shows to audiences through Facebook and Instagram were easy enough since playing in person wasn't an option at the time but Kirk noted her discouragement through its use especially with little or no audience connection.
"With the live streams, well if no one's watching it just feels really pointless, but even when people are watching and engaging and commenting, it still feels like a whole lot of energy is being put out for me to do it," Kirk said. "I don't always feel that reward coming from the other end. There's still a disconnect to the audience for me."
Kirk's quick way of adjusting to doing music only on social media until venues were open again and it was safe to do so, helped her secure audiences even in the digital sense. People engaged with her performances making them much more special.
"They would type in the comments section for requests and then I would play the tunes they wanted to hear. I started posting my streams to different music groups and then random people started watching as well."
Kirk never lost her music edge and was rewarded with audience's' love and enthusiasm to hear her sing.
"People were really gracious with the virtual tip jars, and it was really rewarding to be able to perform for people I'd probably never see while playing at a bar in New Jersey. It was cool to be able to perform and network at the same time and I really did gain a lot of new fans."
As Julie was able to get back to playing in person when the time came, she still worried that when being virtual for so long, it might have changed the way people connect with each other but the upside was that through her music, it made someone's day better regardless of how they viewed and listened.
"At one gig a guy came up to me after I was playing and said that he was having a horrible week and that after listening to me play he felt better, and I found his honesty to be really refreshing."
Being in quarantine might of had musicians playing music differently but Kirk while stuck at home still enjoyed the downtime quarantine gave and she was even able to pick up new skills and improve as well.
"Honestly I appreciated the slower paced lifestyle. I had so much extra time now to practice and work on my guitar and vocal chops."
Julie's motivation for playing amplified, giving the impression that audiences are in for a new and evolved Julia Kirk.
"I also learned new instruments and production and it's really keeping me motivated, It seems like the possibilities are endless for what I can do musically if I keep practicing like this."
Julia Kirk rocks to her own beat. She sets her days and nights under her own will as an independent musician. Her journey is her own and no one stands in her way, only herself if she lets it happen.
"Being independent means you're the boss. You set the goals, the deadlines, and the tasks. So it helps to get familiar with doing a lot of things yourself. You should try and teach yourself some production," Kirk explained. "You need to gather a lot of skills on your own musically. You need to find a way to finance studio time."
All production, marketing and networking comes out of you as the independent artist, there's no one to hold your hand as you work your way into the music industry. As long as your confident in yourself and in your music, it can be done.
"You have to do your own marketing. Being independent is hard work but it's super rewarding when you get into a groove and realize you can do a lot of these things on your own."
Music touches people in a variety of ways, it touches your heart, soul, mind and just overall very being. The story the lyrics carry and the message the artist sings is what makes music the endless form that it is.
Julia has been in the business for a time, shares that even on a roller coaster of emotions, her singing and playing music is what keeps her going, and it's what she hopes can give people a deeper outlook as well.
"I really just play what I feel. I'm a super emotional person. I can be moody. I feel overwhelmed very easily. When those strong emotions arise I grab the guitar super quickly and try to channel it all. And I'm so grateful that I have music to be this medicine for me when I feel like I'm spiraling."
Music is the love that keeps on giving, and when Kirk hears music herself, the feeling it gives her is endless and makes you want to get lost in good vibes.
"When I listen to music that I like, I feel it on a deep, intrinsic level. It can give me goosebumps and make me cry; it often does. And then when I play it and really get lost in the feeling of it, there's no words to describe it. It's like an outer body flow state experience that's different every time. It's beautiful and I think if more people could experience this on a daily basis we'd be living in a happier world."
Music changes everyday. The sounds, the beat, transitions and trends of genres artists do are constantly in a battle against each other for the most streams, downloads and even rewards. Musicians and artists are not like the old days and it does seem like music's story in itself is not what it used to be but Kirk remains optimistic on the changes. She knows artists continue to do what they love even if the process has changed.
"You know, I definitely think that a lot of pop music has lost a sense of authenticity. I'm not sure how sincere the intentions are of a lot of songwriters and producers, and I think a lot of what is in the top 40 lists now will just be buried by whatever comes out next," Kirk said of the current state of the industry. " There's not going to be as many "Michael Jackson-esque" type of hits that stand the test of time. But there are some gems in pop music today."
When asked how she takes what's new in today's music and apply it to her own style especially since most artists today worry about the sales and not the art, Kirk does it in a way she knows her audiences will enjoy.
"Billie Eilish and Finneas are great examples of artists today that can have good songwriting and production that is authentic and true to who they are. You can tell they're writing songs because they love it, not because they're trying to make money. So I try to take that formula and apply it to my music," Kirk continued. "I'm not making music for an audience or for exposure or for money. I'm making music because I love it and I'm writing about personal experiences that I weave into my art. I'm not making music as a selling point."
The music, the show and the good vibes must go on no matter the circumstance. Kirk's music career is just beginning and her future is bright and infinite. Long as music is in Julia Kirk's life than the road ahead is looking mighty good. When asked where she'll be in a few years, she kept it real-singing and making music.
"Maybe playing some shows on Mars? Haha honestly if I played bar gigs for the rest of my life I know I'd be perfectly happy with that, but I would like to get an album out there with my original music," Kirk said. "If I ever saw someone singing my own lyrics while I'm playing a show, that would be really beautiful. "
Julie is still making use of down time when able and in the future, see's herself going on tour.
"Maybe I'll gain some traction with my original music and go on tour. The possibilities are endless, but as long as I'm playing music I know I'll be happy and that is successful enough for me."
Once the pandemic officially comes to an end, connections between people will hopefully be better and brighter and as long as the music is flowing, it makes the future all the more sweeter. As Julia plays her tunes for live and digital audiences, it's clear that she's here for a good and long time.
"I think human connection will be stronger for a lot of people once we're through with this. And since music is a part of that connection, I feel super blessed to be in the mix."
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