If someone's entire life could be one bucket list item after another, that'd be Julia Haltigan's. If something ignites her curiosity, playfulness, passion, fear, she considers it her sign to do it. That's probably why if you were to trace her life path, it'd probably look a lot like a map of Lower East Side, NYC (where she grew up), filled with all the hot spots and hidden gems that come with squeezing the juice out of life.
She busked in Central Park.
She went to clown school.
She was a regular in her musician father's rehearsals as a kid.
She's the lead singer in the jazz band in Sleep No More.
She's had a cameo in HBO's The Deuce.
She's in a side band with Scarlett Johansson and Holly Miranda.
She landed a single "That Flame" on an episode of Bloodline.
She's been a featured artist on Discovery Channel's cult-show Cafe Racer.
She's sung on The David Letterman Show.
She's acting in a new movie releasing in 2023 by director Alonso Ruizpalacio.
We're obviously not this bombshell's only stans:
“The youthfully exuberant Julia Haltigan, a modern descendant of a caste of strong female country singers conjured an air of sultry class.” — New York Times
"A combination of country, jazz and blues into catchy, romantic ballads has put her at the top of my make out playlist.” — Glamour
Her songs have an antique, Americana-pop feel. Her lyrics create a collage of imagery that relates heartache, yearning and lust. At times her powerful, sultry voice booms above her six-piece band while at other times she showcases her soft side, arousing nostalgia for the classics such as Nancy Sinatra and Betty Boop." — The Kennedy Center
We chatted with Julia about her multihyphenate success and her secret to sexiness in hopes that it's a tiny bit contagious. Check her out and see why we have a (healthy) obsession.
You said that growing up on the LES in the '90s “people seemed free to be creative in their everyday lives.” But you are obviously stirring and living within your own creative flow in NYC still today. So how do you find that freedom within the city to curate a creative life?
Julia Haltigan: Yeah. Well, first of all, I just wanted to thank you for all of your research. I mean, seeing all these questions, I was like, 'Wow, you really know me better than I know myself, it seems.'
I appreciate the time you took. You laid it all out in this amazing interview.
Yeah, so I was thinking about this, and I think the thing about living in a city like New York, or any city, is that there's a lot of restrictions to your lifestyle and there's a lot of obstacles to move around and live within just by nature of the proximity that we all live to each other and just living together, all of us, in a small place. And I think that when you're creative and you have endless opportunity, it's really hard to navigate and steer your ship. But when you're given restrictions, it kind of forces you to be creative to navigate it. And I think that's true in art and in the location that you live and in anything that humans do, it's about navigating the restrictions that you're given. So I think not only is a place like New York absolutely overstimulating in my favorite way, but I think it's these moments of restriction that really force you to utilize your creativity to survive.
"When we talk about what turns us on, for some reason, being really exposed and vulnerable on stage, it does turn me on. It's dangerous, it's exciting, it's risky. I'm not totally in control of the outcome."
— Julia Haltigan
You do pretty surprising things for a city girl, like figure skating, riding motorcycles… those are two things not normally associated with city living.
Julia Haltigan: It's true. I guess, I mean, why do I do that? I guess it's curiosity, it's like, I'm also an aquarius, which we should say in the beginning of this interview. I really like to do the unobvious, and if everybody's doing one thing, I kind of like to go in the other direction and just see what's over there. So I do think that when you're a kid and you're presented with some activities to stimulate your brain, which could be in after-school activities like dance or acting classes, I was like, "How about figure skating? What's that weird thing over there where people put knives on their feet? I want to try that."
One word that continuously comes up within the media to describe you is “bombshell” not to mention “sexy badass” and “timeless.” What tips would you give to help others exude their best vixen vibes?
Julia Haltigan: I think that it's about confidence, and I think confidence is a practice, it comes and goes, but if when you're feeling your more confident version of yourself, if you can get to the bottom of where that strength is coming from, I think that has a lot to do with a bombshell presence. And then of course there's the physicality of it, which is just, it's the same thing. It's like this is my body, this is who I am and this is, and I want to share this with the world.
Has that changed as you've gotten older or as your career has evolved or is that sort of the drumbeat of who you are?
Julia Haltigan: I think it's definitely evolved, but it hasn't dissipated at all. I think actually aging maybe gives you more confidence because you get to know yourself better, and you know your strengths and your weaknesses. And I don't know, I mean for me it's been the more time I share myself on stage, the easier it gets and the more I can access it more easily.
