Many musicians hit the road in the summer, racking up huge miles to play shows.
Then there is Richard Julian...
The singer-songwriter, who is touring behind his new album "Sunday Morning in Saturday's Shoes," headlines a show opened by Micah Dalton at 8 p.m. on June 11 at Shank Hall. He was in Japan last week and followed that up with shows in Minneapolis and Neenah.
Julian, who grew up just south of Philadelphia and played as a lounge musician in Las Vegas before being discovered in New York, is regarded as a "songwriter's songwriter" and has drawn comparisons to Paul Simon, Willie Nelson, John Prine and even Beck.
We caught up with Julian via e-mail last week and conducted the following interview:
OnMilwaukee.com: It's not often that we see a tour routing schedule that features Nagoya, Yokohama, Tokyo, Neenah, Minneapolis and Milwaukee in the same week. How did that happen? How are the audiences different in Japan than here in the States?
Richard Julian: Every time I see my June schedule, it makes me laugh: June 7 - Tokyo. June 9 - Neenah, Wisconsin. It reminds me of a mock flier a friend of mine once did which had his faux-band performing in Berlin and the next night in El Paso.
It's very different playing here (in Japan) since it's one of the few places in the world I can tour with my band as opposed to performing solo. But then Japanese audiences are segregated similarly to those in the States. The last time I played here, it was all young hipster venues. This time, it's older adult audiences. (It's) good to play for both, I think. I just produced a Japanese artist named Yuichi Ohata (great songwriter and guitarist) and he will join me for this tour, so I'm really looking forward. Oh, and obviously I can't do as much stage patter here in Japan.
OMC: What are you looking forward to most when you return to the States?
RJ: The jet lag, of course.
OMC: You've been compared to a lot of great artists, from Willie Nelson to John Prine to Mose Allison and others. Do those types of notices make you feel flattered or uncomfortable? Do things like that help or hurt in terms of cultivating an audience?
RJ: Both flattered and uncomfortable. Each one of those artists you just mentioned are giants to me, so it would be impossible for me to accept myself in that context. If my music inspires people to speak in those terms, though, it makes me confident that something is getting across. All of them are also older artists (especially in the case of Willie) and grew into their artistry over time. So that definitely provides a benchmark for the future, whether attainable or not. And whether the comparisons help or hurt, I couldn't say. If they hurt, I'd like to ask anyone currently making them to cease and desist.
OMC: Some songwriters say that the toughest part of the craft is deciding what to write about. Others say that it's tougher to decide what to leave out. Some of your songs seem biographical / confessional. Is that something that comes more easily when you're first starting out -- sort of a "nothing to lose" mentality -- or does it become easier when you've been doing it awhile and find a certain voice and a boundary limit for introspection in song?
RJ: This is an interesting question. I like this thing you're pointing out about "nothing to lose." There is an honesty, I think, when one first begins writing that stems from that person's anonymity. And yes, self-consciousness can set in when you become more established and you know people are really listening. Personally, I find it important to ultimately break through that barrier. Most (though not all) of my favorite songwriters really wear it on their sleeve, you know. I don't feel like Lucinda Williams or Bob Dylan hold back very much. Maybe in terms of details, but not in terms of raw emotion. If you lose that, you don't have much left to go on, I think.
OMC: Which songs from the new record seem to be getting the best response -- and are they the same songs that you thought would do well when you finished the record?
RJ: Radio plays "If You Stay" and "Spring is Just Around the Corner." Audiences respond well to "Brooklyn in the Morning," and so has the press. I had thought "Syndicated" would have caused more of a stir with them.
OMC: What can you tell the people of Milwaukee about Micah Dalton and the kind of show they are in for at Shank Hall? Anything else you want to promote, plug or tell potential customers?
RJ: Micah is an artist I've only heard on record. I look forward to hearing his live show. I've loved Milwaukee the two times I played there -- once opening for Norah Jones, the other last year opening for Suzanne Vega. Visually, it reminds me a little of Amsterdam (with) all the water and bridges. I plan to play a long, hearty set. See you there!
Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at OnMilwaukee.com. Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.