4 to Watch: Richard Julian

Music Features Richard Julian
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Hometown: New York
Fun fact: Julian once worked in a bottling factory where he watched the bottles like Laverne & Shirley.
Why he’s worth watching: Received a ‘seal of approval’ from Randy Newman and Bonnie Raitt; co-wrote for Norah Jones’ album Feels Like Home. Norah sings backup on his latest.
For fans of: Greg Brown, David Wilcox, Randy Newman

Richard Julian’s Slow New York (his fourth album and first on a major label after a stint as an independent) delivers bluesy, acoustic-spun impressions of the seemingly mundane, finding beauty and heartbreak in everyday occurrences.

“I had a song on my first record about a friend of mine who had AIDS,” explains Julian. “A situation once had to have an exclamation point in order for it to be worthy. Now I tend to capture life more the way it is as opposed to the way it is every once in awhile when things are very dramatic.”

Julian’s life as a singer/songwriter has had its drama. After a one-year stint playing piano in Las Vegas at age 18, he moved to New York not knowing a soul and slowly ingratiated himself, meeting the musicians who would later flesh out his vignettes. He eventually plugged in (or unplugged in) with a group of likeminded singer/songwriters at the Living Room, the Lower East Side venue known for artists like Norah Jones and Jesse Harris.

Julian and Jones eventually became friends, with Julian opening a number of dates on her Come Away With Me tour. Julian released his first two albums on Blackbird/Sire Records only to self-release his third, Good Life. Now back with Manhattan Records, a division of EMI, he’s philosophical about his chances of reaching a wider audience.

“All of us are dealt a deck of cards and it’s how you play them. I’ve seen rich kids come up in this business with all the money to make recordings and they can’t get anywhere because they don’t know how to focus on their music. And you see people who are incredibly talented who don’t have a lot of resources and who struggle a lot. But it’s a deck of cards. Not always the best deck of cards wins. Some people drop out of the game.”