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Julie Rhodes is taking Americana music to a place it desperately needs to go. Her melodies are sultry and hit you right in the gut. Released in March, her full-length debut album “Bound To Meet The Devil” is blues infused, with mind-blowing guitar riffs and vocals that melt your heart. Combining the Alabama Shakes with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds would get you pretty close to the sound of Julie Rhodes.
Her voice is soothing, yet desolate. It’s smooth when transitioning, and knows exactly when to add a raspy blues or when to kick-in those punk rock howls.
I met Julie Rhodes at a Ron Gallo show in Philadelphia, Pa. Her charisma and overall pleasantness gave vibes of an all-around good time. She had just wrapped up her first-ever tour with Ron Gallo and could not stop beaming with laughter and giddiness.
Between tequila shots and sets of pure rock and roll music, we were able to chat backstage about her recent tour, debut album, musical inspirations, the perks of fried chicken, and the woes of working in an ice cream parlor.
BTRtoday(BTR): So, I just met you here doing shots in a bar, I know nothing—tell me everything!
Juile Rhodes (JR): Okay! My name is Julie Rhodes; I play with a band called Julie Rhodes. We are a soul/blues/R&B four-piece band with electric stuff. I’m from Boston, so I say we’re from Boston, but we’re kind of from all around the Boston area: Danny, my guitarist, lives in West Massachusetts; Rich, my bassist, lives just north of Boston; I live right in the Boston area.
We play all over the place—a lot of Boston shows, but pretty much everywhere. We’re expanding, doing some tours, doing some Philly stuff, some New York stuff, some down-south gigs like Nashville and Texas… you know, the whole thing.
BTR: Are you always a four-piece band?
JR: Normally it’s me and a trio-backing band, so yeah.
BTR: Do they have a special trio name?
JR: Nope, we just go by Julie Rhodes right now. It’ll probably change someday, but right now it’s just Julie Rhodes.
BTR: How did you all meet?
JR: My bassist and I went to high school together; my guitarist and I are very close friends, we didn’t meet very long ago but we hit it off really nicely. He played with a friend of mine named Jonah Tolchin, who produced my debut record, “Bound To Meet The Devil.” Jonah and Danny went to high school together—so when Jonah produced my record he called up Danny to play on it, and we hit it off, and the rest is history.
BTR: I love good old school country stuff and you guys seem to give off a little of that vibe in your music. Would you say you have some country music influences?
JR: We play mostly soul/blues kinds of things. There’s definitely a little influence of country music here and there, nothing crazy, but mostly on the blues/soul side.
BTR: Have you guys been able to tour yet?
JR: Yeah! We actually just did our first tour with Ron Gallo in March. We went to South By Southwest; we hit up around five shows in Nashville, which was really awesome! It was my first time, so it was really cool. The other guys have toured before in other bands, but it was my first time and it was fucking magical.
BTR: So you’ve popped your tour virginity! Tell us some stories from it!
JR: Oh boy, fun tour stories… I mean the whole thing was really fun! All of the shows were great, which is really not supposed to happen on your first tour. They’re supposed to be some shitty stuff, but there really wasn’t. Everything was amazing! Probably because we had Ron with us, so it was a real party for every show—a sober party that is, because none of us really drink. I’ve had quite a few drinks, but the rest of the guys don’t drink. So it’s always interesting: I’m hammered and they’re just crazy in general. So it’s awesome.
We did a few dates at SXSW, which was a hectic cluster-fuck of an awesome mess. We got to experience it first hand, which was cool. We got five shows in Nashville, which was really awesome. We played this show at this place called Meal Ticket, which I think is one of the best venues in the whole world. It’s a DIY punk space, and we had a nice little dance party at the end.
What else?… I’m trying to think of really cool stories with interesting stuff, but really we just ate a lot of fried chicken and BBQ and that’s pretty much the extent of it. It was beautiful—just perfect! Honestly, if there’s fried chicken involved there’s really nothing else that you need.
(Vaughn Hunt, guitarist and vocalist from Acid Dad appears to grab his guitar and full-heartedly agrees with Rhodes fried chicken statement.)
See! He agrees. This fucking guy here. These fucking guys. They know what I mean.
Artwork courtesy of the band.
BTR: Tell me about the music you currently have out.
JR: I just put out a record, it’s called “Bound To Meet The Devil.” I put it out in March and it was a self-release. It’s doing pretty well—we’re really excited about it and have a lot of fun playing the songs out on the road. The record is kind of a mishmash of all sorts of shit—from soul to blues, to reggae to funk, to Americana to country, to whatever. It’s all just a rollercoaster. So, listen to it, fo-sho.
The record really has a working-class America sort of theme. So many of us are working ourselves to death basically just to survive, which is really ironic, because if we’re working to survive, we’re also dying to work, to survive—it’s kind of a crazy world. So that’s basically the theme of the record.
It’s called “Bound To Meet The Devil,” which has some metaphors mixed in there. I worked at an ice cream shop for a long time, and that’s where a lot of the songs came from—feeling like I was being overworked. There’s this metaphor of digging holes, or digging with shovels… it originally was like you’re digging an ice cream scoop, but it’s really so much deeper than that. It’s like we’re all hurting. We’re all overworked, we’re all tired, we’re all trying to survive, and it just feels like it’s impossible.
Rents are rising everywhere; anywhere you can find work the rents are just insane, and it’s really hard as a working class citizen to really make it. It’s like we’re always held down. So, there are a lot of songs touching on that—like you’re digging your own grave by punching in the clock everyday.
BTR: Do you have a favorite song to perform live?
JR: My favorite song of ours to do live is the single off the record, which doesn’t really fit in with the theme of the record, but I enjoy it a lot. It’s called “In Your Garden” and it’s basically about being different.
I don’t think I fit into the stereotypical mold of what our society considers to be an attractive and desirable person, and I feel like relationships are difficult because of the media and what we’re told we’re supposed to look like. So I think relationships, for somebody like me, are kept behind closed doors.
The song is basically saying, “Hey! Don’t fucking just hang out with me one day, and then ditch me because the world doesn’t think that I am what is desirable!” So that is what the single is about, I don’t really do love songs, they’re all more like “fuck you” songs.
BTR: My favorite kind of songs.
JR: Yeah! So there’s that. Another one of our favorite songs to do is an Etta James cover—she’s my favorite singer. We do “I’d Rather Go Blind,” which is really the highlight of the set for me. My guitar player and I have a really cool on-stage chemistry and it really shines in during that song.
BTR: What’s in store for the future of Julie Rhodes?
JR: Right now, getting out on the road as much as humanly possible to push the record, and then hopefully within the next few months we will be working on new songs. It’s crazy, because the record just came out, but that’s just how it goes. You write a bunch of songs, and it takes a while to get your record out because you have to deal with all the mixing and mastering and pressing and all that stuff, and then it comes out, and you’re like, “ok, I’m ready for something new!” So, we’re already working on the next thing.
To hear more from Julie Rhodes, tune into BTRtoday’s very own In the Den podcast.