Julia Cannon is an Alaska raised and now Nashville-based songwriter, recording artist and music producer who is hard to forget. Recently lauded for her “beautiful balladry” by Rolling Stone (2022), Julia’s soothing, honeyed voice and quirky personality offer a refreshing, vibrant contrast to the bittersweet honesty of her lyrics.
With a Filipino mom, a Panamanian Jamaican father, and a Native Alaskan step-dad, Julia’s influences were diverse and plentiful, making her songwriting just as colorful as her upbringing. Julia’s sound has been described as playful and relaxing, but her tone transcends the folk-pop genre to include soul, rock, R&B, and jazz influences. In July of 2022, she made her Newport Folk Festival debut, performing with the Black Opry as well as Langhorn Slim, Sierra Ferrell, Joy Oladokun, Adia Victoria, and several more earning her a nod from Rolling Stone. You can also find Julia’s name on a plaque as a part of the Black Opry’s exhibit in the Country Music Hall of Fame, or opening for musicians such as new Tiktok star, Iniko, when they come through town. Julia has a growing fanbase in Nashville, who join an existing community of ardent supporters both at home in Alaska and across the US. She is quickly becoming a fan-favorite on the popular social media platform TikTok, with over 14K followers. She released her newest album, "How Many," on July 20, 2023. Known for producing and mixing her own music, her outstanding musicality, disarming persona, beauty, style, and offbeat humor, Julia Cannon is a bright star to watch.
Hi, Julia! Thanks for chatting with us today. You're known for always making people laugh with your quirky social media posts. Can you explain some pros and cons for using social media to reach fans?
Social media is such an interesting beast. I LOVE making people laugh and also cry and just connecting at all. It feels like a gift. But some people don’t have a healthy understanding of boundaries so I’ve had to talk a lot in therapy about how to respond to that and how to have healthy relationships with people who support me. I tend to want to respond to everyone and let them know that I’m grateful, but that’s not sustainable. It’s a balancing act. The good outweighs the bad.
"As one of very few people of color in a mostly white, ultra-conservative community, Julia’s creative voice cemented her identity as a young woman who could not - and would not - be overwritten." We absolutely love this. Would you say feeling like an outsider while growing up hindered or enhanced your artistry? Do you wish you had been raised somewhere else?
I definitely wish that I grew up somewhere with more resources and representation. I'm not going to lie, it was hard and I faced a lot of racism. Not all of it was even malicious, just cultural. A kid in highschool made a noise out of the drawstring of his hoodie and dangled it across the classroom at me once. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. I guess it made me tough. But I don’t want to be tough. I want to be soft lol. I have complicated feelings about growing up in rural alaska. It is so beautiful where I was raised. But also so isolated.
You've been very open about your mental health with your fanbase and even have a song called "Panic Attack Song" on your new album. Does writing music help with your anxiety?
Yes! Music is my favorite form of therapy. It makes things that feel intangible and scary easier to grasp and communicate. When I share these songs and people react to them, I feel less alone. Which is so healing.
One of your biggest musical influences is Ella Fitzgerald and we can absolutely hear that on your track "These Dreams." It has a soulful vibe, but features elements of reggae. What inspires you most about Ms. Fitzgerald?
Ella is everything!!! She has a soothing and warm tone but can manipulate her voice and get so many different expressions out of it. I used to watch YouTube videos of her for hours at a time. The mastery that she had over her instrument felt different than let’s say, Aretha’s mastery. I felt like I could achieve some of the same expressions as Ella. And hopefully I have.
Do you have a favorite song on your album?
“Just Let It” is my fav right now. I love the guitar parts that me and my friend Jake Lashenik came up with and I’m so grateful to him for playing on this song. Something good just happened to it when I started producing it. Which is funny because I didn’t expect that to happen.
You'll be performing at Nashville's QueerFest on August 12th. What can we do to be better allies to the LGBTQ+ community?
Normalize use of pronouns, speak up and fight for the queer community, and when someone tells you who they are believe them! It’s that simple. There doesn’t need to be a whole conversation about someone’s identity everytime. We don’t need to get into everyone’s origin story lol. I’ve heard “how do you know you’re bisexual for sure” too many times. We don’t have to prove who we are to anybody. Just believe us and respect our identities. AND COME TO THE SHOW!!!
Ok, we have to bring it up. You got to perform with Alicia Keys. Tell us all the details!
Um. When I saw Alicia Keys in person I almost cried and I know that she knew that I almost cried because she immediately started running the song we were doing with her and broke eye contact. And I’m sure she’s used to it. Getting to witness her level of professionalism and talent will sit with me for a while and I’m so grateful to Holly and Tanner at Black Opry for the opportunity.