On Family Feud, Julia Pratt does what only the best singer-songwriters can do: she takes her own vulnerabilities, which are bound to specific and painful personal stories, and offers them to listeners to make their own. It’s a beautiful practice in authenticity by which everyone, from artist to audience, finds themselves looking around, teary-eyed, saying “Has your life been this hard, too?”

If you haven’t heard the EP yet, stop reading this and spend the next 17 minutes listening to the songs, preferably somewhere quiet. Let her vocals gently guide you through her story; let her story give insight into your own. Then, if you read about how she made it, come back here for the full story.

Congratulations on the release of Family Feud! It’s so beautiful, in part because it seems so deeply rooted in some vulnerable memories. As much as you’re comfortable, can you give us some context for the stories these songs address, and the mindset that got you writing about them?

Thank you so much! Family Feud is definitely a deeply personal project, and I was very afraid at moments to release it out into the world. The stories behind these songs are all rooted in my childhood/adolescent experiences with emotional abuse, mental illness, drug addiction, abandonment, and lack of belonging felt both within my family and in the world at large. I grew up struggling with undiagnosed (and thus untreated) anxiety and depression that spiraled as I aged, and a lot of my upbringing was tainted by that struggle. I felt as though I had to be PERFECT or the world would end, and that weight was too heavy. Those feelings and thoughts have carried into my adult life now, and there came a point about a year ago that I really just felt the urge to purge everything and get it out- that’s when I wrote most of these songs! 

The vocals on this EP are insane – not just your lead vocal (which is incredible), but all the layers as well – and the production does an amazing job of letting the vocals stand out. What was the recording process like? Are there production choices on any of the songs you’re especially proud of?

Oh thank you so much, that means a lot! The recording process was really amazing and also tearful. The whole EP was recorded and produced in Satchel Schwartz’s basement studio, just the two of us. I brought the songs to him because I really couldn’t think of another person I’d feel comfortable enough singing them around. We’d recorded many songs there before together, so the space felt familiar and comforting. I’m really proud of the vocal arrangement and vocal production on these songs because I feel like that’s where my heart lies as an artist – I LOVE making vocal arrangements and really using my voice as a full instrument that can support itself on its own. So instrumentation otherwise was rather sparse in general, which was an intentional (and also slightly nerve wracking lol) decision to allow the lyrics and vocals to shine. 

Do you have a favorite lyric from the record? Where did it come from?

There are a few, it’s hard to narrow it down! But I think I’m especially proud of the lyric in “Michael” – “I bade the blue moon cometh, I long to fight for something, if just to prove I’m not like you.” My dad used to sit my sister down and we’d read Shakespeare together- he’d correct our pronunciation and cadence and was very insistent on us internalizing the importance of literature and art. This is a huge reason why I’m a songwriter, but it was also incredibly stressful as a young child who had a limited vocabulary and an undying desire to be perfect on the first try. This line felt like an ode to that experience, using that poetic language while distancing myself from his enforced values. However, now that the song is written and my anger has been released a bit, I’m grateful for the experience and feel great gratitude towards my dad for introducing me to the language I use to express myself today.

I feel like your songwriting style fits perfectly with the way the record sounds. How did you start writing songs, how has your writing evolved, and do you have any advice for songwriters still finding their voice?

I started writing songs when I was about 13. Up until then I’d just written poetry. Combining words and melody to my poems opened up a whole new world of expression for me, and I haven’t stopped since. I think my writing has evolved A LOT (thank God) since those early days, where I think it was a bit more literal and left less to the imagination. I’m personally a huge fan of more ambiguous and thematic songwriting, where the emotion and intention is clear but the exact context perhaps is not. I love songs like this because I feel more people can connect their own experiences to my words and it’s not like “oh, this is a unique experience to Julia.”

This EP challenged that a little bit of course, as I provided a bit more context than usual haha, so I guess my writing evolution has looped back around! For songwriters still finding their voice, I’d recommend the incredibly cliche and unhelpful advice of just writing constantly and experimenting with what your voice can do. It’s easy to get wrapped up in writing in one style or genre and stay there, but there’s a world of expression when you’re unafraid to step outside of your own personal norm. I started off writing more singer/songwriter folk-pop-ish tunes, and now I’m branching out into the country and rock worlds in my own time. Just have fun and write songs you wanna listen to.

Any touring plans coming up?

I’m currently wrapping up tour with Amos Lee which has been AMAZING. I’ve learned so much and I’m excited to spend some time at home applying that and writing more songs. I have some plans to hit the road with Joy Oladokun this summer which is insane- I am a huge admirer of her songwriting so it’s gonna be a blast!