All Eyes on Juliet Varnedoe

Can you please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your musical journey and background?

Growing up in Louisiana and Florida, I was immersed in classical and jazz music at a young age from my German father and Cajun French mother. I began my musical studies at the age of 6 with piano lessons and performed in various musical groups, including local bands, choirs, musicals, and recitals. I was heading towards a classical music career, however, it wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco at the age of 22 to pursue studies at the San Francisco Art Institute that I temporarily shifted my focus to a career in photography.
While I explored the visual arts in San Francisco, my passion for music never waned. My future husband owned a successful jazz club and I was reconnected to hearing live music. We moved to New York together and there I experienced a renaissance in my musical pursuits by immersing myself in the jazz and cabaret scene of the city. The energy and creativity of New York inspired me to pursue a career in the arts, where I could blend my passion for performance with my artistic vision.

Musical Influences.

Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and how have they shaped your sound and style?

I started out with classical piano, but when I moved to San Francisco I started listening to Billie Holiday, Blossom Dearie, and Anita O’Day. I wanted to sing jazz. I am very influenced by New Orleans traditional music and for this album in particular I was listening to King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band.

Can you share a specific artist or album that has had a significant impact on your music?

I love all of Chet Baker’s recordings, and I am a big fan of Johnny Hartman’s singing.

What’s your creative process like when you’re composing or writing a new song?

Sometimes it starts with a phrase; sometimes it starts with a chord progression. Sometimes it’s both. Once a seed is there, I build a chart. Then the soundscape takes
shape with Logic Pro and other players’ tracks. Because I like to sing, I’m always playing with the melodies and harmonies based on the chord progression.

Let’s talk about your latest song. What’s the title, and what’s the story or message behind it?

“Old Spot” came about one day while I was washing dishes and feeling blue. I heard this Gypsy jazz riff on the radio and I started to hum along to cheer myself up. I realized that oftentimes we get depressed when we start thinking about the things we missed or the things we never got in life – as if there is some sort of guarantee! As I continued to work on this seed of the song, I wrote the chorus lyrics that reminded me not to focus on what I think I need, but rather all the things I already have. How mysterious and wonderful that is.
“Old Spot” explores themes of longing, nostalgia, and the persistent pull of negative thought patterns. The titular ‘old spot’ symbolizes the familiar, albeit detrimental, mental space we often find ourselves retreating to out of habit when faced with discontent and regrets. It reflects the innate human tendency to yearn for the fulfillment of our dreams and desires, even in the face of the realization that the concept of ‘having it all’ is perpetuated by the culture that surrounds us. It’s like a sore tooth you can’t help but touch.

Share a memorable or unique experience from one of your live performances.

Live performing always brings the unexpected. Just recently I was performing in Williamsburg Brooklyn and I didn’t realize it was Super Bowl Sunday. I had to walk to the show because all the UBers were somehow taken (it seemed everyone had to get to their SuperBowl parties). As I was walking, with my shoes and drums in a case behind me, I looked down on the ground and there was a gold chain on the sidewalk. It just gleamed. There wasn’t a soul in sight, so I put it in my pocket as a good luck charm for the gig.

Beyond music, do you have any hobbies or interests that you’re passionate about? How do they influence your music?
I have a passion for teaching. I love the exchange with students.

Is there a dream collaboration you’d like to pursue in the future?

Lots of jazz musicians come to mind, but the beauty of jazz is the improvisation nature – you get to work with the cats that are available for the gig.

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians who are just starting their journey in the music industry?

Like any creative art, no one is asking you to do this. There are many distractions. You have to love it and stick with it.

Can you give us a sneak peek into any upcoming projects or new music you have in the works? What can your fans and listeners look forward to from you in the near future?

Lots of live shows around New York and beyond. And of course, a follow up album with new songs based on Acadian culture.