Tony Cummings investigates the background of JULIAGRACE, a New Zealand-based singer whose self-titled debut album is wowing the critics.
Those music buffs who've so far heard the self-titled album by Juliagrace will know that this New Zealand-based singer is a very special talent. Her solo debut is a delightful mixture of hook-laden pop, inspirational balladry and, most surprising of all, wistful electronica. As it turns out 'Juliagrace''s ambient electro-pop tracks are in fact an extension of the music Juliagrace Vusitch had recorded previously with the electronic worship band Elevator.
Juliagrace was born in New Zealand though her father fails from Lincolnshire and her mother from Bath. Remembers Julia, "I was brought up in a Christian home, so my earliest musical experiences were church related. When I was about four I was asked to do my first public performance singing 'Send In The Clowns' to about 1000 people for a birthday event. I remember being a little nervous, but very excited about the whole experience. Waiting 'side-of-stage' is one of the most exhilarating things for a performer because the anticipation is half of the buzz. I remember from such an early age knowing that singing was something that I truly loved to do. I come from a very musical family and was encouraged to take piano lessons for years which have formed the basis of so much of my musical experience. I committed my life to Jesus at about age seven and continued the journey towards my personal convictions over subsequent years. On reflection, my life has had the typical ups and downs, but I am able to say that God has had his hand on my life throughout the journey, from teenage dramas through to motherhood, music and more recently a couple of rounds of open heart surgery. He has really proved himself faithful to me through each day."
In the late '90s an aggregation from the Encounter Christian Centre in
Auckland formed, calling themselves Elevator. An album, 'Music', was
looks back on her days with Elevator with fondness. "I had a great
time playing with Elevator, it was a chance to play some great gigs
and explore musical territories beyond the typical church formats. The
most memorable parts are playing mainstage at Parachute Festivals and
recording the debut Elevator album 'Music'."
The Parachute Festival is, of course, an international Christian music phenomenon. Despite New Zealand being a country with a tiny population (four million), the Parachute Festival has become the biggest Christian music event outside the USA with attendances of well over 30,000. It has also been the launch pad for an internationally successful worship band, the pop-R&B influenced The Parachute Band and a thriving record company. It was to the latter that Juliagrace signed as a solo artist when Elevator disbanded. She explains, "I had a good collection of songs, but I went into the album recording process without really knowing what I could produce as a solo artist. The process was fairly organic and my label was really happy with what my producer Nic Manders and I were coming up with, so they gave us a lot of creative freedom which was great. About three months into the process I played my first gig at Parachute Festival. I was a little unsure as to what it would be like performing my own songs and playing them with a new band. We played 'Carry Me Away' (which is a personal testimony of the goodness of God in my life) and looking out over the crowd I had an epiphany of sorts - I felt totally fulfilled and excited about the opportunity to share my songs, my story and I really felt God's approval on what I was doing."
If the successful launch of 'Juliagrace' wasn't enough Juliagrace was also asked to join The Parachute Band for the 2006 touring years. She explains, "I have had the chance to tour with the band through New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Singapore, South Africa and extensively in the US. I have played support for the band, opening for concerts as well as singing/playing in the band. I could not have asked for a better opportunity. Having young children and a full on life at home, it's been a big year, but I have been able to meet some amazing people and play in so many places including the USA festival circuit which was a blast."
Now Juliagrace is planning her touring for 2007. She intends to return to many of the places she visited with The Parachute Band in 2006 as well as playing many other concerts in New Zealand and Australia. She says, "I'm also writing on a daily basis for my second record which I hope to work on late 2007, but at the moment I am still enjoying introducing my debut to different parts of the world. I've been selected as a finalist for Best Gospel/Christian album at the 2007 New Zealand Music Awards (which is NZ's national mainstream music awards). This is a dream come true for me. The chance to play and sing for people and communicate a positive message of hope is what inspires me to do what I do and I will continue to do that for as long as I can."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.