JULIA WELDON TALKS ‘COMATOSE HOPE’ & PERFORMANCE PLANS 174

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.

Comatose Hope is available now and for more information on Julia Weldon, visit her website, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. Header photo credit: Shelly Simon.

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CORRIE TO AIR MALE SUICIDE STORYLINE NEXT WEEK 31

Coronation Street is to highlight the important issue of male suicide when Aidan Connor tragically takes his own life.

In episodes to be screened the week of May 7th viewers will hear that Johnny Connor has discovered his son’s body at his Victoria Street flat, after Aidan failed to turn up for work at the factory.

As the news of what Aidan has done spreads, his devastated family and friends try to come to terms with the shock of their loss and begin to question why they hadn’t spotted any signs that he was struggling to cope with life.

Viewers will last see Aidan on screen on Monday 7th May when he goes to see Eva at the cottage where she is living after giving birth to baby Susie, before returning to a family party at the Rovers. His final scene will see him back at his flat alone. No element of the suicide will be shown on screen.

Johnny makes the devastating discovery at the beginning of an hour long episode on May 9th.

Actor Shayne Ward, the writers and production team, have worked closely with charities Samaritans and CALM to ensure the storyline is handled sensitively and realistically.

Shayne Ward said: “I am honoured to have been trusted with a storyline like this, it shows the confidence that Kate and the team had in me to be able to play it. When you get given a storyline like this it is a decision that is not taken lightly, I have played it with as much honesty and truth as I could. I am very proud of what I have done in my three years on the show and on this storyline in particular.

“Aidan is an ‘everyman’ figure, he is someone men can identify with, which is important in telling this story.”

“Talking could have helped Aidan to turn his life around. It could have brought him relief from what he was going through. This is what his loved ones would have wanted. Suicide is a very permanent response to what are usually temporary problems.

“We all know someone who has maybe felt like Aidan did, someone who found it hard to talk and we have all heard stories like Aidan’s when it was too late, when people looked back and wished they had spotted the signs, but it isn’t always possible. If we can encourage someone who is feeling low, who is having the sort of thoughts Aidan was having, to realise they need to talk, then we have achieved what we set out to with this story.”

Aidan’s devastated family and friends try to come to terms with the shock of their loss.

Coronation Street Producer Kate Oates said: “Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in this country. With 84 men taking their lives each week, we quite simply can’t afford to not talk about it.

“Aidan’s story, bravely and brilliantly tackled by Shayne Ward, is designed to give people who hide their feelings of desperation a chance to start a conversation, letting someone know what they’re going through. Through this story, we want to assure anyone who feels suicidal that there is always someone who wants to listen and support you: whether a friend, family member, or one of the brilliant charities we have been working with throughout this story.”

Ruth Sutherland, CEO of Samaritans, said: “We were pleased that Coronation Street invited us to work with them on Aidan’s storyline. Suicide is clearly a very sensitive topic and one that presents some distinct challenges for producers of soaps. This is why Samaritans publishes media guidance and works with programme makers.

“Soaps can play an incredibly powerful role in increasing people’s awareness and understanding of difficult issues. Viewers will see the devastating impact of suicide and the effect that it has on families – it’s never the case that others would be better off without you.

“By illustrating the dangers of staying silent when it feels like life’s challenges are overwhelming, we hope others who are struggling will be encouraged to reach out for support. And, if viewers are worried about someone else, we hope it will inspire them to be brave and open up a conversation.

“You won’t make things worse, but you could start that person on the road to recovery.”

Simon Gunning, CEO of CALM, said: “Coronation Street is doing vital work in highlighting such an important issue with this storyline. Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK, where three in every four suicides are male. The reasons for this are many and complex, but at CALM we focus on the cultural and societal aspects, including the pressures men face and how societal expectations can limit help seeking when life gets tough.

“Working with Coronation Street has allowed us to engage a huge audience in the devastating effect of suicide, while providing a platform to highlight the help that is available for those in need of support.”

Aidan’s final episodes will air the week beginning Monday 7th May.

BISHAT TALKS NEW MUSIC, SOCIAL MEDIA & HER PLANS FOR WORLD DOMINATION 27

Having written her first song at the age of 13, music has been in Bishat’s blood for many years and now, following the release of her Q417 (Mixtape) EP, she’s ready and raring to share her passion for what she does with the world. She spoke to ThisIsTheLatest about the honesty and emotion behind her lyrics, her thoughts on social media and her plans to tour the world.

TITL: As an artist who comes from the same place as the legends that are ABBA, have you or do you ever feel any pressure to try and replicate their success or are you just happy to see that, over the years, more and more talented bands and artists from your country have graced stages around the world and won over music fans?

Bishat: I think it’s inspiring more than anything else, it just makes me feel like it’s possible to reach a global audience from this little corner of the world. The industry is so small in Sweden so you know a lot of the people making waves and it’s an amazing feeling when you’re in a taxi in New York or in a club in Ethiopia and there’s a global smash playing and you know the people who wrote it.

TITL: You wrote your first song aged just 13, with Jose Gonzalez. How would you say your writing style has changed and evolved since then and what advice would you give to anyone looking at writing their own first piece?

