Interview: Juliet Varnedoe

Can you tell us about your latest project? What inspired it, and what can your fans expect from it?

Cajun Bleu is a study of a variety of blue chord changes and styles, but it also was a loving inquiry into my Cajun French roots. I have been singing jazz and blues standards for years, and I started to imagine how the blues and Acadian folk tunes were connected to New Orleans traditions. I needed a way to record my arrangement ideas down quickly, so I taught myself how to use a DAW (digital audio workstation). Once I discovered the ease and convenience of having a virtual band at my fingers, I added layers of harmonies, mainly focusing on traditional instruments found in jazz bands, particularly the accordion. It’s an eclectic mix that aspires to be a unique sound that is hauntingly familiar.

Songwriting can be a cathartic process. What emotions or messages do you hope your music conveys to listeners?

Many of the songs are about memories inspired by the sounds and language I heard from my Cajun grandparents and the bayou settings I would visit as a child. The stories in Mon Cheri and Sing High Sing Low, convey a nostalgia about that special locality south of New Orleans. I also wanted to add Louisiana French phrases within the lyrics to honor that almost forgotten language that is currently reviving in South Louisiana.
Traditionally the Acadian folk tunes are songs about lost love or heading to a dance party. Cajuns love dancing, so I explored that basic toe tapping rhythm in many of the songs. The message is one of connection to one’s past culture and the joy of discovering ancestors’ traditions.

How has your musical style evolved over the years, and what do you hope to convey through your music now compared to when you first started your career?

Growing up, I was very devoted to classical piano. I studied and played Bach and Mozart and sang in Madrigal groups. When I started to live in cities, San Francisco and New York, I listened to jazz and started to perform in cabaret clubs to learn more about my own ability to perform live. New York City became a university for me. I eventually studied jazz more seriously through workshops and ensembles, and finally was able to lead my own band, which, at first, focused on swing dancing. Now that I have learned

to produce my own songs, I plan to use all these skills to continue to write and produce more song cycles.

Many fans look up to their favorite artists as role models. What advice do you have for aspiring musicians who hope to make a name for themselves in the music industry?

When I was in my twenties, I stopped making any type of music for over a decade. I put so much effort into studying and performing, it just lost its joy. Also I could not establish financial stability, so I did other things like teaching and photography. I did eventually return to making music because it just makes me feel good. It’s a realm of being like no other, and I often forget myself when I am rehearsing or performing. So my advice is that music is like any other art form…it takes discipline, practice, failure, and devotion and yes, sacrifice, to participate in it. You have to do it because the idea of not doing it doesn’t work with your idea of yourself.

In the age of streaming and digital platforms, how do you navigate the challenges of making a living as a recording artist, and what advice would you give to aspiring musicians trying to break into the industry?

Streaming has taken away traditional methods of income for recording artists, but it has also opened up a vast world of fan outreach that’s exciting. You can build your own fan base with the digital resources available to you. Performing can be a financial asset, but teaching and other forms of income streams are also helpful. I plan to look into the sync world next.

Your image and style often become part of your brand as an artist. How do you approach your personal image and fashion choices to express yourself and connect with your fans?

Fashion is the dramatic, fun part of music making. Fashion choices help me to create a persona, which elevates the art itself so it’s not “just me”. People hear what they see.
The image and the persona in performing art is essential.

The future is always uncertain, but what are your long-term goals and aspirations as a recording artist, and what can your fans expect from you in the coming years?

This album has taught some valuable tools in creating music. I plan to keep writing lyrics and song arrangements. I plan to do this as long as I can. It’s a gift to be able to create.




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