Interview by Alexandria Hopkins
JULIAN CREECH-PRITCHETT is an up-and-coming artist based in Greensboro, North Carolina. Beginning his career in 2016 in his native home in Apex, the 19-year-old has so far released an album [2017’s Break Me Down], a handful of EPs [2018’s All In a Weekend, 2017’s twentyseventeen] and singles. Though only releasing his latest single in November of 2018, a funk-filled instrumental “Jungle of Funk”, the budding artist has been working hard on new music to come out sometime this year. He and his touring band have also been extensively planning, as well as playing different shows in the local Triad area, including a planned slew of back-to-back show from Boone to Raleigh (times for those shows will be down below). He recently took the time to speak with me about these plans, his up-and-coming work, as well as what makes him work harder as an artist.
WHAT THE KIDS WANT: You mentioned also something about you getting more into recording more jazz, RnB kind of stuff. Your more recent single, released in December, was said to more jazz-influenced. How were you introduced that particular style for you to follow through with that move, did your ability to play certain instruments help out with that style?
JULIAN CREECH-PRITCHETT: It was definitely partly my ability to play all of those instruments, yeah! That [his recent single, “Jungle of Funk”] was the most technically-advanced song I ever recorded, meaning that it was the hardest song to play on each instrument. I was really inspired by this band from Michigan called Vulfpeck, they incorporate a lot of instrumental, funk sounds. It’s pretty choppy and heavy, so I listened to that and I thought “I could do something like that!” Actually, I made the song for a final project for a class I took at UNCG which was “Making Music with Computers”. I just liked it enough and I thought I should release it!
WTKW: You mentioned having a history with playing, learning different instruments from growing up. When did you get to be interested in playing live? Was it a natural progression, part to someone’s introduction?
JCP: I first picked up a guitar in fourth grade, I believe. My uncle from my dad’s side bought me this green Fender Stratocaster that I play in live shows, so if you see me or see any of- see any pictures of me with a green guitar, it’s probably that one. I don’t know, I think I heard AC/DC and I was like “oh, that’s awesome!” [Laughs] Like, “I gotta do that!”
WTKW: You wanted to be AC/DC?
JCP: Yeah, I did! So I got the guitar! I also have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD, and that is pretty bad. Especially when I was younger, I couldn’t control myself, so I would spend hours and hours every day practicing and practicing. On one hand, because I wanted to, but on the other hand, because I couldn’t make myself stop. Like my parents would come and be like “okay, you need to stop, turn that off now.” [Laughs]
WTKW: If you don’t mind me asking, do you think your OCD influenced you branching out into different genres?
JCP: When I was younger, I would just get hooked on certain artists and- for example, like AC/DC. What I would do is want to listen to every single thing they ever put out, watch every live video they ever put out. I literally would just obsess over it, and I would just have periods of time like that with AC/DC, with Red Hot Chilli Peppers. But it’s definitely a blessing and a curse – a blessing because it lets me get so interested in certain things I’m interested in, but also a curse because I’m so focused on that one thing and it’s hard to look at the bigger picture.
WTKW: With that, taking into account your OCD and the everyday influences people find in their writing, what are some of your influences in terms of your writing?
JCP: I find that I tend to write songs about girls, love songs or breakup songs, things having to do with love, etc. I find that those are some of the easiest – or rather, more natural – style of songs to write. Like I try to write songs about things other than ladies and my experiences with ladies. But that is always harder to do; I guess being a 20-year old adolescent, and usually what I’m experiencing and what my environment is.
WTKW: There definitely is that idea that songs have to be personal, or songs have to come from your experiences only. Do you ever find yourself writing outside of that mold of just love-songs, maybe taking from daydreams, etc?
JCP: Honestly, I do have a hard time writing songs that aren’t like what I usually write. So most of my work, definitely lyrically, is pretty straight up and saying “this is what happened to me”, “this is how I experienced something”. I would love to be able to write more songs that are about more things than what directly happens to me, but it’s harder to do so. In the future, maybe I’ll get a songwriting partner and see if that changes anything. But for now, it’s just me.
WTKW: Your sound is reminiscent of a prominent new style in indie rock, following more a DIY, chill kind of sound. Was this intentional, just a musical style you always wanted to follow?
JCP: Well, I take a lot from my influences! But I think a pivotal moment for me where I went from being someone who played a lot of music to being someone who performs on all of those instruments was discovering who Mac DeMarco was. He has five to six albums out, I’ve seen him a couple of times live. But I think it was that moment. We mentioned my dad earlier, and he didn’t necessarily give me Mac, but we were just flipping through some channels, and there was a channel called Palladia. They had this 2014 Coachella Roundup and it was like three songs from every band’s set at Coachella that year, and his band was playing. I was like “Woah… I can’t believe I haven’t heard this before.” Or, I probably had heard of him before, but I hadn’t listened or actually listened to it. I went further and had an obsession with him, and he became a object of my OCD. I figured out he plays all the instruments on his recordings, and he writes all the stuff and records all the stuff by himself, and I thought if he could do it why can’t I do it? And that’s different from looking at people from the past like Prince, who also made albums where they played their own instrument and wrote albums by themselves. The difference is though that they had studios to go to, and equipment to go through; meanwhile, all I had was my Macbook and a microphone.
WTWK: There is especially that new age of music production like this, with a Macbook and microphone only, heightened definitely by the rise of music streaming sites like Bandcamp. Do you prefer creating with that set-up more, without all the big production studios or equipment?
