Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Julie E Gordon

Julie E Gordon Interview

There’s not many successful independent vocalist around these days and even fewer who don’t mind you interviewing them in bed...


We caught up with the melody that is Julie E Gordon,
a positive whirlwind with a chocolatey smooth voice

Julie, afternoon, how are you? welcome to ManchesterGossip.
I’m good thank you. I hear you’ve been very busy today.

I’ve just landed off a flight; if I’m honest I’m in bed with my laptop and mobile trying to be professional.
As long as you’ve not got Jeremy Kylie on I’ll let you off.

Oh no, I could never do such a thing; I’m scared of Graham.

Firstly Julie can you tell us what the E stands for?
When I was in high school I was bullied and spent a lot of time in the hall singing and playing on the piano. The only cord I knew how to find was the E minus so I spent a lot of time singing with just a few notes, always coming back to the little black E minus as it was the easiest one to find. (laughs) I do now sing in more than just one key. With the help of all the new computer software it kinda allows me to cheat a little with the keyboard. Don’t tell anyone though as they’ll put me in a box. It did help me develop though and find my self taught unique sound.

You’re originally from Dudley and moved to Manchester in 1992 to study Performance and Media at Salford Uni, do you think that having a degree makes you more respectful as a musician?
Yes and no in a way. There is no doubt that education is an invaluable passport and teaches you discipline and how to manage the tools of your trade along with the theory. However, I don’t think it’s the be all and end all. Artists have educated themselves from the street, almost like a life ethos. It’s allowed them to be creative; at the end of the day I certainly believe that the creativity is the key and drawing from your own experiences feeds this. The university of life is just as important.

Open-mic nights are a perfect opportunity to network

You used to attend open-mic nights and through this met a collaboration of artists called speak easy. Is this where you gained your true education in music?
Absolutely, jamming was new to me, the experiences of the individuals I met was nourishment to my hunger to grow as an artist. Life is a hustle and you have to take certain risk. Open-mic nights are a perfect opportunity to network with people who are in your circuit and to watch other artist to enable you to grow musically yourself. It was very much about me showing what I could do too, wanting people to think "that’s a girl who is confident".

During this time was there any individuals who really influenced you?
I was surrounded by talent and through them met some many amazing people and gained opportunities, the McCloud brother at Moolah Rouge Studios, Darren was a mentor for me and really helped me progress, Sunny Levene and of course the Happy Mondays. Shirley Mae from Speakeasy was also an inspirational poet with an incredible spirit. Not forgetting my long-term partner Ian Valentine who has been incredibly supportive and led me to live my dream.

Did they open your eyes to a new genre of music that you hadn’t necessarily been interested in before?

"I think it’s very easy to be stereotyped, if you’re black then you must be a soul or RnB performer"

I myself was brought up with gospel music as my main influence. As a session singer for other bands I suppose it was easier for me to explore other types of music as I was singing their songs. I never thought as a girl from Dudley who was a gospel singer that I would ever listen to rock n roll or indie music, ironically Happy Mondays found me and I become more than just RnB. I discovered rock n roll and Indie music. Soul of course remains important, other singers have said that British Soul has started to die, I don’t think that’s the case at all. There are so many different types of genres now, grime, punk, indie, pop, funk but I believe that they are a collective and that soul has never gone away.

"On stage in front of 70,000 screaming fans,
I felt like I’d been thrown to the wolves."

You’ve travelled vastly on tour with the Happy Mondays, including Japan. How does a Japanese audience compare to us crazy Mancunians?
(laughs excitedly) Mikie you can’t ask me that. I’ve got to say (and she does so with pure passion and with the excitement of a school girl) Japan is where its at. That’s no disrespect to Manchester, I am after all after 20 years an honorary Manc and it’s my home but my experience in Japan will on with me forever.  I’d gone from playing to a crowd of 20 people to suddenly be flown half way around the world to the Fuji Rock Festival and found myself on stage in front of 70,000 screaming fans. I felt like I’d been thrown to the wolves. As I looked out at all the lighters in the air and as the first few notes began to engage the audience my breath was completely taken away. I was in ore of the crowd and genuinely didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. It was at that moment I thought I have conquered my dreams. Music unites people and the tears of happiness could get to you no matter where you come from.  I thought then that if I woke up tomorrow and I had to go and work in TESCO it wouldn’t bother me; I’d always have that moment. It was a great lesson to embrace who you are, believe in yourself and change if you want to.

