Introducing Juliet Quick’s Changeling EP

Brooklyn musician Juliet Quick’s poetic storytelling has always found a cozy home among textured string instruments, ever since her first releases two years ago under the name Juliet K. In early songs such as “Homeland” and “Live With Me”, she and her partner Oliver Mashburn decorated her texts with ukulele and guitar to capably convey feelings of love, nostalgia, and growing up. Last year, in an intimate three-part piece called “Companion” (two parts of which can be found on her website) she is accompanied by talented violinist Nathan Kamal on a breezy Brooklyn rooftop.

Poet, songwriter/composer, and instrumentalist Juliet Quick
Photo credit: Hannah Solomon

Juliet’s newest project, Changeling EP, will be released on streaming services on April 6, and on it her virtues as a poet, songwriter/composer, and instrumentalist have come together with more focus than ever. As the characters in the story physically traverse miles and miles through the landscape of the Hudson Valley, by highway and by railroad, they–and the listener–also undergo an emotional journey that weaves through shades of whimsy, darkness, and wistful reflection. This week, we were privileged to have Juliet tell us more about the EP, including why she chose to write her own version of the traditional “changeling” story, how she met her “co-conspirators”, and how her childhood led her to become a songwriter. 

It’s immediately clear from your music that you love words and choose them carefully. How did you come to love poetry? Has it always seemed most natural to put your words to music?

I’ve been writing poetry since I was a little kid, about 9 or 10 years old. I eventually majored in poetry as an undergrad. I’ve always loved writing and singing, but it took a long time for me to put those things together. I was a really, really introverted kid, and writing was a solitary practice for me. I think the idea of putting that into music, which is by nature so external, would have been way too terrifying for me. So for years, those were completely separate practices—I was writing poetry and singing opera (that’s what I originally went to school to study). It wasn’t until I stopped singing opera that I started writing my own music, because singing was absolutely fundamental to my identity (and just my general ability to be a happy person). I still needed an outlet for it, and at that point I was confident enough to take a risk and experiment with writing in a new way.

You explore a lot of different moods throughout the piece. At times it’s playful, and at other times there is a sense of urgency or foreboding. What’s going on in each part of the story? 

I don’t want to be opaque, but I also want to let people puzzle together their own version of the particulars! Overall, it follows the structure of most traditional changeling stories, in which a person (usually a child) is replaced with an imposter, who lives in their place while the original person is stuck in a kind of fairyland. Generally, after a bit, the family or wider community realizes they’ve been tricked, horror and drama ensues, etc. I found it to be a really wonderful template for the experiences of dissociation and alienation and loneliness that I kind of mapped onto that story, because fairytales create so much room for those different moods you mention. There’s terror and foreboding, but also beauty and awe and whimsy. Makes it easy to play around and dive into painful stuff without irony and laugh at your own vision of the world.

Is the “Changeling” in your EP the Hudson River? Did you grow up near the Hudson?

The way I think about it, the river isn’t so much the changed object as the transforming force. And yes, I did grow up on the Hudson. Weirdly, I’ve kind of been up and down the river my whole life. I was born on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and then moved to the lower Hudson Valley when I was very little, where I lived for most of my life. When I first moved away from home, it was to Saratoga Springs, which is up by the upper Hudson, where it’s freshwater. That’s been a pretty enormous part of my artistic life—I wrote my academic thesis as a small book of research-based poems on the Hudson.

The musicians you’ve assembled sound so good together on this release. I know you’ve worked with Nathan, the violinist, on other releases. When did you two start playing music together? How did the rest of the band get involved?

At first it was just me and my partner Oliver Mashburn, who’s been accompanying me on guitar since we started dating four years ago. He isn’t on the Changeling recordings but he’s been on the other releases and plays everything live. On this record, it’s Rees Shad on guitar and a whole slew of other miscellany. (He engineered and co-produced the album in his home studio, and we met shortly after I was born, because he is my uncle.) 

I met Nathan in college and brought him in as a session musician on those first little recordings. A while later, he came to our first show and asked if we’d want live violin! Indubitably one of the best things to happen in my life, all because we both decided to take a literature course on Moby Dick. Then, when we were starting to look for a drummer, I reconnected with Philip Joy, who had been a high school friend. The three Changeling recordings are the result of many months of work and many hands and many musicians, but my live band are always my first collaborators and co-conspirators.

Photo credit: Hannah Solomon

The Changeling is a piece in three parts, as is another of your pieces, called “Companion”. In an era that is increasingly infatuated with the single, what is appealing about releasing longer, multi-part pieces like these?

Honestly, it may not be practical, but it just—at least in this case—felt like the only way to do justice to the big, diffuse, evolving feelings and experiences I was trying to write about. I love a good pop song, too, but I just needed more space to get through these ideas. 

In addition to being a musician, you’re also an activist. Given your interest in preserving our natural resources, I’m curious which environmental organizations you believe are doing especially good work, either in New York or on a larger scale.

[Hudson River Sloop] Clearwater! The Sierra Club (duh)! 

Also, I’m always in awe of the indigenous communities in the U.S. and Canada who are fighting tooth and nail to preserve the waterways in their homelands.

Are there live performances accompanying the EP release? When can New Yorkers see this piece performed in the coming months?

There is a smattering of Northeast dates in the works! The next New York show is April 24th at Silent Barn—it’s going to be a lot of ~emotions~ because it will be both my birthday and 6 days before Silent Barn closes down. So I will be having a ton of existential anxiety over change and loss and the passage of time, which should hopefully make for a cool performance! Ha.

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