B: As with everything else, you mature and experience life and with that you evolve your way of thinking and how you’re expressing yourself. I’ve also had time to be influenced by a lot of other music and I’ve studied what others did to then land in something that is me. I think my music is much more raw and intuitive and a mash-up of all the genres that I’ve grown up listening to now.

TITL: You’ve so far been compared to the likes of Tove Lo and FKA Twigs, among others. Do you mind such comparisons or would you much rather be labelled an artist in your own right? 

B: Both Tove Lo & FKA Twigs are brilliant artists that I admire and am influenced by so I take that as a huge compliment. But yes, sometimes comparisons can be a bit lazy. People seem to crave the need of labeling and comparing and I get that in a time when there’s so much music it’s good to have some guidance and indication of other artists you might like. I’m really bad at explaining my sound and genre so if other people nail it then that’s all good. Of course I hope and think people see me an artist in my own right  – there’s room for everybody.

TITL: You’ve just released your debut EP Q417 (Mixtape). How was the creative, writing and recording process and is there one track/feature on the collection you’re particularly proud of?

B: This was a little different than I how I’ve worked before. I’ve always had a lot of sessions where we wrote lots of stuff over a long period of time but this was pretty much all done in the last quarter of 2017, hence the title. I was going through a lot of stuff, coming out of a long relationship, not having a place to live, so creating this EP became my mission, not to lose myself completely. I wrote all the songs myself except  “Unholy Romance” which I wrote with XOV, and then involved a few trusted people in the production process to help me finish it so it feels even more personal with the entire core coming from me. I’m most proud of “Give You Up” because it’s the first track I produced all by myself, even though I’m always involved and co-produce all my stuff. I have, as a female, struggled with daring to call myself a producer but now I feel that I truly can and no one can tell me nothing and that feels good. It’s also the rawest song I think I’ve ever written and listening to it reminds me of how broken I was at the time. It’s a bit painful but it also feels like the whole reason I even got into music in the first place. To create things that are raw and vulnerable that hopefully resonate with others going through the same things.

TITL: Now that the EP’s out, have you started thinking about writing again for the follow-up or are you just going to go with the flow and see what the response to this EP is like first?

B: Yes, I have some songs written but I haven’t entirely set the tone for the next EP, or maybe album, just yet. I’m going to London for a while to do some writing – the music scene there is really inspiring at the moment with so much great music coming out, so maybe that will shape the sound. But, I will definitely try to put out more music after summer.

TITL: The EP as a whole is rather dark and addresses a considerably difficult time in your life. Were you ever apprehensive about sharing those times with the world through your music as you have, or is it something you’d like to see more artists do – address real issues in their lives and those of others?

B: I personally love music that I feel is super honest. I mean it doesn’t even have to be real life, but some artists make you feel like it is anyway. Life is messy and hard and incredible and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. I think everyone would be better off if we were more open and honest about the struggles, depression or whatever it is that we go through. There was a point when we were mixing and I was like ​‘wow this feels pretty exposing’, but at that point I wasn’t gonna throw it all away. It was a little scary but I’m proud of my work and proud that I managed to put it together even though I was such a mess.

TITL: You’ve also dropped the video for “Dream About Me.” How did you come up with the concept, and how hands on in terms of the creative process, do you like to get when it comes to making videos and such?

B: Post break up analysis I guess triggered it. I was like I’ve been in these long relationships but in the end I somehow mess them up. They may not have been the right ones for me but still…I started to see patterns in my behavior and in everyone’s really. Most of us repeat the same mistakes over and over and so I had this idea of showing several relationships, which in the end ended up being just two, where you are super intense and all in in the beginning but then grow restless and end up leaving and then repeat it with someone else. The fear of space and change – which ironically is the thing that usually ends up ruining it. I’m very involved in every aspect of my artistry. I do almost everything by myself from artwork to styling and I was very involved in the video so it’s all very much me which is really nice even though it gets crazy stressful at times. The anxiety is real.

TITL: Personally and professionally, are you much of a social media user and how do you feel about the power the likes of Twitter and YouTube can and do have in terms of helping an artist grow their fan-base and keep themselves current?

B: I use social media a lot but not a crazy amount. I understand that it’s important and it’s really cool to have that instant way of connecting with people. To be able to chat to someone who loves my song in Peru in my Insta DMs is amazing. However, the flip side is the fact that there’s such power in numbers – I think we are too fixated with  followers, likes and streams and that it influences what we think of the artist before we’ve​ even heard the music. I wonder if you’d listen to the same stuff or talk about the same artists if you couldn’t see streams on Spotify or didn’t have YouTube views showing.

TITL: Finally then, with the video and EP out now, what’s next for you? What does the rest of the year have in store for you, and have you started looking further ahead as to what the more distant future could and might hold for you?

B: I’m gonna play some shows which I’m really excited about, write lots of music for myself and other artists and slowly work on that world domination stuff. I’m ready for that world tour.

Check out the video for “Dream About Me” below and for more information on Bishat, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. Her Q417 (Mixtape) EP is available now.