From the moment Julia Furlong (professionally known as J. Donahey) stepped into DIME Detroit she had a plan to make the most out of her college experience. As a 2nd year Commercial Songwriting student Julia has kickstarted our newest student-led club and booked a performance spot with the notable and intimate Sofar Sounds. In preparation for her performance at Live & Lyrical: A Songwriter Showcase on Friday, October 11th we asked her a few questions about her background and how she landed in Downtown Detroit.
What is your background and music education? What brought you to DIME?
I am a singer/songwriter from Ann Arbor. After high school in I went to a university to become a Special Education teacher. Although I am passionate about Special Education, I felt drawn to pursue music and transferred out of the university because it was no longer a fit for me. In 2017, I started developing myself as J. Donahey, performing around the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area. After attending community college for a few semesters, I stumbled upon DIME through an Instagram advertisement. I wanted to pursue a music education but didn’t see myself in a traditional university setting, DIME was exactly what I was looking for, it was quite serendipitous.
Who are some of your influences?
The answer to this question changes weekly, like many people I go through phases of being obsessed with different artists and bands. Ultimately, I’m inspired by Amy Winehouse, Etta James, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, and Alabama Shakes. Lately I’ve been listening to Sheryl Crow’s self titled album, The Ronettes, and Dolly Parton’s My Tennessee Mountain Home.
What can we expect to see from you at Live and Lyrical Showcase?
It’s going to be me and an acoustic guitar. Having an acoustic accompaniment allows my voice and lyrics to shine. Also I’ll be performing in a trio with my favorite cowriters Violet and Julia!
Credit: Donatella Photography
You often perform your original music as J. Donahey, what has been your experience as an Independent artist?
Being an independent artist is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, experiences of my life. It’s difficult living in an instant gratification society, you see people going viral and this twisted idea of “making it.” Not to shame artists who have gained their platform like that, but it’s easy to become jaded when you put so much passion and hard work into projects and performances and don’t see immediate results. Building my name from the ground up, I’ve learned patience and the art of trusting the process.
The most rewarding aspect of being an independent artist has been creating my own network and community. I seek to collaborate with likeminded people of all genres who are truly about their craft. I’m friends with my collaborators, and we’re all rooting for each other in our different endeavors. I have done many things for myself, by myself, but at the end of the day I wouldn’t be where I am without all the friends, family and creatives in my corner. Taking the competitive comparison culture out of my art has done wonders for me as a musician and an overall person. I’m growing every day, and I get to witness my friends flourish in their passions. It’s been the most gratifying experience; I could never imagine myself doing anything different in this moment.
How has DIME impacted your songwriting?
Before coming to DIME I considered myself a good songwriter. Being here has challenged me to go outside my comfort zone doing cowrites and writing for all kinds of genres and different perspectives. Now I look at my old stuff and question what I was thinking! Not only have my lyrics improved, but my understanding of music in general has expanded further than I imagined. And I feel I’ve only just entered the rabbit hole!
Any gigs outside of DIME coming up?
Yes! I’ll be performing for Sofar Sounds – Ann Arbor on October 17th.
Credit: Donatella Photography
Where do you see yourself after graduation?
These type of questions always rack my brain because if you asked me 2 years ago where I would be today I would never have guessed where I am currently. But I’ve always felt at home in the studio. I see myself writing and recording my own material, collaborating with other artists and producers, and travelling. Doing what I’m doing now but on a grander scale. Lately I’ve been into music coordination for television and movies too. Who knows where life will take me?
You recently led the first-ever meeting of the DIME Detroit Songwriter’s Circle. How was the experience of facilitating a song workshopping group? What do you see in the future of the Songwriter’s Circle?
Honestly, I was floored by how many people not only showed up, but created a positive, supportive, encouraging environment. I did the logistics, set the date and time, I didn’t even feel as though I was leading it because everything was so mutual. Right now, we are in the process of sharing our originals round robin style and opening the floor for observations and advice. But as we develop, I would love to introduce prompts, cowrites, collaboration, and eventually set up some small performances.
What advice would you give someone considering DIME Detroit?
DIME is a unique experience, we are in the beginning stages of building our legacy in the academic world and the music industry. Here, your voice is not only heard, but valued.
Make sure to catch Julia at the Live & Lyrical Showcase on Friday, October 11th with special guest Emma Guzman, 2019 TIDAL Unplugged Grant Recipient! More information can be found on the Facebook Event Page.
Our next semester begins on January 21st, 2020. Start your application for a Bachelors program in Guitar, Bass, Drums, Vocals, Songwriting or Music Industry Studies today!
No time to study for a full-time degree? Study individual classes for credit at DIME