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Julian Daniel on Tik Tok Culture, Tattoos, and E-boys

"During quarantine we should be expanding our minds with different types of art. "

It's somewhat surprising that Tik Tok culture has made its round into the music industry, but artists like Julian Daniel mesh the world of social media and pop music, with an almost ironic approach. In his debut EP, entitled "E-boy," Julian Daniel takes inspiration from artists like Troye Sivan, Kim Petras, and other groundbreaking pop artists. "I wanted to write something that wasn’t really serious and kind of poking fun so we developed the E-boy EP around that song." We were able to chat with Julian about creating "E-boy" and his creative process ranging from music to visuals to fashion. His upcoming EP "Hidden Hills," is a self described venture into subjects of "love, lust, and drug use." Displayed in the first single off the EP, "Distance," the upcoming project has a darker tone than any other previous works, with more raw and truthful lyrics.

What was it like growing up in a small town in Toronto? 

I live in a small town that’s 40 minutes to an hour away from Toronto depending on traffic. It’s a very suburban town and there’s not a lot of room for people to express themselves. So people think I’m a freak for having colored hair and wearing weird clothes in this area. It was always very hard, especially in school, for me to find my group of people. Overall it’s a cool place for families but not for artists or people that want to go their own creative ways. 

How did your childhood impact your life as a musician? 

My parents have always been really supportive of my music. When I was little I was in ballet, all types of dance, musical theater, vocal lessons, learning a lot of instruments, and my parents were always very supportive of it and knew that this is what I’ve wanted to do as a career. There was always music around my house. My dad plays a lot of instruments, we have a lot of records, and it was always a very welcoming household for me to play music in. 

You have a new EP called “E-boy.” How has tik tok and e-boy culture impacted you as a performer and musician in this era? 

When I first started dressing this way, everyone would tell me that I was an e-boy. I was like “What the heck is an e-boy? I don’t classify myself as that.” The more I actually got into it and was looking at e-boys and e-girls, I thought it was really sick and it’s really a community of people who just express themselves and don’t care what other people think. That was a really really cool thing for me. When we were working on the EP I was in the studio one day with my two producers and I told them I kind of wanted to write a song about being an e-boy. They’d always call me the e-boy of the studio. I wanted to write something that wasn’t really serious and kind of poking fun so we developed the e-boy EP around that song. I feel like it was a really cool way to get my foot out there cause I’m such a new artist. 

How do you feel about Tik Tok’s ability to popularize different artists and creators so quickly and push them directly into mainstream work? 

I feel like it’s a really good platform to put yourself out there because there’s so much exposure that you could get from it and you can blow up so quickly. I do feel like it’s so oversaturated too with different creators doing stuff. I feel like when it first started it was way easier to get followers, likes, and views, but now because so many people are trying to do it and it’s so oversaturated, I feel like it’s harder. It is such an amazing platform that we have now, but there are also other very negative effects that come with it too. 

Your fashion has been very inspired by e-boy culture, but who are your other fashion inspirations? 

I don’t think with fashion there’s a gender to clothing. Years ago it was very binary, but I feel like now if I want to wear a dress I can. There’s nothing wrong with that. I always switch up my fashion and I really look up to Troye Sivan and Conan Gray for inspiration. I love Haley Elsaesser, she’s a Toronto based designer and she makes a lot of gender fluid clothes, which is so sick. I feel like Gucci, in terms of bigger designers, is doing some really cool things right now with fashion and bringing back 70s and 80s aesthetics. I take a lot of inspiration from old 70s and 80s movies as well. 

The Garden for example is really cool, they wear a lot of slip dresses and super gender bending outfits and that doesn’t demasculinize their identity. It really goes to show how fashion is progressing a lot.

I think toxic masculinity is such a horrible thing that men have to feel like they can’t do certain things because then they aren’t looked at as masculine. It’s just such a weird mindset because everyone wears clothes, and everyone can wear whatever the heck they want. We all just have to accept everyone because there’s room for everyone. 

Who are your greatest musical inspirations for the “E-Boy” EP? 

On my vision board we have a lot of pictures of David Bowie and Kim Petras. When we were working on the EP I was living in LA and now I’m back in Toronto, so I took a lot of inspiration from the people I would see out and the songs are really reflective of that. 

What’s your creative process when you’re making visuals and music videos? How important are the visuals for you? 

I think visuals are equally as important as music for me. We’ll spend like 10 hours in the studio and while I’m in the studio I’m thinking of visuals for each song and putting together vision boards. I just feel like they go hand in hand and when I’m making music I’m always trying to paint a picture in someone’s head. I think visuals are just another way for people to see inside my head and what I was feeling when I was writing in that moment. 

How involved are you in the writing and production process for your tracks? Are you more collaborative or do you like to work alone? 