So do you think there’s a direct correlation between your creative flow and sexual flow or are they one and the same for you?
Julia Haltigan: I think that's an interesting question because we use that term 'What turns you on,' both sexually and when it comes to your passions in life. We kind of use it interchangeably, at least in English. And I do think that there's a correlation, and for me, creativity is an all-the-time thing. That's just something I kind of always want to be tapped into, whether I'm working on something artistic or not, I think I always want to kind of feel like I'm in my creative self and if that's a little stopped-up for some reason, which we all experience as creatives, I think it can affect sexuality, too. It's sort of like you're preoccupied, you're not in balance. But I definitely think that the two are interchangeable and flow together.
When one is turned on, do you think the other's turned on or do you use creativity to turn on sexuality, or sexuality to turn on creativity?
Julia Haltigan: Yeah. I do think that when I'm turned on creatively, there is a bit of, I don't know, it's kind of an abstract thing, but if there is a bit of a sexual, I don't know… it's feeling alive. I think sexuality is feeling alive, and I think creativity is that, too. Yeah, I think you can use them to turn each other on. I think there's a direct flow between both creativity and sexuality.
It's really interesting actually. Good question. I'll think about that for a while now.
One of the things about feminine movement work that I love, that I think you would love as a musician, is that playing with your lingerie, your clothing, the types of music that you listen to, inspires your body to move differently. And also even sexually, playing around with music when you're getting in the mood is quite different depending on what you play…
Julia Haltigan: Yes, that's an interesting point with music, too, how it completely transports you or puts you in a mood, I mean, in multiple sexual moods, too. It depends on what you're going for, but I do think that music can set the tone.
On a side note, I danced to "That Flame" yesterday in a body movement class and my teacher who is a body whisperer said how much it ignited my body, made it move differently and come alive.
Julia Haltigan: Oh my God, I love that. As a musician, or a songwriter and artist, that means the world to me. It's so nice that when your music inspires feelings and energy in people, that's all you can hope for.
What are some of those telltale signs that you're connecting at a soul level and you're authentically expressing who you are? I'm wondering what that feels like for you.
Julia Haltigan: Yes. I think that it has to do with presence and really being in the moment, and I'm thinking more performance here. I think when I am present and I'm really engaged with the audience, it's this kind of, it's like you're able to connect your soul and the essence of who you are, and give and receive from the audience in this really kind of interesting way that's hard to describe in a material way, but it's an energy that you're kind of sharing with people. And I know that can only happen when I'm kind of present and connected to myself and in the moment. Does that makes sense?
(yeah, that's our Scorpion choker gracing Julia Haltigan's vocal cords.)
Do you feel like that energy play or energy exchange with your audience, does it also change depending on the song? Can you move it? Can you elevate it? I'm curious how that is for you as a performer.
Julia Haltigan: Yeah. I mean, when it comes to individual songs, yes. And I think if you're present and you're listening to what you're saying, you're engaged with the message of the song, then obviously you're kind of tapping into the source of what the song is about and sharing that emotionally with your audience. And then seeing their reactions and looking people in the eye and really delivering your message. I think that then the audience gives it back to you with their response. I think it's really interesting, performer-audience energy.
It’s very vulnerable and brave as a performer, I would think.
Julia Haltigan: Yeah. When we talk about what turns us on, for some reason, being really exposed and vulnerable on stage, it does turn me on. It's dangerous, it's exciting, it's risky. I'm not totally in control of the outcome. All I can do is be there now and do my best to navigate the situation as I intended and as it comes.
Just hearing you talk about it is exciting because most of us aren't brave enough to do that…. to be a creative and then stand so vulnerably in the presence of a room and lay your soul out.
Julia Haltigan: Yeah. It's interesting and you can walk away from it, the experience, that's the thing, the experience, you can't say how it's going to go, you know, just have to show up for it and it can leave you feeling all sorts of ways, but obviously something about it is addicting. And when it goes well and you really connect, it's like hearing you talk about 'That Flame' and how it moved you to dance a certain way and your teacher was talking about it, that's it, that's what I keep showing up for. That's the part that's worth the risk because when you can connect with someone on an individual level or on an audience level, when you can connect with other people, there's nothing like it.
As somebody who received that from you, I think that there's no bigger gift that you could have given me in that moment than to inspire my soul to express itself authentically. And yeah, you were given a gift for a reason.
Julia Haltigan: I don't know, you just, you're making me want to go write a whole new album.
