"Music is my outlet and canvas": Julia Duclos on keeping it really real in her music

"Music is my outlet and canvas": Julia Duclos on keeping it really real in her music

“Guess I’m on my own again / And I really don’t mind” – Julia Duclos is stepping out into the light. On her debut single ‘Further’, the 23-year-old Kuala Lumpur chanteuse and songwriter spreads her wings and basks in their span. With production duties handled by Singaporean savant Charlie Lim, Duclos’ honeyed coo rides a luxe, warmth-emanating raft of intoxicating R&B-chased electronica. Elemental and ethereal, like its theme, the song is a quietly dazzling enigma. 

Bandwagon caught up with Duclos during her recent press run and she took us beneath its many intricate folds. 

What drew you to making music?

The main reason I make music is so I can connect with people. Self-expression is definitely a key factor but finding people of a similar wavelength who can vibe with and understand what I do is what really keeps me going. 

It’s tempting to think of you as a singer-songwriter. Are you happy with that label?

I think that there’s more to it than that. I started out just playing the guitar and writing songs to it but in the course of making my single, I picked up on production as well. It’s a tricky thing. Also, I love electronic music so it’s important that I know what’s happening behind the scenes of a song. Right now, I’m learning the basics but I definitely want to produce my own music in the future.

Do you find it encouraging that electronic music has become part of the mainstream in an undeniable way?

Yes, very much so. I think it’s great. Variety is important, isn’t it? Take EDM, for example. It’s an umbrella term for many different types of sounds. Within that bracket, most people like an artist like Hardwell but there’s so much else out there for different scenes and audiences. You have the predictable stuff but you also have the more experimental stuff. People are mulching things up and opening up new possibilities. That’s really inspiring.

And as far as your own songwriting goes, what do you hold as important?

I love poetry so narrative is very important to my messaging. My music comes from my experiences and how I tell my story is as crucial as the music. Some influences in that respect are R. H. Sin and Rupi Kaur. I know there’s a lot of criticism levelled at Rupi but it doesn’t bother me. It’s about time women got to express themselves freely on a platform with mass appeal. A lot of the time, things are brushed under the carpet because of societal taboos but it’s great that women’s voices are getting louder than the noise of oppression. Writers like her are paving the way for women to write their own narratives without having to mince their words.

Likewise, my music is a way for me to release the tension that comes with life. As a teenager, I had all this angst that I didn’t know how to manage. Now, music is my outlet and canvas.

What would you say has been the most foundational experience in shaping you as a musician?

Learning how to love. I’ve had a lot of ups-and-downs with both platonic and romantic relationships. As a young girl, I couldn’t comprehend how love worked, you know? I think I have a better idea of it now, since I’ve gone through more stuff in general and I realise that a lot of people cover up how they feel about themselves and that carries into their relationships, which end up becoming toxic. You have to be real with yourself before you’re real with your partner – loving and knowing yourself is so important. If not, your life will be a lie. Self-love is one of the most challenging journeys I’ve ever endeavoured upon.

It feels like ‘Further’ comes from the same emotional place.

Yes, it does. It comes from a place of acceptance, not sadness. We tend to forget that not everything in life is meant for you – and that’s ok. The cliche is true: Life is a journey and sometimes, you have to be strong enough to make it on your own. Even if you find someone that you love, you don’t have to love them romantically. It’s so annoying when, if a relationship doesn’t work out, people feel the need to automatically hate each other. If you once had a connection, you shouldn’t want to destroy it.

How did you link up with Charlie Lim?

I fell in love with Charlie’s music when I heard his acoustic stuff. His lyricism is amazing and his sound is totally his own. When I got the chance to work with him, through my label, I was very keen to have him produce the single. I think we managed to combine the best of both worlds: Electronic and analog. 

When we met, I told him about the artists that I looked up to and from that point, he knew what kind of sound I wanted to create. There are R&B and electronic elements that come together in a way that is fresh but not inaccessible.

Lastly, what can you tell us about your future projects?

I can tell you that I’m not one to repeat myself. I like playing around with different sounds so when I write, I like to branch off in many directions. I can’t wait for you to hear the next single!