Eight years ago, Julianne Tarroja came out with her first album, Grateful. When her song, Tulak ng Bibig, debuted on the radio, it was an instant hit. Julie’s talent and amazing singer-songwriter prowess eventually began to grow.
While Julie has succeeded at performing and collaborating with many esteemed local artists, she’s only releasing her second album, Ashes to Beauty, now. In an industry where many musicians fear the possibility of being irrelevant, Julie has countered culture, taking her time in becoming herself and creating an album that tells an authentic story.
In this interview, Julianne talks about her journey and the time it took to grow something truly beautiful.
Church Simplified (CS): Tell us the story behind your new album: Ashes and Beauty.
Julianne (J): Ashes To Beauty took a while before to came to life. It took me around 4 years to complete. I wrote the songs staggard-ly. Each song is a story that represented a season or lesson.
It has been eight years since my last album. And why it took that long? I think the best way I can describe this new one it is by comparison.
Grateful was an album I wrote when I was younger. I was full of hope, dreams, and optimism. When I wrote it, I looked at the world with wide, unjaded eyes. I wrote mostly about what my experience was stepping into adulthood; my transitions as a girl to a young lady. Song themes mostly revolved around experiencing things for the first time. First love, first heartbreak, first trial, first failure, first triumph.
Then comes a new season… real life. Womanhood. Now living out what they call “lessons learned the hard way” (which is how I learn most of the things in life) from the previous season. This is where self-discovery comes to play. It felt like God telling me, “Okay, you caught the ball the first time. Let’s see now how good you can actually get with it.” Ashes To Beauty is all about the fight for life.
Certain realities come into play as I wrote the songs; like doubt, fear, disillusionment. But on the flip side it’s also about finding courage and strength and most of all beauty in the midst of the struggle.
Through the process I had to learn to see and acknowledge life for what it is: hard, dirty, and will often leave you with a limp. I had to understand that accepting these realities was needed. Ashes To Beauty is a story of my journey in form of songs. How I found love and life in the most unexpected places.
CS: We have waited quite a while for a new album from you, like you said it took eight years. Tell us what took so long?
J: Longer than expected. After my first album, I got into this really bad writer’s block. For about two years, I couldn’t write much. Then in 2010, a big wave came. That’s when I started writing again… I was also in a season of pruning and stretching. Usually I needed to go through an intense situation before I could write anything. So I just rode that wave, and wrote what I could when it came. That has always been my process. I don’t write for an album in mind. I only wrote when I felt ready (around 2012), and believed I had enough material for a solid release. That was around the same time Ashes To Beauty (the song) came. It felt like a switch flicked in my head; I just knew that it was going to be the title of my next album.
CS: Tell us about your journey with production of the album.
J: I was an independent artist (unsigned) when all this took place, so I was a little unfamiliar on the how-to’s of how to put an album together. All I had were songs. I had no idea what to do with them. I was low on budget and getting an expensive producer to just fix everything wasn’t an option – plus i really didn’t wanna do that. I wanted to learn hands on, the nitty-gritty process of producing an album; and nitty-gritty is was! It really took a lot of help from friends to help record and produce this album. My band played a big part in arranging the songs, and sharing their ideas. It was basically a huge collaborative labor or musical love.
The whole process humbled me. It put me in a place where I had no choice but ask for help… which often times isn’t the easiest for me. With the people I’ve worked with, I saw how genuine their hearts were in wanting to help make good music. Good music, not only appealing to listen to, but good for one’s soul.
CS: We’ve always know you to be a prolific song writer, Even if Grateful is eight years old, it still speaks to a lot of people today. Can you let us in on some of your most favorite lines from the album?
In the song Never Far, there’s a line that gets to me every time:
If I find where the sea meets the stream, will it take me to where you are?
When I wrote that song, I really was in the thickest of thick in my life. I never felt that defeated and so far from where I know I needed to be. Every time I sing it, It serves as a reminder of how far God has carried me.
Another one would be from the song Ashes to Beauty, the chorus goes:
Will you stand with me as we face this fire?
Let this burning truth, let it purify.
Every part of my and in the end we’ll see that
All of these Ashes will be turned to beauty.
That’s what the album stands for. And that is my desire: to impart hope, beauty, and, courage.
CS: Was there a specific audience you were hoping to reach with this new album?
J: When I was writing the songs, I wasn’t thinking of anyone in particular. I only realized later on, when I started singing them and telling the stories behind the songs, that it’s women who respond to it more than men. I believe that it’s coz the songs are very personal, and they tell of a struggle of what a women in this day and age go through.
CS: Tell us about #AshesToBeautyPH and Pursuit Community and how they relate to your album and music.
J: Ashes To Beauty initially was just an album. And then it now grew into something bigger than I expected.
As I started on the process of making the album – as an artist, its easier to just make it about yourself. Artists always use their art as an excuse for “self-expression” that most of the time lead to “self-promotion” – “self-gratification.” Thinking of it that way at first, I ended up with a pit in my stomach. I felt burdened. But the good kind because I knew that the burden was a conviction. I thought, this isn’t and shouldn’t be about me. So I knew I just didn’t wanna make another album, launch it, and then move to the next. I knew in my heart it had to be something bigger than that – not in a sense that “I’m better than my last,” which is usually the pressure put on us artists, to out-do ourselves. I had to put an effort to not let that get to my head.
I started praying for a new vision. I also had a desire to be accountable. I felt that if I truly didn’t want this album to be about me, I needed to start practicing what I preached, and let others in my life. To speak, to encourage, to even rebuke. The bottom line is to love and serve others.
That’s where Pursuit Community came in. At just the right time that I was realizing all this, a friend of mine connected me to this community via social media. Originally a Christian Women’s Community from the States, they recently just opened a Manila chapter, and I was more than excited to be a part of it. The Pursuit Manila community has really helped me in this journey of understanding real women’s issues & at the same time learning what our real identity & our worth is. Not in the worlds eyes but in God’s eyes. They’ve also been used by God to affirm the need of community amongst women. Its in one of the Pursuit meetings that I heard this. “When we ladies get together in a rom to tell our stories, and spur each other on, we leave that room feeling a little bit more courageous.” That is essentially what #AshesToBeautyPH is about.
The Ashes To Beauty campaign desires to inspire women around the world through the stories of others. To give voices to women everywhere to tell their own truths. Its about stories of all women on the same journey. Stories of triumph in struggle, of strength in weakness, of how ashes can be turned into something beautiful.
I’ve always believed that there is something healing in being able to tell one’s story to another. Both for the one telling and the one listening.
CS: How can people access your music?
J: Right now it’s available on all online stores worldwide. Physical copies will be available in limited number, initially at the official album launch on June 23, 2015 at 12 Monkeys, Century City Mall, Makati City.
ASHES TO BEAUTY is available in these sites:
Connect with Julianne on social media: