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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Musician gets discovered through MySpace




By ERIC SCHELKOPF

You never know who is looking at your MySpace page.

New York musician Julian Velard was struggling to get his music out when EMI heard his music on MySpace and signed him.

Velard, who now divides his time between New York and London, will perform Oct. 16 at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Chicago.

Julia Klee also is on the bill. The show starts at 7 p.m., and tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door, available at www.schubas.com.


I had the chance to talk to Velard about his musical ambitions and influences.




Q - Being in London, does that offer more opportunities?

About three years ago, I kind of had this whole MySpace explosion, and I was
signed by EMI over in England.

So when I came into London, I sort of was brought in a much different way than
in New York, where I came up playing in bars and clubs. I instantly was put in
this industry oriented thing.

It's also that London is the center of the music industry in England. Would I
say that New York is the center of the music industry in America? Probably not.
That's more in L.A., or Nashville.

London is a smaller pond, but it's a bigger platform.

Q - How is the music scene different?

Music is much more woven into their culture. They have a thing in England called
the BBC Sound of the Year poll. Those are the acts that will kind of break that
year. They'll pick 10 acts and say, these are the acts you should look for.

We don't have anything like that here in America. They're always looking for new
music over there. I do something that's more old school pop music, with big songs and
melodies. The European audiences are way receptive to that.

Not that they aren't in America, but culturally, our music is a little
different.

There's a lot of acts that broke over there first. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
broke out of there first, The Strokes did and so did The White Stripes. New Wave bands
like Blondie and The Talking Heads, they came out of New York, but they really
got their first wave of success in England.

Q - But then it seems like a lot of UK bands feel like they haven't made it
until they make it in America.

It's a totally different scale. You can play England in three weeks, and you're
done. You can play every place you can possibly play in Scotland and Ireland and
England, and that's it.

And three weeks is pushing it.You could probably do it in two and a half weeks.
In America, you tour the whole country for three months, and by the time you are
done, you are ready to go back on the road.

It's almost like England in a way is a state. It's like a big state.

Q- EMI discovered you through MySpace. Did you ever have any idea that a label would listen to your songs on MySpace and sign you?

I was hoping. I was hoping for that. It was a crazy situation. That was really the third record I made on my own. It was kind of like my last shot.

I made this EP called, "The Movies Without You." I borrowed money from my dad. I had this insane credit card bill, and I owed my landlord money, and I had school loans.

I knew when I put that record up there that if I didn't figure this out in the next six months or so, I would really have to get a job and become a normal human being.

I got very lucky. I made a record that I was really proud of, and somehow people heard about it. It got out there and caught a buzz.

Q - How long were you juggling being a gym teacher and trying to launch your music career?

I taught for four years. I was waiting tables too. People would also hire me to write songs, like, "Hey, can you write a song for my play? I have these lyrics. Here's $500."

Basically, I was just doing anything just to pay the rent and make a buck.

I've been pretty much doing only music for the last four or five years. I've been very lucky.

Q - I understand you also have a passion for movies. How do you think that finds its way into your music?

I'm into narrative songwriting, and I really picture things when I'm writing.

This new record, "Mr. Saturday Night," is even more the case. I basically wrote the entire record from a character's perspective.

Q - Like a concept album?

It's kind of like a concept album. There's a continuity in all of the songs. There's a character I developed, "Mr. Saturday Night," who is singing all the songs. It's playful.

I'm much more inspired to write from someone who is not me. You get tired of just dealing with your emotions all day. I see this guy in this new record like a character in a movie. As a result, live, I'm dressing differently than I normally would. I've got kind of a whole shtick that I'm doing live with this new stuff.

Q - So you are putting a little Elton John into your act.

A little bit. I'm not taking it so far and putting on a glitter suit or anything like that. The vision I have for this character is sort of like this '50s or '60s stand-up comedian supper club guy. He's kind of seen it all.

It's kind of like my stage persona, but I think I took it the next step, and went a little further with it. I see him as a mix between Lenny Bruce and Pepe Le Pew, an overly romantic, very sarcastic, dark person. We will see how that translates on stage. I'm still figuring it out, really.

Q - Of course, given the title of the record, people might expect Billy Crystal to show up.

I know. Well, if we're lucky, maybe he'll sue me for copyright infringement. Although I don't think you can sue somebody for a title. We'll see how many people remember the Billy Crystal movie. Apparently it wasn't very successful. Nobody saw it.

I think I would have a lot harder time naming my record, "Jurassic Park." Or "Titanic."

Q - I was looking at your Facebook page and you talk about your influences -
Billy Joel, Elton John, and Randy Newman, which I understand. But you also listed
Han Solo, which surprised me.

Well, every man wants to be Han Solo, let's be honest. He's the science fiction
Marlon Brando. I consider myself somewhat of a swashbuckler, in the Douglas
Fairbanks sense of the word.

Q - Growing up, who would you count as your main influences?

As a Jewish kid in New York, you cannot escape the specter of Billy Joel. You
are forced fed that stuff.

Obviously, I loved that stuff when I was eight years old, and then as I got
older, I thought he was a huge cheeseball and got off it.

But on this new record. "Mr. Saturday Night," I am sort of going for that. The
last record, "The Planeteer," is much more of an emotional record. With the
newer stuff, I'm wearing my influences much more on my sleeve.

Guys like Billy Joel and Elton John were huge influences. I'm a massive Dylan fan, and a massive Beatles fan. But then Stevie Wonder is also a huge influence on me, and Elvis Costello is a huge influence.

If I look at someone whose career I marvel at, it's Harry Nilsson. He was able to have hits with his own songs, and hits covering other people's songs. He did a record of just covering Randy Newman songs. I've love to have a career like that.

I'm coming very much out of a songwriting thing. That's the stuff I was weened on. The '70s really produced the hallmark of great writing, great playing and great recording. Recorded music was sort of at its height then.


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