The last few years have been challenging for Julia Weldon, but, determined never to give up on what she loves – music – she’s taken those challenges and channelled them into her new album Comatose Hope. The new collection reflects on Weldon surviving a life-threatening coma following gender affirming surgery, and, given the ongoing transphobia of the US administration, tells a highly relevant and immensely powerful story. Here, Julia chats to ThisIsTheLatest about her favourite songs on the album, her plans to tour and how she hopes those affected by Trump and his team continue to proudly be themselves.
TITL: You’ve been through quite a lot since we last spoke. How has all that impacted you as both an individual and as an artist?
Julia Weldon: I think about this all the time! Having top surgery was a huge step in my life and the coma, which happened immediately after, was just so much all at once. Sometimes I feel like that experience changed me forever – both as an artist and an individual. And then sometimes, I feel just like the old me. But it has deeply impacted the way I value my life; the trauma I went through and others’ traumas as well. As an artist, I sort of feel like I’m still processing the experience maybe subconsciously in every song I’ve written since then.
TITL: To what extent have your experiences of the last year and a half impacted the kind of music you make and the message you want to get out to people as well as the passion you have for what you do?
JW: I think having this near-death experience has affected my song-writing like I said – in ways that are still coming to light. In terms of my message – I think it’s similar but after having gender affirming top surgery I’m able to take my message further. Having surgery was something I wanted for 10 years before doing it but it’s a life-changer. I’m healthier and happier in my body and I think that’s enhanced my life, career, and ability to be a positive visible artist for other young queer and gender-queer people, or to reach out to anyone. I’m more comfortable on stage and in my body, and I think my audience feels that. And after making this album, I feel passionate about sharing those stories. It’s like a new chapter to tell.
TITL: How is your new album Comatose Hope different from your previous work? How would you say it showcases your development and growth as an artist?
JW: Comatose Hope is definitely an evolution of my last album Light Is a Ghost. There are still catchy melodic hooks and some pop elements, but I wanted to build songs that felt more timeless and ethereal. I think – or I hope – that my song-writing is always developing and I’m growing as an artist. I think I took more risks and was more vulnerable with how I presented these songs maybe.
TITL: What did Perfume Genius producer Drew Morgan bring to the creative/recording process and how did your collaboration come about?
JW: I stumbled upon Drew Morgan when I fell in love with his production on Perfume Genius’ album Put Your Back N 2 It. When I was recovering from the coma for 6 months, I literally made a list of dream producers I wanted to work with and he was at the top. I contacted him and he was actually surprised I was interested in working with him because my last album was a little more poppy than his more ambient and experimental work. But we started emailing back and forth and made it happen – even with an ocean between us! I flew over, we recorded for 2 weeks straight and worked together across seas to finalize the mix and master.
TITL: How easy/hard did you find the song-writing process this time around?
JW: About half of the album was written prior to the surgery and coma and those songs came out of me the way they normally do – sort of all at once, music and lyrics. There are a few songs that are pretty explicitly about a major heartbreak I had which at the time was so, so painful. I feel oddly grateful for the intensity of that love and then heart ache because all that led to “Everybody Says” and “Take It All Back.” On the flip side of that there are also songs I wrote about falling back in love and navigating a new relationship – “Kaleidoscope” and “Take Me to the Water.” There are also songs about loss and family – “Soon ii” and “When You Die.” And then the post-coma songs which I think represent trying to process death or my near-death experience. I will say that the songs I wrote after the coma came out differently; they came to me slower and required more editing.
TITL: Is there one track on the album in particular you’re especially proud of and if so, which is it and why?
JW: I’m so attached to all of them. But I think Drew and I are both super fond of “Comatose Hope.” I think it really expresses what the album is as a whole but also I’m so proud of the production we came up with together. It’s both beautiful and welcoming but also sounds like my coma felt – elusive and difficult to grasp. It was a special and intense process of making that song in the studio – Drew and I really connected.
TITL: How have you found the reaction to the album to be so far? Do you care much for what critics think or are you more concerned by what the fans think?
JW: People have been saying really amazing and lovely things so far – both critics and fans. To be honest, I care about both so much! I feel confident and excited about every track and just want it to reach people. I am super invested in what my fans think – the support from my fan base is what keeps me going.
TITL: What one message do you hope those who hear it take from the album?
JW: Overcoming hardship. These songs are obviously about my experiences, but I hope they speak to something bigger that people can relate to. I feel like what ties the album together is that the songs represent the moment when we try to move through the hardest feelings. All those feelings that are too big and overwhelming to comprehend – so we have to feel and sing and move and cry.
TITL: What’s next for you? Where do you go from here? Are there any performances in the pipeline?
JW: I want to keep making music. But, my next big step is to tour more. I have a bunch of one-off shows lined up on the east coast. I’m definitely hoping to do a release in the UK sometime in the future! I’m really excited to open on a national tour for a bigger artist so people can hear what I do. I felt so proud of my last album Light Is a Ghost and didn’t really think I could make something better, but I feel so amazing about every track on Comatose Hope and Drew Morgan’s production is already blowing people away. When I look around the industry right now I am just so impressed with all the beautiful music people are making. And I hope that this little album gets to be part of that. I really just want people to hear the music- that this album will reach people far and wide, and then I’ll get to play for them live – wherever they may be.
TITL: Finally, and this is slightly off topic but I’d appreciate your thoughts on this; it’s been a difficult time lately for the LGBTQ community, particularly in the United States. How shocked/saddened are you by the actions of people like Trump who are making trans people in particular feel like 2nd class citizens, and what advice do you have for those feeling victimised?
JW: It’s terrible, he’s horrible, and I feel so saddened and angry about Trump’s rhetoric of fear and hate. It’s inspired a few songs lately and we’ll see if they turn into anything. But the best thing I/we can do is continue to resist, make art, be out and proud and visible- if it’s safe – and just not let up.