For her third solo record, Los Angeles-based singersongwriter Julia Holter turned her creative eye to a film that captivated her growing up.
The 1958 American musical Gigi, based on the 1944 novella by French writer Colette, had been a fixture in her grandmother's video collection. The movie made a strong impact on Holter's young mind, so much so that she decided to use the romantic comedy set in turn of the 20th century Paris as the impetus for Loud City Song, released in August.
"The reason is, it's a good film actually, and there's a lot of times where you can take stuff from things that you know well.
The things you know well are the things you can write about it - because you know them so well," she says.
On Loud City Song, Holter was inspired to think of her modern day experiences with her L.A. hometown in comparison to Gigi's with Paris.
The innovative songstress is no stranger to experimenting with blending another artist's vision with her own, having done so on her debut, Tragedy (2011), which was inspired by the Greek play Hippolytus by Euripides.
Reached last Friday in L.A., Holter says she's thrilled and incredibly grateful for the overall positive response she's received for the new work. She decided to take a different approach with recording than on her previous two records, Tragedy and its followup Ekstasis (2012), which were recorded in her bedroom, primarily on her own. Loud City Song saw Holter take a more standard in-studio approach, recording the nine songs with the support of backing musicians as well as coproducer Cole Marsden Grief-Neill (Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti).
"I was really happy with this record myself," says Holter. "I felt like it was such a success for me. I didn't know how it was going to turn out because I was working with people and you never know if it's going to be different but I was so happy with it. Whenever you put a record out, even if you're really proud of it, you never know how people are going to respond. So I basically prepared myself for the worst, just because you never know."
On whether she'll continue to record with others in the future, only time will tell.
"Every project's different," says Holter, adding she lets the project she decides on be her guide, letting it dictate what sort of musical treatment is required.
"I don't think I'm headed in one particular direction. I just sort of do what is necessary in the moment," she says.
For Loud City Song, as it was inspired by a theatrical film, Holter felt instrumentalists who could add to her synth, piano and vocals were essential to provide the richness and colour she envisioned to tell the story.
When deciding on musical genre, she's also guided by the concept. While every song is written differently, Holter explains it's typical for her to first come up with an idea, for example, "running away and escaping the city." Then she'll spend time trying to translate the scenario into music, sitting at the piano until something develops.
"It just depends on whatever the poetic concept is, whatever's required of it," she says. "People say, for instance, 'Oh this record is a bit jazzy' and I don't really have a response because I don't know, I guess it is jazzy, it just happened that way. I didn't plan it, it wasn't like, 'Oh I'm going to make this record jazzy.' Sometimes you have a poetic concept and you have to set music to it that fits and that's the music that fit in my mind."
Holter is currently in the midst of a major international tour, taking her throughout North America and then Europe including a stop in none other than Paris on Oct. 30. Travelling with her is a cellist, violinist, saxophone player and drummer.
The tour wraps at the end of November and she'll finally have some down time to continue writing, finding herself back at home in a place that continues to inspire her, both as a muse and place of continued opportunity.
"L.A. is really spacious and you have a lot of room and you have more time.. .. I think in L.A. there's a little more of a relaxed pace and it gives time for being creative," she says.
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