Julia Nunes
Julia Nunes

Julia Nunes

About Julia Nunes

Julia Nunes is a songwriter and performer who managed to parlay her online popularity into a successful career as an independent musician. She was a freshman in college when she started making simple videos of herself performing songs accompanied by her ukulele playing, and became an unexpected success when her spare but clever covers of popular songs attracted a large fan base. As Nunes' reputation grew, she also found that listeners wanted more of her original numbers, which were often intensely personal in nature, and 2007's Left Right Wrong found her baring her soul, usually with only her acoustic guitar as backing and songs that were always incisive and sometimes playful. Her third album, 2012's Settle Down, boasted a more sophisticated production, with occasional vocal and instrumental overdubs over the material, and by the time she released the EP Ughwow in 2019, the organic and folkie sound of her early videos gave way to cooler, idiosyncratic electronic pop with R&B influences that reflected a new and darker emotional and creative maturity in her music. Nunes was also an example of an independent artist calling the shots in her career as she released her own music, used crowdfunding to finance her work, and controlled her own social media presence.
Julia Nunes was born in Fairport, New York on January 3, 1989. Her father was a lawyer who wrote and performed music for children on the side, and both of her parents encouraged her youthful interest in music. Nunes started taking piano lessons when she was seven years old, and soon added guitar and melodica to her repertoire. She began writing songs when she was 14, citing influences that reached back to the Beatles and the Beach Boys, as well as more contemporary artists such as Say Anything and her friends in the Rochester, New York music community. When she was a freshman at Skidmore College, Nunes began playing the ukulele; she told a reporter she was attracted to the tiny guitar-like instrument because, "It's cheeky. And sunny. It has a lot of spirit, and a bittersweet simplicity." In 2007, Nunes began writing and recording songs with an eye toward making an album, and started making videos of herself playing her songs, which she posted on YouTube, largely to make it easy to share them with friends. In 2007, Nunes issued her first album, a straightforward, primarily acoustic effort titled Left Right Wrong, which she released on her own Rude Butler label. As Nunes learned more about recording and video technology, she started making clips in which she covered popular tunes in idiosyncratic fashion on the ukulele. One of them, a version of Destiny's Child's "Survivor," unexpectedly started racking up plays from strangers, and soon her YouTube channel had over 100,000 followers. As her profile rose, Nunes discovered she had some influential fans; Ben Folds, one of her favorite artists, invited her to open some shows for him. She also shared bills with Ben Kweller, and when she was booked to play at the Bonnaroo music festival, Weezer, one of the headliners, asked her to perform with them during their set.
While still attending Skidmore, Nunes juggled a growing demand for her music with her studies, but found time to put out a second album, I Wrote These, in 2009, another collection dominated by spare semi-acoustic pieces, though she did bring in a band for several cuts. Working with Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn of Pomplamoose, Nunes aimed for a more intricate sound on the 2009 EP I Think You Know; later that same year, she delivered a digital collection of other artists' songs she had recorded for her videos, suitably titled YouTube Covers. Eager to try a more ambitious approach in the studio, Nunes launched a crowdfunding campaign, inviting her fans to help finance her next recording project. She was hoping to raise $15,000 for the album, but by the time the campaign ended, supporters had pledged over $77,000, and 2012's Settle Down blended the homemade charm of her early releases with a more polished sound that included subtle but richer arrangements and massed overdubbed vocals. Settle Down also became Nunes' first release that didn't appear on Rude Butler Records; Mordomo Records, affiliated with Thirty Tigers, distributed the album. Nunes would also crowdfund her next project, 2015's Some Feelings, and it represented a creative step forward for the artist, as she showed more care and attention to her vocals and the production and arrangements brought her music in line with indie pop or indie folk. It also found her returning to Rude Butler after her brief run with Mordomo Records. Nunes continued to tour frequently, mixing occasional house concerts in with club dates and slots opening for other artists, but a difficult romantic breakup impeded her creative efforts and it wouldn't be until 2019 that Nunes would offer her fans fresh music. The six-song EP Ughwow represented another creative shift for Nunes, with her using more electronics and a darker and more introspective tone than fans had come to expect. ~ Mark Deming

  • HOMETOWN
    Fairport, NY
  • BORN
    January 3, 1989

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