JCP: Well, I use Logic Pro X, and I recorded my first LP through it when I was a senior in high school and after I graduated. So, it was before I went to college and had a larger spread of equipment – whereas, at my house, I literally had one microphone. I knew that, for example, recording drum set wasn’t going to be the best sound, so I spent a lot of time working on it and get it to sound as good as possibly could so I could be satisfied with it. So I knew that where I was lacking in that production quality, but I had to make work with. I think that’s what you were talking about, why so many DIY artists and bands are able to pop up. They can get their hands on some kind of equipment or output, even if their sound is super high quality or crisp-sounding.
WTKW: Especially on sites like Bandcamp, Soundcloud: other music streaming sites who help those indie artists.
JCP: Absolutely! Those have risen in recent years as simply a product of the environment because so many artists are turning to places like Bandcamp to put their music out. That means that actual music listeners will gravitate towards Bandcamp as well. It’s just having social media, that kind of social streaming, to promote yourself really makes it easier for you to have a career at all. It’s just easier to do so, and why you see so many artists like me turn to those sites, instead of you having to rely on a record label to promote your stuff.
WTKW: It also doesn’t cost as much!
JCP: Us poor folk, college students.
WTKW: Going back to your lyricism, as mentioned in the Bandcamp description, your second album Break Me Down was about a heartbreak you had gone through. As cliche some may say it is, do you think there is a certain release of relief when your hardest feelings on a breakup are out in the open like as in an album?
JCP: On one hand, writing that particular album, I thought about how all the music was authentic and lyrics was really how I was feeling at the time. And obviously, this is almost a year and a half ago, two years now, so I am moving past my mindset from then. But when I have the chance to perform those tunes now, I still feel it and really go for it – I don’t fake it. Having that chance to write that particular record and having all my feelings out in the open on these songs also gives me a chance also- I look at it also as not just people seeing the real me, but me seeing the real me. I can listen back to the words I chose to say and the sound I chose to make to represent my mindset.
WTKW: You mentioned about performing these songs now and channeling your feelings from that album into your performances, even two years after the album was released. Do you ever feel it awkward to play those songs back because of how you currently stand with the situation?
JCP: I mean, honestly, I still play them [songs off of Break Me Down] because I like them, regardless of what the actual lyrical content of those lyrics are. I enjoy those songs, and so I’ll play them, so if I don’t like the songs, I won’t play them live. I definitely have put out better songs than other songs, and I prefer other songs than other songs.
WTKW: It also just gives a sense that you’ve grown more.
JCP: Yeah. Also just something that dictates what songs I play live is also my limitations on instruments. Whereas for the last year, I had been playing in a trio, so me on vocals and guitar, and bass player and a drummer. Some of my songs also piano and keyboard on them, so in that case, I would also need a pianist and keyboard player to play at the same time I was playing guitar, and that makes it harder.
WTWK: Break Me Down was more about heartbreak and the downfall of a relationship, it is in stark contrast to your recent EP All In a Weekend. This feels much more carefree and bright, all in experimental styles like 60’s beach rock “I Wanna Know” to pseudo-country like “Show Shoes” featuring Nick Vanbuskrik. Would you say that this reflect where you are currently at now, you wanting to change styles, etc?
JCP: I think it definitely is a solid reflection of at the time when I wrote it and put it out. I wrote it the second semester of my Freshman year and release it before or a little bit after that semester finished, beginning of Summer in May. How I feel now is also kind of a continuation of that album’s vibe. Generally, I’m having a good time here at school, and that EP is specifically about my freshman year and the experience I had. It feels like a life note, just something that’s there to recount exactly how I felt in that moment. With music and producing, I’m trying to be consistent with writing good songs or only putting out good songs and putting it out there.
WTWK: Where as before, you might have just put out music to just say that you have music out.
JCP: Right, putting something out there because that is towards my name, instead of putting out the creme of the crop.
WTWK: And especially as a considerably newer artist, do you find something bad about that kind of mindset about “just releasing something for the sake of saying I do”?
JCP: A lot of times, a band or artist first or second album, ep, LP, whatever: I feel like there is generally the case where “I have to put something out for the sake of saying I have something out”, so they are more focused on putting something out rather than looking at what makes that work good. It’s also why there are so many bands or artists that exist, but why you only hear about a percentage of that, because there are some bands that put out something they put in the time and thought for. It’s also why it can be common trajectory to say that a band’s best album is always their third, because they have the time to get to know each other as musicians and flesh out the band. I wouldn’t say that there’s anything wrong with putting out an album for the sake of having it out. I don’t think it’s the most efficient way to put yourself out there and gain a following or fandom for yourself, but hey, more power to them.
WTWK: As of now, the place that you’re in with music. How would you say you stand within your music scene?
JCP: I would say I’m real happy with where I am now. There’s a lot of cool things happening, a lot more chances I’d say.
WTWK: Where do you plan on going as far as releasing more LP’s, EP’s? Tours?
JCP: Yeah! As far as touring, nothing completely booked yet, but I do have confirmation from some people that help out with my band that they would be down to do a summer tour. It would probably be for a week or so, nothing too long because people have jobs and touring doesn’t pay the bills, unfortunately. So we would be doing it more for the experience and making connections than really anything serious yet. I played show this past weekend that I recorded for what will probably end up being a live album. That will probably be six songs, which is cool, to share that with everyone. I am also working on another project by the end of the year as well. Things are in the work, and we’ll see what happens!
If you live in or near the Triad area of North Carolina, check out Julian Creech-Pritchett performing this weekend, February 15 and 16th (both 9 PM), at The Womb in Boone, NC and the Bird House in Greensboro, NC. You can also catch him at a few shows at the beginning of March, Saturday, March 2nd at the Steele House in Raleigh (8:30 PM) and back in Greensboro on March 10th at New York Pizza (TBA). Like Julian on his Facebook, follow his Instagram (@juliancpmusic), and catch his new project some time this year!