If you’re looking for a refreshing EP amidst the glut of pop music that’s been released in 2022, look no further than 20-year-old Julianna Joy. The Los Angeles-based songwriter has been doing this for a minute — her first EP Cherries dropped in 2020 and lead single “Cherry Bomb” quickly found prominent placements across the streaming spheres, and her new EP Garden of Eden is an incredible step forward for the young artist. Partnering with Grammy-nominated producer Teddy Geiger, Garden of Eden takes listeners on a journey through growing up, with tracks spanning the gamut from the introspective balladry of “BLOODRUNSOUT” to the prom-night soft jams of “Teenage Boys”. It’s an emotional, cathartic piece of music that is effective in both displaying her incredible talent while also giving wisps of what to come. On the eve of the EP’s release, I sat down with Julianna to talk about it, and the general bubbliness of her music stretched over to our chat as we talked about how Garden of Eden was created and what’s next to come for the talented songwriter:
What was the timeline for this EP? I know your first one came out in 2020 — was this one done over Zoom or did you manage to actually make it in-person?
Yeah, so they were all actually done in person. We were supposed to start production in, like, May of 2020, but that was obviously in the thick of the pandemic just starting and Teddy [Geiger] was stuck in New York! So we started in June instead and worked on it up until October, and then COVID took over LA and things got pretty rough. We finished it around June of 2021, and we’ve kind of just been sitting around figuring out how to put it out!
Christ, you’ve been sitting with it for a while, then!
Yes! It’s weird to me that it’s finally out, because it’s been in my back pocket for almost two years.
So wait, how old are you now?
The big part of this record is that it’s advertised as a sort-of “goodbye to childhood”, but even then it’s been two years since you made it.
Yeah, it’s almost like an outdated goodbye. (laughs) The record holds so much of me in it, still, so it’s still incredibly meaningful to release it, but it’s definitely weird.
How’d you get linked up with Teddy Geiger?
I DMed her over Instagram (laughs). Not even kidding. I had a meeting with the co-president of my label, and we were just talking and I was telling him about my synesthesia and he said “You should really meet Teddy”, so I immediately reached out. I think she responded in the same day which completely blew my mind; we had to wait a bit before we could write together, but eventually we ended up in the same room and started to bring this EP to life.
You mentioned synesthesia — I have that too!
It’s so fun, but it’s so annoying. (laughs)
When I used to write songs, I was going for colors and palettes more so than specific theory — how does that impact your approach to songwriting?
It impacts it a lot, actually. For me, my synesthesia gets annoying unless the lyrics, chords, and sound of the music are in the same hue. For example, “Cherry Bomb” is pink – but the initial demo was like, this magenta color, and it took time in production to get it closer to the pink color in my head. I’m just thankful that I have it under control now to let it really guide my songwriting – if a song isn’t going in the right direction, I can literally see why and point them where I want them to go. It does get frustrating, though, when I’m reading a book and there are all of these colors popping off at all times.
Going to the EP for a bit — what’s your favorite song on there? I’m really partial to the title track.
Well, thank you! I love “Atoms”. It’s my favorite because of the production session we did with it — it was so much fun. On my way over I had been listening to “Super Rich Kids” by Frank Ocean and also listening to “Benny and the Jets” — both very staccato, slammed-piano songs — and I remember thinking “I want to do that.” So I did. (laughs) We were just all there kind of guiding the song and getting more hyped up as it kept on developing, and I think it’s a great memory from making the record; we’ve been calling it my “Coachella Closer” (laughs).
I can see that! It’s like the big, triumphant, “we’re finished” type of jam.
That’s the dream — “Atoms” will always be the closer of my set when I start playing live, barring the fact that I don’t write another song I like more as a closer.
Where did the title for the EP come from? I find it interesting when artists flip religious imagery on its head on album and song titles, and I think that there are some incredible contradictions within the idea of the Garden of Eden.
So, I grew up Catholic and renounced my faith when I was, like, 14. I’ve always been fascinated with religious lore — even though I don’t practice anymore, the idea of the Garden of Eden and Genesis itself is just incredibly intriguing to me. A lot of my music points back to God in some way, even though I don’t really believe in one; the reason I gave it this title was because I wanted to give the album a place to live. If this music was going to exist anywhere, where would it exist? I also found the story of Eden to be incredibly relatable to my own experience and the relationship that this record is about: here are these two people in supposed perfection, with all of this bad stuff around them, like the snake and the Tree of Good and Evil, and they don’t really know it until it’s too late. I came out of literally one of the worst relationships of all time, looking back at it, but I didn’t really see it until I was out of it and into a new relationship.
I think that first reason is really interesting, especially with that sense of place – because Eden is typically regarded as this perfect, idyllic location, but all things considered, it was kind of fucked up, no? Or maybe there was nothing wrong with Eden, but it was the snake?
Right! For a while, I thought about calling the EP Lilith because, you know, that was Adam’s first wife and she got kicked out of Eden. Eden definitely is an idyllic place, but after reading so much lore and information about its construction, it really wasn’t a perfect place. I guess it goes back to what your definition of perfect is, but the Garden of Eden is a little bit sus. (laughs)
That relationship that you mentioned — was it cathartic at all to get that pain out there on this EP? Is there ever a point where you tell yourself “this is too much to release”?
Yes, absolutely. I didn’t really experience that until I started dating my now-boyfriend, Henry. I get so nervous about him thinking that I’m upset with him as I’m writing new material — I want him to know exactly what I mean with what I sing. My songs are generally pretty vague, and I leave it that way so that the person who it’s written about will be the only person who knows it’s about them. I found myself practicing that a lot — over the past three months, I’ve been in a pretty tough depressive episode and have found myself thinking “I can’t put this out.” So I think that self-care is in knowing boundaries for my material, and realizing it might not be the healthiest thing to always say everything.
What’s on the horizon for you?
Well, right now I’m working on new music that may or may not be my first record. It’s sitting at like, eight songs written right now and I think that’s the appropriate width for an EP — if one more song makes the cut, it’s an album, damn it. (laughs) Touring’s weird right now, because I don’t want to put myself and my fans in a position where we get COVID, so we’re easing into it gently — I’ve got my first show in forever coming up and I’m really stoked to get back out in a safe environment and show people these songs. I need to start playing them because I’m going crazy from sitting around. (laughs)
Stream Garden of Eden here.