March 4, 2015
That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.
Julia Henning is running late. Blowing in to a Willunga café she is all apologies, articulated in husky voice that even in speech seems almost too powerful for her porcelain appearance; luminescent pale skin framed by rich red-brown hair, sea-blue eyes.
“It’s my partner’s birthday tomorrow and we gave ourselves a strict budget this year,” she explains. “I want to get him a leather case for his drum sticks so I am making one – I was up late last night cutting the leather.”
It’s a fitting present – music has been the focus of Julia’s life since she was nine – boyfriend Eli is the drummer for her eponymous band, which will perform at WOMADelaide on Sunday (March 8).
A strong performer on Triple J’s Unearthed charts, this South Australian-based performer is going from strength to strength, being awarded Favourite SA Artist and Best Song (for Tempest) in the people’s choice categories at the 2014 Fowler’s Live Music Awards.
With an indie-pop influence that flows from heart-breaking ballads to boppy pop, all supported by Julia’s deep orchestral voice, the band released its first album, Fledging, in winter 2014 and a new single, Away from Me, last month.
Although only in her early 20s, both Julia’s songwriting and her opinions showcase an intellect and maturity beyond her years – her passion when speaking about the importance of providing teenage girls with positive role models in music, is an example of this.
Perhaps it’s testament to the support of her family, her country upbringing, or perhaps Julia’s strength is due to the fact she was not expected to live beyond infancy.
Julia was born with a rare lung disease, fibrosing alveolitis, which is more commonly seen in people aged over 60. With the walls of her lungs thickened, Julia’s parents were given an ominous prognosis.
“They were told I would probably die,” Julia explains.
“But I recovered from it – six people around the world grew out of it in the same year that I did.
“It’s thought to be one of the reasons why I have such a powerful voice – so there is a silver lining there.”
The scare shaped the way Julia was raised and also set a course for her life.
“It changed the way my parents brought me up, they always expected I would disappear at any point,” she said.
“I’ve got a huge drive in me to get things done while I can, because I am aware that we don’t always know what’s going to happen next. It drives me to do as much as I can.”
For now, that drive and focus is on Julia’s music. Based amongst the vines, artists and coastline of her beloved hometown of Willunga, she, Eli and their band-mates – Matthew, Nick and Simon – have just returned from a national tour.
She is profoundly excited about being chosen to perform at WOMADelaide – if for no other reason than to be surrounded by musicians and artists from around the globe.
“We’re aiming for the top, why wouldn’t we?”