So you’re a woman of many talents, obviously, that go beyond your vocal cords. We talked about acting, skating, animation, roller skating, clowning, it's an endless list for you. And I know you talked a little bit about the confidence and the curiosity, but how do you just tap into that? What could somebody else learn from you so that they can try new things and slay it the way you do?
Julia Haltigan: I think that, kind of back to that feeling of risk, and I thank you for saying that I slay it, I think slaying it is just showing up. I mean, there's no way you can show up to something new and expect to be good at it. It has to come from just curiosity of 'What is this?'... just 'What is this and what does it feel like?" And allow yourself to be vulnerable. I mean, this is why I signed up for clown class if you want to get to that. I couldn't think of anything scarier. And I just wanted to know, it's like facing a fear. And maybe it's great. In fact, it was great. And maybe it's not, and then you've survived it. 'Okay, that was awful, I hated it, but I tried it and now I know I can survive that.' You know what I mean?
I think that trying new things and taking risks that might be embarrassing or emotionally painful or whatever, all the fears that you might have, being gentle with yourself and allowing yourself to be human and make mistakes and be clumsy is... Yeah, be a clown, be a fool. Let yourself show up and be silly, or be not your best or not perfect. I'm working on that constantly. Clearly.
But I think most of us don't do what you do, which is at the end be like, "You know what? That wasn't for me and I'm okay with it." Or like, "That was for me and I tried it. Good for me for trying it."
Julia Haltigan: Yes. How will you know?
We’re all so hard on ourselves.
Julia Haltigan: Oh God, I'm very hard on myself, too. I mean, yes, I think humans are hard on themselves, but being able to allow yourself to make these maybe even public mistakes is, I don't know, I feel like it's a healthy challenge. And it's hard. And to be proud of yourself just for trying that, just to be grateful for yourself, to allow yourself to be in a vulnerable position is everything.
So you mentioned before that for a long time you worried about being misunderstood as an artist because you've got so many interests, and I'm wondering what was your concern and how did you overcome that?
Julia Haltigan: Yeah, I mean, I think it's actually something I continue to work on. And my concern is, especially today in a world where we have social media and people really make a mark on social media with the thing that they're known for, and we'll follow that account because we want to see that thing. So almost like branding. And now that branding is also very much, it's DIY with music, the industry's in an interesting place. And so it's kind of up to you to be the kind of icon and brand that you want to present to the world. And it's difficult to be one clear thing when your interests don't stop, when you can't stop being curious about all these, I don't know, infinite activities that we can do.
I get very overwhelmed by the abundance of things to try, and I wonder if maybe I'm not being clear enough to my audience about what I represent. But then at the same time, I feel like I can sense when an artist is authentic and not just catering to our algorithms and stuff. And that's what I love about different artists, even if it's kind of spanned across different genres.
And I think it's about being clear and honest with yourself, too. If I know where I'm going, then the rest should fall into place. If I have a direction of what I'm trying to do and what I'm trying to accomplish, then ideally that should be enough to make it cohesive.
Oh yeah, 1000%.
Julia Haltigan: Right? Tell me it's true.
Yes, yes. It's so true. I have said before even giving you this question that the thing that is so genius about you and your voice is that it can literally do anything. So why should you be punished as a brand because you don't want to focus on one aspect of your range when you can do anything? Your brand, your essence is curiosity. Why should you pigeon-hole yourself? You shouldn’t.
Julia Haltigan: Thank you for saying that.
There's like a fear of that, too. I think that's why I haven't, I can't stop trying things out is because there's a part of me that feels like that would be putting part of my artist in jail to be like, 'Nope, you do this. You sing this style. That's it. That's what you do.' And now you're going to make it into a marketable thing. And I just can't. I have to be free to move about and I don't know, just stumble into other opportunities. Yeah. Thank you for saying that.
"And so it's kind of up to you to be the kind of icon and brand that you want to present to the world. And it's difficult to be one clear thing when your interests don't stop, when you can't stop being curious about all these, I don't know, infinite activities that we can do." — Julia Haltigan
That freedom you speak about… I'm sure that you would write differently, say, after you do some figure skating or if you're feeling stuck, maybe you do some laps around the rink, and then something unfolds out of that or is freed up from the movement and the thrill that you wouldn't get otherwise.