I’m very hands on with the whole process. I usually write with a co writer in the room. We have one or two co-writers that I usually write with. Each song that I write has a new co-writer. I’ve only worked with the same people very few times. I like to keep a really cool catalogue of different songwriters around me. In terms of production, I’m usually co-producing it in a way where I’m at the desk where we’re producing it and giving instruction. I feel like I’m there a lot and I like to be in control of my whole musical process. 

How has covid affected you as a performer? 

My whole team right now is in Los Angeles and I was there right before lockdown happened and I got out just in time. It sucks because we’re still working on this new music that we have deadlines for and a lot of his has to be through Zoom, so it’s hard to get everyone together. The energy can be a little off [when meeting virtually.] We’re always trying to make sure that everyone has their head in making the song as perfect as it can be.

Have you tried any digital shows? 

We recently did a festival performance for this festival called 444 Fest. That was my first ever digital show concert. I know Allie X did a digital concert which was so iconic. I’m taking a lot of inspiration from that. I know that if I can’t tour for this upcoming project I’m working on, I will definitely be doing digital shows. That would be a cool way for me to expand into that realm. I think it opens up a whole new world for me to be doing that, because we’ve never done digital shows before. I feed off of the audience that’s at my shows. I love to interact with all of them. To find a way that I can still interact with all of them, like a Zoom where I can see all of them bopping out in their rooms would be the most important to me. It would just be all new so I’d just be taking inspiration from everywhere I can get inspiration and putting something together that would be the most authentic to me. 

Do you think digital shows are something that will upkeep even after the pandemic? 

I really do. I feel like it’s an amazing way for people to experience live music from their own homes or wherever they are. I feel like going to a concert in a way is a privilege because you were able to pay for a ticket, etc. If I was able to offer a free show for people who might not normally be financially able to see an in person show or leave their house because they’re anxious it would be really cool so they don’t feel like they’re missing out on anything and there’s still that community of people there. 

Have you personally found a lot of new artists through watching digital shows? 

Oh definitely. It opens up a whole new world and the exposure is crazy for anyone. I feel like I’ll go on Instagram and find a bunch of new artists and shows and then I’ll follow them on everything and connect with them. I just feel like it’s a really cool thing. 

You have a song called “Tattoo,” and you also have a bunch of tattoos! What are some of your favorites and the stories behind them? 

All of my tattoos are on the right side of my body. I don’t know why, but I’ve wanted to get all of them on my right side. I have about 11 of them now. I did this one that says “okay” on my wrist and this happy face yesterday with Inkbox which will just come off in about a month. I have a sad face on my hand for my single “Sad Boy.” I have a rose, which was the first tattoo I ever got when I was 18 years old. I was about to get it on my hand but the tattoo artist said I was way too young for a hand tattoo so she did it on my arm. I got a lady smoking a cigarette because I just love fine line drawings and I believe I found it on Pinterest. I brought it in that night and I was like “I need to get this!” I got a butterfly for my song “Sidekick” and I got NMF on my wrist for New Music Friday. I got on a couple New Music Fridays on Spotify which was crazy. My manager came with me when I got that. I have an e-boy tattoo for my song so I guess I’m a certified e-boy. I have this leaf design on the back of my arm and I have an angel line drawing. I also have a tattoo that says “artist” on my collarbone. They’re all really fun. Some have them have meaning and some of them don’t. Tattoos are just my favorite thing to get because they’re a part of me and when I’m really proud of something, I’ll go get it tattooed. 

Why do you think it’s important for us to support artists during this time of worldwide uncertainty? 

Art really just makes people happy at the end of the day. If you’re having a bad day, you can draw, paint, make music, listen to music, etc. Doing whatever you want to do that’s artistic really makes people happy. Art is such an amazing thing that we have and we really need to support it. It just makes me so happy that there are so many people doing art. During quarantine we should be expanding our minds with different types of art. 

You have female vocals on “Lemontree” and “Supernova.” Who was singing? 

They’re both different people. I wrote “Supernova” my first time going to LA for the Grammys. One of the people we were staying with was this band, and it was actually one of their sisters who has no music out. We were in the kitchen one day and she was singing so I was like “Oh shit you can sing! Do you wanna be on this song?” So she came to the studio the next day and we cut the vocal. I fell in love with it and I loved the way it sounded. Her name is Grace. “Lemontree” was a surreal experience for me. The girl that was on the song is named Veronica. She just goes by Veronica on Spotify. She was a Disney star from Toronto. I used to watch these music videos she had between shows on Disney and she performed the big Disney concerts. When I was little and watching TV I always wanted to make a song with her. When I started working on this EP, I was at the label that wanted to sign the project. I was looking at my studio sessions and I saw her name on it and that she followed me on Instagram. I called my manager and she said I was writing with her. We wrote the song together in like two hours. It was so quick and we understood each other's visions really well. She put her vocals in and I asked if she wanted to put them on the song. It was like a dream for me. It was crazy. 

You can follow Julian on Instagram and Twitter @juliandanielofficial.

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