Premiere: Julia Blair Shares Early Listen to Debut Album ‘Better Out Than In’ - Stream It Below | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Premiere: Julia Blair Shares Early Listen to Debut Album ‘Better Out Than In’ - Stream It Below

Better Out Than In Is Out February 24th via Crutch of Memory

Feb 23, 2022 Photography by Billy Hintz Bookmark and Share

Singer/songwriter Julia Blair first made her name in the indie folk world as part of the Wisconsin country rock group Dusk and the experimental folk collective Holy Sheboygan. During that time, she also co-founded the Crutch of Memory Enterprises label and recording studio. However, later this week Blair is striking out with her first full-length solo album, Better Out Than In, released via Crutch of Memory. The full album is out everywhere on February 24th, but you can get an early listen to the record below, premiering with Under the Radar.

Better Out Than In sees Blair breaking out of the boundaries of indie folk, instead exploring the broader world of chamber pop, soul, and gentle salves of singer/songwriter intimacy. She first touches on playful bursts pop soul with highlights like “Relax” and “Just a Cue,” interspersing them within string-driven swells of chamber pop like “Make The Darkness Go Away.” Elsewhere, her musical roots in folk and classical music shine through with introspective folk compositions and gorgeous ballads such as the closer, “Waste Away.” Laced throughout, Blair offers three heartfelt lullabies, simply titled “Lullaby One,” Lullaby Two,” and “Lullaby Three.” With each track, Blair marries her range of disparate styles with effortless grace and sweet crooning vocals, enlacing pop melodies with tremendous homespun beauty.

On the concept behind the album, Blair shares: “Better Out Than In was produced over the course of three years at our in-house studios at the Crutch Of Memory compound in Appleton, Wisconsin - in the heart of the “Fox River Valley”. Crutch of Memory was established several years ago, mostly as a private studio for the creative output of members of Dusk and Tenement. Since then, it’s taken on its own identity as a record label and destination recording studio. This album is the second release on our flagship series.

Our goal is to establish a catalog of artists and material that we’re heavily involved and invested in creatively; through songwriting, arranging, performing, and recording. We bring our favorite artists to our neck of the woods and let them swim in our pond, so to speak. Our hope is to bring out what we love most in these artists, and in the process, insert what makes us unique as musicians, songwriters, and producers as well. What we hold important is that we make great records and capture our own individual acoustic: what one could call The Fox River Valley Sound.”

Check out the record below, and read out Q&A with Blair. Better Out Than In is out everywhere on February 24th via Crutch of Memory.

crutchofmemory · Julia Blair - Better Out Than In

Better Out Than In has a wide sonic range, blending genres and styles of music. Could you tell us a little bit about who/what has influenced your genre-bending approach to songwriting and instrumentation?

Julia; I listen to such a wide range of music that I think the genre-bending came without my planning it. I wrote the songs to fit what was going on in my head, so I ended up writing a multi-genre album, despite my best efforts. I think that there’s a through line connecting it all that you can find in the chord structure and lyricism, though. This record is also the second one put out on the new Crutch of Memory label imprint- which has more of a Motown / collaborative model to record making. So, though I was the primary songwriter on this record, other people involved in the label wrote songs, performed, and weighed in on production. I think it definitely contributed to the dynamic range you hear.

Do you have any definitive favorites or personal highlights off this record?

Julia: Oh boy. I’m really proud of “Relax.” I feel like it’s the most cohesive pop song I’ve written/recorded to date. But I’ve always been more of a ballads/sappy song person so I have to say that those are my favorites. I love that I was able to include a string quartet on this record with “Waste Away.” I love the form of the song too- I think it taps into my classical roots more than anything else I’ve written. In terms of sheer lyricism & songwriting though, I have to say my favorite is “Barbara”. It may be the best lyrics I’ve written so far. It’s a very dynamic song, so it was difficult to make all the pieces fit together in a recording, but Amos & I got it to a place that we were really happy with it, so that feels good. It even features a choir and strings!

How has your time with DUSK and Holy Sheboygan! shaped your art? Do you feel like your solo act is launching you in any unexpected directions?

Julia: Well- Dusk and Holy Sheboygan! are so different from each other, but are both very important to my growth. Holy Sheboygan! is still, and will probably always be, the most collaborative project I’ve ever been a part of. We really struggled when we started because every decision was weighed on by all of us- it was difficult to find a rhythm. But after a while, it became such a deeply trusting relationship. We know each others’ strengths so intimately that it feels like my family. Witnessing that growth within the group and being a part of it was really special. I don’t know how else to describe it. If nothing else, that group has taught me how powerful collaboration can be.

Dusk was a total shift- from a mostly acoustic folk collective made up of classically trained musicians to a rock & roll band where about half the band didn’t read music. But not at all less talented! It was amazing to meet Amos Pitsch, who doesn’t read music or really even like using the names of chords, but has one of the best musical ears out of anyone I’ve ever worked with. Anyways, it was my first experience in a real-live rock band, and my first time playing piano in a band. So not only have I gotten way better at piano than when we started (ha!) but now I’m a real rocker too.

Having a solo record is still so new, I’m not sure if I’m somewhere unexpected yet. All the groups I’ve been in have shared singing lead. I’ve always loved that we all write, but singing is also my favorite thing to do maybe in the whole world- so I found myself longing to do a project where I had that freedom to sing every song. That’s where the motivation came from. I hope it takes me somewhere where I can keep singing for people.


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