Julie Byrne

plus headline show at Northcote Social Club

from Sydney Morning Herald, 2017:

Singer Julie Byrne: freedom on the fringes of life
Julie Byrne is a folk singer with a sorrowed voice, a fondness for finger-picking, and a restless spirit. She spent years as a veritable wandering minstrel, traipsing all over America with a guitar on her back.

Her debut album, 2014’s Rooms with Walls and Windows, wore a title lamenting a life spent crashing in communal warehouse spaces. On her second album, Not Even Happiness, she sings – beautifully – of her nomadic lifestyle: Melting Gridlisting a travelogue of states; standout songs Sleepwalker and I Live Now as A Singer weighing the merits of an itinerate existence. “I have dragged my life across the country,” she sings, in the latter, “and wondered if travel led me anywhere.”

“It has suited me for a very long time, it has always felt much more natural and resonant to me than staying in one place,” says Byrne, 27, of this wandering life; one that will, finally, bring her to Australia for the first time, to play shows with Mount Eerie (who she’s only met once before, at a trivia night in Anacortes, Washington).
“I’ve been through so many cities and countries and time zones, I’ve met so many people … everyone who is closest to me, I have met through music, through that lifestyle. I want it to always be at the forefront of my mind, what a blessing it has been to live this way.”

Byrne grew up in Buffalo, a “defiant and hard-headed” child who would spend hours, barefoot, playing by the creek that ran through her family’s property. Her father was a “finger-style guitarist”, his influence evident in her music. Byrne picked up the guitar as a teenager and started writing songs, recording them and packaging them in paper bags to sell at shows. That DIY approach soon took over a whole period of her life, dropping out of university at 18, and touring without end.
“My friends in this band Augur, who were living in an old funeral home at the time, we set up a tour together through MySpace,” Byrne says. “From then, I toured until I was 24 and would live, for periods, in spaces that hosted shows, that were part of the national DIY network of musicians in the US. All of the shows were organised by people that just did it for the love. There’s no money in it for anyone, even the artist. We would play in warehouses, living rooms, small theatres, backyards, a puppetry theatre – that was my experience of music for five or six years.”

Spending years wandering came with its trials, troubles, tribulations: showing up in a city not knowing where you were going to spend the night; the complete absence of personal space and privacy; being broke; and, as Byrne put it, living “at the mercy of experience”. But, she says, “even in its most difficult moments, I felt free, on the fringes of life”.
The lure of these shows, as always, is getting to play her songs. Byrne writes them as a way of dealing with “these great tidal waves of feeling” that wash over her, something which forges natural, unspoken connections with listeners.

“I don’t feel like I need to explain [my songs],” she says. “Songwriting is an inherent place of understanding and I really like being able to engage with people who end up coming to the shows. I feel we have already related to each other so deeply, through the experience of music together.”