A Local Musician Reemerges
Julia Isaac is a musician well-known in the Girdwood and Hope area since she has been in the music scene around the state for more than 16 years.
About a year ago she took a step back from the music scene to reevaluate her musical career. She wanted to get back to the way music made her feel rather than looking at it like a job.
Recently, Julia had a debuted again at Taproot in Anchorage, on January 5. She has performed at a couple Open Mic Nights at Seaview Bar in Hope, but this is her first big stage performance.
On the night of the Taproot show, she took to the stage like she never left. While beautifully strumming through her songs, her smoky voice flowed with the melody. In between songs, her light, joking manner kept people laughing. The whole performance blended together flawlessly. Although the bar was spatially packed, applause was abundant.
Julia said in our earlier interview, “When it comes to stage fright and performing, I would so much rather be on stage with a large space with my mic and my guitar. I prefer to have a nice big boundary of where people can or cannot touch me. So much more comfortable to me to be on stage and be able to space a group of people as a whole, as one, than it is for me to be in a crowd of people and have to communicate with many different ones.”
I conducted a preliminary interview with Julia before her stage performance to get a little perspective on who she is and the road she took to become the musician she is today.
SK: When did you get into music and why?
Julia: I’ve been a singer my whole life. When I was two, my mother recorded me singing “Rudolph the ‘Wet’ Nosed Reindeer” for my aunt and uncle. Truly, music has been a part of my whole life, since I was a kid. I was usually the one who got picked to sing the solos in the choir, so my mom got me into a group in Cleveland called the Singing Angels. I did a lot of choral work for a lot of years.
When I became a teenager I kind of of stopped, my dad tried to teach me guitar, but I was pretty vain and didn’t want to cut my fingernails. I also didn’t like the way it made my hands feel. I knew some basic chords but pretty much didn’t play guitar.
Not until I was 26, I believe when Jon Dykstra gave me a guitar shortly after we first met. He told me “you have a sincerely cool voice; you need to learn to back it”.
Then I decided to cut my fingernails and play until my fingers bled. I don’t claim to be a really good guitar player, but I can at least back myself.
SK: Who were some of the bands you worked with in the past?
Julia: I was really fortunate to be in several different bands with amazingly talented musicians. One of my first bands had Wade Collins who was one of the original bass players from the Whipsaws; Matt Tillitson played drums for Ripe on The Vine and was extremely involved in the APU (Alaska Pacific University) music scene; and Jon Dykstra who is greatly talented and experienced musician. The longest standing band that Jon and I had was Sticky Wicket.
I have also had the privilege to work with all sorts of local talent like Rick Nielson who now plays with Hope Social Club, Ben Trockey and Toby Quinn who were both with The Photons. Fortunately, I have always had top quality players backing me up and teaching me how to better back myself up.
SK: What are your hopes and goals for your musical career now?
Julia: I would like to play out more, to find like minded musicians to start a band again. Just kind of coming at the music that I have made and the music I want to make with a different perspective and a little more maturity; a better idea from my own head of what I want to hear out of my music. Furthermore, it’s a sharing thing, it’s all about sharing.
SK: You also have worked at some of the music festivals throughout the state; which ones and what did you do?
Julia: I book three stages for three days at the Girdwood Forest Fair, it’s crazy. I have also loosely worked in management and production at Salmonfest.
SK: Aside from being a musician you are also a music manager, I know you manage Ava Earl; do you manage anyone else?
Julia: I do bookings, not under contract but loose bookings for out of state bands. I have worked with Junosmile for a bit, and brought up national artists from out of state in the past and would like to do it again. I would like to continue to put together different festivals.
As for some of the bands I have brought up here personally were, Colin Hay who was the lead singer for Men At Work, also a band called Ekoostik Hookah and a bunch of smaller named acts that were from out of state.
On the Salmonfest stage I have been very privileged to work with Brandy Carlisle, Trampled By Turtles, Bill Kreutzmann, Lucinda Williams, The Indigo Girls, Robert Randolph and The Family Band. These legends were just such an honor to meet them.
With a smoky fresh voice, a blue-grassy folk tune, the ambition she has to accomplish her dreams and her ever-growing fan base, we will see the name Julia Isaac on the marquee again.