Sinclair on sexuality, songwriting and chosen family

Sinclair (née Julia Sinclair) is an artist you’ll be happy to listen to. Her songs of personal struggle in coming out to her conservative family and finding love with her wife, Natalie, are featured on her new EP, Sweet Talk. The couple lives in Nashville now, and we spoke to Sinclair (who is not only a fabulous songwriter but also plays several instruments and has an infectious folk-electro-pop sound) about finding her voice, chopping off her hair and how she found peace within herself and her chosen family. Where are you calling from today?

Sinclair: I’m actually in Nashville.


AE: Oh, that’s great because that’s actually one of my very first questions for you: Why Nashville?

Sinclair: [laughs] I know, it’s a little bit of a puzzling thing with my music. I moved to Nashville, let’s see here, middle of 2011 and I moved to get away from [a small town] in New York. I was really running away from home, and I picked Nashville because New York, Nashville, LA—LA seemed like a really big leap because it was actually my first time leaving to live on my own, so it was kind of like…And New York—I’ve spent long enough periods of time in Manhattan to know that—I felt like my personality and wanting to do music full time, I would feel like I was drowning. [laughs] And I love New York, but my personality—I just think I would feel overwhelmed. Nashville, I was kind of unsure about because I’d never really considered it, like, a town I’d dreamt of moving to, whereas LA was something anytime I would be out there, I would feel really really good about it. But when I got here, it clicked. About a year into living in Nashville, I felt like it was home, and it just keeps growing on me.



AE: I’ve never been but I’ve only heard good things. And my girlfriend is obsessed with the show, Nashville, so now I really have to go.

Sinclair: I’ve only watched two episode. I need to start knowing that show more.


AE: It’s OK—you’re living Nashville!

Sinclair: Right, that’s awesome!


AE: How does being in Nashville inspire different parts of you musically?

Sinclair: Interesting…yeah, great question. I think Nashville has inspired me lyrically. There’s so much incredible storytelling and it’s like…people that are just craftsman with words that can write a chorus that, in and of itself, makes you a little teary-eyed or make you really think or makes you want to play it all summer. And I’m not, frankly, I didn’t grow up listening to country and I am still not an avid fan of the genre as a whole. I think there’s amazing country music and I think there’s amazing music in every genre. I would say though I don’t turn it on often, but the writers here have really shown me how brilliant the lyricism can be. I’ve kind of taken elements of their abilities to tell stories and try to kind of put that into my music and inject some of that simplistic, honest kind of lyricism.


AE: I’m not a huge country person either. But I do like the storytelling—do you like Brandi Carlile at all?

Sinclair: I love Brandi Carlile!


AE: The kind of Americana-vibe with the storytelling lyrics—that’s what your music reminds me of, and it’s great the the place you live has inspired more of that.

Sinclair: Yeah, yeah! Exactly. You’re so right. Brandi does that amazingly. She walk a nice line, certain lyrics that are more emotive and just kind of make you feel vs. lyrics that are a story and you put together in your head as she sings them. I love that about her.


AE: How personal are your songs?

Sinclair: It’s all—it’s a little bit of everything. My EP happens to be extremely personal, I would say. Every song I definitely drew from my own experiences and my own life and my own stories. And I think, you know, to me, it felt like the right move to make because I feel like people—as a listener, I can sense honesty and authenticity when I’m hearing someone sing. So I really wanted to make sure that was happening, that things were coming through truthfully, if nothing else, that people felt like I was being legit. And so I chose the songs that kind of hit the most scary vulnerability for me.


AE: Tell me about the big transition and change you made in chopping off your hair.

Sinclair: You know, I was like, hemming and hawing about it before a year before I did it. I did it right before I did my photo shoot for the EP, and I just felt like—I felt like somehow, again another kind of thing I hadn’t been cutting it for fear of—I don’t know, for maybe fear of I don’t know what people are going to think. Does that box me in? Does that make people more, like, judgmental? It’s all a funny thing. But on a fashion level, I just really wanted to do it. I just want to do this, it seems like the right thing for me, I’ve been thinking about it. I did it then because I really felt like it was the right thing to do it for the EP. I just felt like it matched what I was doing. And it was definitely a bold move. Sometimes you get your haircut and it takes you a week to finally be like “Oh this does look good.” well it was the first time I’d ever cut my hair and it didn’t take me any longer than an hour to love it. I was like, “Holy crap, this is exactly what I wanted.” So, boom!


AE: Do you want to give a shout out to your hair stylist at all?

Sinclair: You know what? That’s a great story. I got my haircut for a trade. I gave this traveling musician a pack of cigarettes. And my wife actually does it now. She can do everything. She was really nervous. That’s also another funny story. She did shave one side one shorter than we intentionally wanted and she started crying, like “You look awful!” I was like “Oh thanks! I appreciate that!” Just what you want to hear your hairstylist say. But she did the other side just like it and it actually looked awesome.