Julia Stone responds to a question about the differences between recording with her brother, Angus, and going it alone as a solo artist with a smattering of gentle laughter and a few ruminative pauses.
Going solo, she reckons, “wasn’t maybe what I had always seen myself doing but I am glad it happened, sure.”
“The differences?” she says, pausing before continuing: “Well … you know, sometimes I think there are so many I can’t really put words to them.” There’s another pause before she laughs again and finishes her thought: “Other times, I think the processes aren’t necessarily that different. Oh … see! I’m not so sure how to answer that question today!”
The Sydney songstress rose to prominence, of course, as part of the acclaimed brother-sister folk duo Angus and Julia Stone. Since forming in 2005, the siblings have collaborated on half a dozen critically acclaimed EPs and two studio albums, often spending many months together, either working in the studio or touring internationally.
Their most recent album, 2010’s Down The Way, debuted at number one on the ARIA albums chart, achieved triple platinum sales and won them three ARIA Awards for Album of the Year, Best Adult Alternative Album and the coveted Single of the Year for ‘Big Jet Plane.’
It was in the midst of this acclaim that Stone released her first solo album, The Memory Machine. Initially sold at the merchandise stand at shows, its release was low-key and the record, a stripped-back affair that was by turns haunting, disquieting and meditative, flew largely under the radar.
Stone concedes Down The Way was “a really big success. We had some expectation it would do well, but it did really, really well and I think there were times we were a bit surprised or overwhelmed by that.”
“It’s such a fast-paced existence we live that I think music is a balancing thing.”
Success always leads to a desire for artists to tour. As such, Angus and Julia gave themselves over to long stretches of touring. She says that they love playing live, but that “long-term touring takes a toll.” It eventually also resulted in the realisation, on both of their parts, that they needed to spend some time apart.
Their “parting of the ways,” as Stone puts it, obvious warmth and affection colouring her voice,“was kind of inevitable. We just realised we had different creative impulses drawing us in different directions and so we went with that.”
“Nothing went wrong. There was no, you know, drama or upset or anything. We went into the studio to try and do the third album and it just wasn’t working. The idea of each contributing six songs each or whatever just didn’t feel right, so we shelved it and decided to take time apart and to just kind of fulfill whatever individual wishes or desires or creative pulls that we were feeling,” she continues.
“People always assume we had some big fight or something went badly wrong but nothing like that happened. We’ve both travelled, ended up in very different places, but we’ve both come out of it with projects of our own and we support each other. We’re each other’s biggest supporters, really. He’s my friend as well as my brother and, yeah, I love him very much.”