Take a backing member of one of dance and electronic music’s biggest names, add a splash of childhood country influences and the production magic of a distinguished employer, and what you have is the debut effort by Julie Mintz. Her day job playing with Moby may be a far cry from the rootsy Americana of her solo work, but the authenticity is ripe, and as she reveals over the course of our Q&A, the two have always gone hand in hand.
CF: You previously played in Moby’s band, but listening to The Thin Veil it is something of a far cry from Moby’s music. What was the reason behind the change or has it always been your first love?
What you hear on The Thin Veil reflects the music I have always listened to and loved. I grew up on classic country in Corpus Christi, Texas and had been writing songs for many years before I joined Moby’s band. In fact, when Moby and I first became friends, he would invite me over for tea and to play him new songs I was working on, so he always understood the kind of artist I was. I was surprised (and deliriously excited) when he asked me to play in his band, but he really is a collector of unique voices regardless of the genre. It was only after a few years of playing in his band, singing on his records, and him attending many of my solo gigs that he suggested we make a record together.
CF: The EP has all the traces of classic country such as melancholy lyrics and slide guitars but wrapped in a darker feel – was it a conscious decision to move away from some of the clichés of the genre but still show a love of the music?
It was really only a conscious decision in the sense that, as a songwriter, I have a phobia of clichés. I have always gravitated towards more melancholic and poetic stories. I was simply combining the musical sounds from my South Texas childhood with the dark stories of my inner-world and struggles. The EP was nearly complete when Moby commented that all of my songs have a very gothic feel. That felt like an accurate description and was how we came to describe the music as gothic Americana.
CF: What was it like to have Moby produce your album, especially given its not the first music you would associate with his catalogue of work?
Having Moby produce my first album was a dream! Well, except for that fact that I’m a pathological perfectionist, and Moby was determined to break me of this bad habit through a recurring insistence to allow me only one take in the studio. But, truly, because we had developed a friendship first and I had worked on some of his projects, it felt very natural and just like spending the afternoon with my best friend…best friend who is also my therapist? Moby has an encyclopedic knowledge of music, so he understood how to produce my songs even though it’s not necessarily a genre of music one would expect to emerge from his studio.
CF: Where do you find the inspiration for your music and lyrics?
As an artist, heartbreak and depression have been the best fuel for songwriting. Also, a fear of dying and fear of being alone forever. You know, just typical light fare. Waiting to be loved is a big theme as well.
CF: You cover Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Lodi on the EP – what was it about that song that made you choose to cover it, especially as it isn’t the band’s biggest song?
Lodi was Moby’s suggestion. He had always loved the song and thought the vulnerability in my voice would complement the hopelessness in the song. I also discovered that one of my idols, Emmylou Harris, released a more upbeat cover performed live at the Ryman in the early 90s, and so I was sold on the idea.
CF: Are you still playing in Moby’s band or will the solo career take precedence now?
I would like to play in Moby’s band as long as I can do both. I’ve been able to do the most exciting shows of my life as a result of being part of his band, like The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and 3 hour-long shows that have included an hour and a half straight of Moby’s hits. Moby made fun of me in front of a sold out crowd one night because, in rehearsals for the greatest hits set, I had raved to him about Bodyrock and said, “I danced to this song in high school when I was a cheerleader back in Corpus Christi, Texas. I LOVE this song! Who wrote it?!”
CF: Which artists were your heroes growing up?
I grew up listening to a lot of Patsy Cine, as her Greatest Hits record was my Dad’s favourite. I’ve always loved female voices and poetic lyrics. Joni Mitchell was one of my heroes along with Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Patty Griffin.
CF: What is the plan following the EP’s release?
My touring has been limited to the states so far, but I would love to tour more and be able to play this record for new audiences. And I’m always writing, so the plan is definitely to release a full-length album next.
CF: With country making a bit more inroads in the UK, is now a good time to be releasing an EP such as this?
The music that I make has never been calculated; it is simply an emotional expression of my neuroses and my inner-world mixed with the true southern influences from my childhood growing up in Texas. But that is really exciting to hear you say that there is a growing interest in authentic country music in the UK. Let’s hope now is a good time.
Find out more about Julie and her music here.