Juliet Varnedoe ”My musical journey has always been at the center of my heart”

Can you share your musical journey with us, from when you first discovered your passion for music to where you are today as an independent musician?

My musical journey has always been at the center of my heart. I did a lot of classical technical training as a young girl, mainly because I wanted to be the best I could be in singing and piano. From there, I pursued projects that presented themselves to me. It wasn’t until I moved to New York that I started to study jazz and cabaret as a genre. It was a better fit for me.

What motivates you to create music, and how do you stay inspired to continue making new and unique music?
Making music helps me to express emotions and ideas that otherwise would not come out. My inspiration comes from hearing things that move me. There is music and rhythm in nature and in the city – trains, horns, and clashing metal sounds. I also love reading poetry and writing in journals.
As an independent musician, you wear many hats – from composing to marketing. How do you balance these different aspects of your career, and what challenges do you face in the process? It’s true. Musicians must make and promote their work. I make a conscious effort to dedicate a third of my practice time to marketing – sending emails, building a brand, promoting releases. But I always try to play music everyday by vocalizing, writing lyrics, exploring harmonies, and of course, performing and collaborating with other musicians.

Could you tell us about your creative process? How do you come up with new ideas for songs, and how do you go about turning those ideas into finished tracks?

I often just play chord change riffs at the piano. From there I’ll write a quick chart and sometimes the lyrics come first, sometimes later. Then I created a LogicPro demo. For Cajun Bleu I worked with a producer, which I plan to continue to do. It’s helpful to get another set of ears and expertise in the finished track process.

Independent musicians often face financial challenges. How do you manage your finances to sustain your music career while also covering your personal expenses?

I teach. A lot. It’s a great way to support a creative art because it is an art in itself and you connect with a younger generation.

Can you share a particularly memorable or challenging experience from your journey as a musician that has had a significant impact on your career and personal growth?

When I started to perform cabaret in New York I realized that the song books were not really clicking with what I wanted to do, so I started to study more jazz with vocal coaches and small ensemble classes. It wasn’t until I learned how to write charts that I realized the value of taking ownership of the music myself. This eventually led to writing my own songs and working with other jazz musicians.

With the rise of digital platforms, the music industry has changed significantly. How do you navigate the digital landscape, including streaming services and social media, to promote your music and connect with your audience?

When you independently release your own music you can select streaming services from around the world, which is actually exciting. Musicians know how little streaming pays, so I think of it strictly as a promotional tool to reach and develop audiences. Social media is similar in that it can reach new audiences.

Collaboration is a key part of the music industry. Have you worked with other musicians or producers, and how have these collaborations influenced your sound and career?

Collaborating with other musicians is one of the most joyful parts of music creation. Musicians are dedicated souls who want to play. Whenever I perform or work on recordings I’m always seeking players I admire and who will work with me. Finding a producer was very important as well, as they can give the music polish that is needed.

Your music likely reflects your unique style and perspective. Could you describe your musical identity and what makes your sound stand out in a crowded industry?

I am a Cajun French descendant. When I hear folk music from Louisiana, filtered through my own jazz and blues expertise, something stirs inside me. I want to combine them, and use all the tools available. My sound is unique in this aspect, as it is not “jazz”, but jazz based. It’s old, but it’s new.

What role does live performance play in your music career, and how do you approach planning and executing your live shows?

LIve shows are key to continuing my growth as a musician and performer. New York is full of live show opportunities with small jazz and cabaret stages.

Many fans are interested in the stories behind the songs. Could you share the backstory or inspiration behind one of your recent tracks that holds special meaning to you?

“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.

Looking ahead, what are your future goals and aspirations as an independent musician? Are there any upcoming projects or exciting developments in your career that you’d like to share with your fans and the audience?

Now that Cajun Bleu is complete, I plan to promote it this year with live shows in the New York area. Of course the more you play, the more new ideas come into your head, so I plan to start producing some more singles that didn’t quite make it on Cajun Bleu, and then proceed from there.