Manchester is different in the way that you really have to work for your status; I don’t mean that as a bad thing, as it’s you’re home you want to give so much more. It’s like putting your heart on a plate.

You’ve collaborated as a vocalist with a spectrum of artist. In a fantasy world if you could choose someone dead or alive to release one track with who would it be?
(without any hesitation) Just give me Grace, fierce bond girl.  I know she’s a handsome woman but she exudes power, she’s a strong lady, I like to think of myself the same way, I just like to surround myself with flowers.  She’s so disciplined in her presence.

I like that, I’m going to start telling people I’m a strong man, I just like to surround myself in flowers. You’re track Be Again is almost quite an eerie sound. It instantly reminded me of the amazing Siobhan Donaghy’s album Ghost,
 haunting and ethereal. I almost felt it was a statement that you can reinvent yourself as many times as you like. Was that your intent?
Thank you that’s an amazing compliment, you’ve hit a nerve. It’s quite a deep song. It was written when I was at a low point. I suffer from sickle-cell anemia; it’s a disease more common in black people. The song was a release; almost message like to friends who have died of the disease. The eerie sound is a reflection of those that have passed over so I’m really happy you picked up on it. When you have sickle-cell the red blood cells develop an abnormal characteristic and eventually cease to be. However the body continually makes more, it’s a reinvention as is hopefully the spirits of people who have died from this disease; this is, as I hoped, reflected in the LP.

It truly is an amazing track the lyrics are very poignant. It’s defiantly a song I’d play if I were feeling down. It’s almost like a pat on the back to say everything will be ok and if it’s not you have the power to change.

With the rise of talent shows it’s becoming harder for solo vocalists to get their tracks out there to the masses. These record companies now expect mega bucks returns on a single album, they certainly don’t give time for talent to nurture itself anymore. Have you been a victim to this or have you even considered doing The X Factor in the past?.

I actually did The X Factor the year Rowetta did it, which is quite ironic as I then got Rowetta’s job with the Mondays. The X Factor is just a show; they are not too concerned about individuals, they know what they are looking for before the series starts.

Simon Cowell said to me
"this show isn’t for you"

Rumor has it that the producers have actually chosen the winner before the series hits the screen and that us as viewer are guided on who to vote for through manipulation of screen time etc. it’s something I actually believe in.
Exactly, I remember Simon saying to me ‘this show isn’t for you.’ I actually made it into the final 16. The first year they did X Factor it was a mess, the way they almost hung the contestants out to dry after the series. How can you give someone so much media hype and press attention then whip it away from them with no back up? There were a few girls who needed more than just a doctor after that spin machine.

You can certainly tell in the charts who is an ex X Factor contestant can’t you?
There’s not much individuality about them, they have a pool of writers with hits waiting for them.

I suppose it’s like the producer Red One, he’s worked with all the biggest stars from Lady Gaga to the Sugababes, you can tell one of his tracks a mile off. The bands or artist are just vessels for the producer.
It’s almost like a conveyor belt. They manufacture pop groups, if they’re lucky they have a good three years of working constantly before they get burnt out then before you know it there’s another group in taking their place and the thing goes on and on.

What advice would you give to artists who are just starting out in the business?

"Know your own sound, keep your signature, don’t let others try and steer you in a direction you don’t want to go"

I’m lucky that I am me, a solo project, from the writing to the producing; it’s essentially my LP.
It’s even more essential to consult a music layer to make sure you are the owner of your own craft. It’s more important to do this than spend money on hiring studio time.  This is some advice what I was given and would tell others to do the same. Also protect your music; register it for free with PPL. And don’t forget be very wary if you enter a competition, make sure you check the contract, essentially when you sign you’re signing your life away for two years. If you don’t do your groundwork then you’re in trouble. But never give up.  And get yourself to an open-mic night.

Finally what’s next for Julie E Gordon?
Keep an eye out for my new record 100 Pennies out soon. Lots more writing to come, and a few surprises. I’ve currently got 4 dance tracks signed to Time Warp records, which are going global.

Julie it’s been our pleasure having you at Manchester Gossip, I trust I’ll see you in Manchester soon for a few Sherries?
You certainly will.

Don’t miss Julie E Gordon’s album Deep Inside, available to download from iTunes now, as is the brand new single 100 Pennies.

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