PILGRIMAGES: Julia Douglass, “A Journey or Search of Moral or Spiritual Significance” (1/6)

Julia Douglass_KB-01Out of all those singer-songwriters of ‘90s NYC, I’m so glad that one has stayed true to her craft and continues to produce great albums. Minnesota transplant Julia Douglass has a supremely engaging storyteller’s gift–and a far better sense of humor than Bob Dylan and far less anger than Alanis Morissette. She also has this artful way of surprising you with non-melodic moments that demand attention and reward you with insight. Very glad that her peregrinations have brought her back to NYC–where she clearly belongs–a second time and that she’s releasing her album this month. Minnesota: NYers win!
Want to witness Julia Douglass’s awesomeness live? She will be performing with cellist Jacqueline Ultan, Sunday, November 15, 2015 at The Living Room in Brooklyn, NY.
~Victoria C. Rowan, Ideasmyth Creatrix-in-Chief

In 2010 I moved back to my hometown of Minneapolis after twenty years in New York. My husband realized I needed to go home and found a job there, in the middle of a horrible job market. He moved to the Twin Cities for me, so I could go back home.

The word “pilgrimage” seems so old-fashioned to me, full of history and formal religion. Something full of old school self denial, a concept that through ritualistic suffering, surrender and endurance one will see one’s life more clearly.

I realize now that going back to Minneapolis, right in time for the harsh winter of 2010 was a pilgrimage. The 20 below zero temps, the 40 below zero wind chills, and after having been gone for twenty years, a bit of isolation. My friends that I used to know having moved on or having left this world, made it clear I wasn’t going to just waltz back into my old life–“Hi everybody, I’m back!” No, I was starting over in late middle-age. I wanted to come home to my roots. An old story.

After suffering from writer’s block and creative burnout after living for many years in NYC, I finally finished this collection of songs “Black Watch Kilt” that first winter in Minneapolis. Staring out the window of our apartment onto the parking lot of the grocery store we were living over into the bitter cold, watching people loading their groceries in their cars, watching as they tried to maneuver out onto the main busy road at rush hour, in that time when the light is dusky, it’s hard to see, and it gets even colder, with the cars sliding around on the ice, I would just watch this harrowing scene, drinking my coffee. The blinking billboard that said ‘Chuck and Dan LMAO”, advertising the local radio station added something as well. And I would sit there and stare out the window, and I was finally able to finish these songs. So there is indeed something to the pilgrimage. You may be on one and not even know it. But we humans have always been doing it. Traveling to a place that means something to us, so we can figure things out.

It is also that billboard in Minneapolis where I first learned what LMAO meant. I had seen the letters “LMAO” written in any number of places for years, never bothering to ask what they meant because I didn’t care. But that winter, that quiet, cold lonely winter, when every day I would stare at the billboard, for hours, all lit up, “Drivetime with Chuck and Dan LMAO”, and I would think ‘what does LMAO mean? What?’ Just trying to figure it out. It was a puzzle. Finally I asked my brother-in-law. “What does LMAO mean?”

“It means ‘Laughing My Ass Off,'” he said.


Later then I would be searching for their station, the riotous Chuck and Dan when driving my car.


~~~Originally a classical musician, Julia Douglass won a scholarship to the Yale School of Music in the French Horn. Upon graduation she immediately quit the French Horn and embarked on her singer songwriter career in New York City. Her music has been described by Billboard Magazine as “a sterling collection of memorable melodies with lyrics that depict thoughtful, touching, amusing and above all, uncannily true pictures of contemporary American life.”

She has been described as having a similar sensibilities of 60s folkie Melanie, Randy Newman and Loudon Wainwright.  She lives in the New York area and performs frequently.


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