Julia Haltigan: Yeah, I really did experience that over covid because I've always, since figure skating as a kid and keeping up with that, I've kind of had that physical thing. And then there's all the musical things I do and all the records, and that's the music part. And I haven't done anything, I mean, I guess I do music videos and visual stuff that way, but I haven't spent a lot of time just drawing and over covid I was like, 'I'm just going to draw. I just felt like it. And it kind of completed this, it was really wild to feel exactly what you're talking about. They fueled each other, the visual, the sonic and the physical really completed this full circle that felt like my artist was fulfilled. no matter what I was doing, I felt stimulated in every way.
Maybe you are one of these kind of kinetic creatives. Your animation's in motion, your body's in motion, the motorcycle is in motion...
Julia Haltigan: That makes sense to me… There is something to physical activity. I recently started running and I swear I can't get enough of it. I used to run before I had a motorcycle accident, and then my knee was a little messed up and the physical therapist was like, 'Yeah, you might not want to run anymore.' And I just didn't ever again. And now I'm like, 'I think I'm okay.' And so I started running and it's like, 'I'm just going to see what happens.' It's been a while. But the running and going for long walks, this kind of repetitive cardio meditative state that you get in really, ideas come and solutions come when you're not, it's like you kind of stress out and obsess over it, and then when you let your mind clear, things will just kind of naturally solve themselves. It's really hard to trust, but it kind of happens every time.
So you like run with a laptop or a phone or a sound system down the West Side Highway...
Julia Haltigan: All of my song ideas are out of breath in my voicemail. It's not untrue. If anybody ever got a hold of my voice notes, if that cat ever got let out of the bag, I might die.
So pivoting to your motorcycle, you ride a 1970 Triumph Bonneville motorcycle, correct? Is it true that the vibration gets the sexual engine revved up, too? Does it make you feel powerful and sexy?
Julia Haltigan: Well, I think you're just going to have to try it yourself to find out. It's a secret amongst cyclists that we don't tell others...
I actually have a crew of all-women riders that I hang out with. And there's definitely something about the motorcycle in general that just feels empowering. You know, you're exposed to the elements, you don't have a car structure around you. You're just out there kind of flying through the wind. There's an engine between your legs. It's another meditative activity because you have to have your focus around you at all times, and you're using both hands and both feet to control and steer the bike. And your hips. I think as a female cyclist, I do a lot of steering from my hips. They say women, we've got more weight there and kind of control over our bodies from our center. And men seem a little more top heavy, broader shoulders. I feel like I totally steer my motorcycle with my hips.
And there's something about, I think when I started riding, I don't know when it was, my early twenties, late teens, I didn't know many other female motorcyclists. I didn't know any, actually. Maybe a couple. And it definitely felt empowering to step into something that has been up until now, I think that women have taken control, but I think up until that point was a very male-dominated activity, and it was great to be like, 'And? I can do that too. And?' My motorcycle's a kickstart. It's vintage. Even just the looks, I mean, which kind of actually get annoying. Starting your motorcycle, a lot of men will stop and watch and wait, which is just so annoying. This isn't a show. But it's true, it's nice to step into something that has been male-dominated and be like, and me too.
For many of your performances, like those at Off-Broadway’s Sleep No More at The McKittrick Hotel, we’ll find you decked out in spectacular costumes, from elaborate wigs donning bird nests to mermaid tales. Do you feel like you take on different personas with each outfit? How has this level of play translated to your sexual flow?
Julia Haltigan: I mean, definitely an outfit, and a wig, and some hair and makeup, and gowns, and eyelashes, definitely... Yeah, it changes your mindset. It's interesting. I think sometimes looking in advance to a show or performance, knowing it's going to be something like that where I'm kind of playing more of a character. I'm a little, 'Who is that character and how am I going to be her?' And then you put this fricking wig on with a bird on it, I'm like, 'Oh, there she is. She's right here. How did that happen? I can't turn it off.' It's kind of magical and amazing. And I think, yeah, I mean, same goes for sexual flow, and I think with lingerie, you're kind of getting into character. And different pieces of lingerie, different pieces of underwear bring out a different personality.
That's all I had for you, unless you have something more you wanted to touch on, but this was amazing. Thank you.
Julia Haltigan: Yeah, thank you. This whole thing felt good. It was really, really nice to be asked to kind of talk about multiple interests instead of people being like, 'I'm confused. What do you do?' You're confused because, what don't I do?
But yeah, this is a great way to start the year thinking about this stuff. And yeah, I think the brand is so cool. It's beautiful.
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