130: Richard Julian
No matter what Richard Julian is doing, he “just wants it to be awesome”. As a songwriter, he says he was arrogant before he probably deserved to be, and in fact that it “took years to get beaten into the submission of humility.” That may be so, but along the way he wrote some pretty fantastic songs. His album Slow New York (2006) helped to put him on the map and place him squarely in the center of the musical scene from which Norah Jones had emerged a few years earlier. In fact he and Jones still have a country band together, The Little Willies.
But, as he tells it, he was already 15 years into a music career by then, a veritable veteran of the New York songwriter scene, a practiced in the art of “making something out of nothing, taking blood from a stone”, which is how he describes songwriting.
So maybe it was just a matter of time before Julian decided he needed to step away from the city he sang about so often, and disappear into the Bywater in New Orleans. Pretty soon he was writing songs like “Die in Nola” about his newly adopted town, and how he had no plans to leave. But leave he did, heading back to New York. He landed in the Bed Stuy neighborhood in Brooklyn, bought a building (he says, “I’m the only guy who ever bought a building with no money”) with his friend Arthur Kell, and opened Bar Lunatico, a music venue, bar and restaurant.
In this textured, rollicking, mezcal fueled conversation recorded on a hot summer night in Brooklyn, Richard tells the story of how “a blue collar boy from Delaware” came to be one of the most celebrated songwriters of his generation in New York, watched some of his friends get famous and others get lost, and ended up negotiating the ever shifting Brooklyn demographics as a club owner in Bed Stuy.