Updated: Oct 13, 2021
I met Julie Kathryn – otherwise known as the musical artist, I AM SNOW ANGEL – at the small rural high school we both attended in upstate NY during the 90s. We first got to know each other through playing on the varsity tennis team (she was four years older than me, and I was fully **thrilled** when we became friends), but what really cemented our connection was our shared love of music. The summer before she headed off to college we got together a bunch of times to play guitar and sing, a passion for both of us.
Now over 20 years later, Julie / I AM SNOW ANGEL is a full-time artist and producer, creating and putting out her music at an astounding rate. We reconnected recently over new motherhood and art-making, and caught up this week to talk shop, as well as discuss her newest release – Falling Down to the Earth – which hits the airwaves TODAY.
💥 Link to hear to the full album below 💥
CS: Hey Julie! Can you give your version of how we know each other? I always ask people that.
IASA: We played on the high school tennis team together and you inspired me to start playing guitar! Even though we were a few years apart, we always had a special connection. We had fun together and shared a lot in common - music, tennis, being smart and artsy. I remember being really impressed with your musicality.
CS: Thank you! That means a lot coming from you. Speaking of our connection, though: I know you as Julie, but I suppose most of the people who follow your music know you as I AM SNOW ANGEL. I’m really fascinated by artistic aliases – how long have you been using the moniker, and how did you decide to take it on? Where did it come from? Is it an alter-ego, or more like a band name?
IASA: I began producing my own music around 2012/2013. The sounds I created were much more electronic than any of my past work. I wanted to give the project a new name to delineate it from my prior work, and I AM SNOW ANGEL came to me pretty easily. It felt natural. I guess the wintery imagery makes sense because of growing up in the Adirondacks, and I’ve always liked using spiritual language (if “angel” were to be isolated from the expression “snow angel”). But I also just really like the name. It felt like a representation of the music.
CS: So you’ve been creating under this name for almost 10 years now… How has the identity that is “I AM SNOW ANGEL” changed over time? Do you see any parallels between your musical identity’s evolution and the changes in your personal life (as Julie)? Do they change in different or similar ways?
IASA: When I started creating as Snow Angel, I was really sick of playing guitar, hitting open mic nights, fronting a band – being a “singer songwriter.” I had hit a wall where I didn’t want to do it anymore. The Snow Angel project was pure enjoyment for me – staying up all night making beats, learning and incorporating as much technology as I could. It was also, in some ways, a repudiation of my previous musical career. But over time, I’ve become more integrated as a musician and a person. I love playing guitar. I love adding it to my tracks. I collaborate with other musicians when it makes sense. I blend electronic elements with organic ones and the result is multidimensional and gratifying for me.
CS: Since we’re talking about time, let’s dial in on the NOW. Something exciting is afoot. TODAY your newest EP – Falling Down to the Earth – is releasing. Tell me about this project!
IASA: I created most of the EP during the pandemic. The process was meditative for me. I didn’t overthink any of it, I just created. The tone of the album is loving, reflective, optimistic. Three of the tracks have vocals, and one (“Joseph”, written for my son) is instrumental.
CS: You've mentioned that this project is a follow up to your 2019 album, MOTHERSHIP. Tease out the connection here – how are they related? To me, Mothership has a more minor, haunting quality to it. The lyrics are holding a lot of longing. Falling Down to the Earth feels more like a lush garden – truly like the ghost has landed. Talk to me about the meaning behind this progression, both lyrically and sonically.
IASA: I created MOTHERSHIP during a time when I felt alienated in the life I’d chosen for myself that I fantasized about being taken away. The album is the sonic manifestation of this alienation, followed by an abduction. One of the last songs on the album, “I Love You,” hints at my return to earth as a changed person. The tone is minor, and there are some unsettling and almost frightening moments on this album. In contrast, Falling Down to the Earth is about living life in the moment, with love, imperfectly. I created this music from a place of personal and emotional fulfillment, and the sound reflects that. Nature and motherhood are strong influences in the new songs.
[Tracks from Mothership]
CS: Most of the tracks on Falling Down to the Earth were created during lockdown last year. I know every artist has had a different experience navigating their own creative process and work life during this time – but, I’m interested particularly in how SPACE and PLACE impacted this album, and even your work in general?
IASA: Yes, most of these sounds were created during lockdown. I wasn’t in my studio when I created the majority of these sounds (we had left New York City but hadn’t permanently relocated yet) so I didn’t have all of my gear. I also didn’t have childcare, so I mainly worked on these tracks late at night. But being able to create was my emotional lifeline -- it’s what kept me going and feeling okay.
CS: This Sunday is Mother’s Day (even though we both know every day should be Mother's Day). In 2019 you became a mom to a little boy – right around when I had my son, in fact – and in the same year you released your album MOTHERSHIP. What was the relationship between becoming a parent and that body of work?
IASA: I feel like I had to create MOTHERSHIP in order to understand myself more -- the depth of my disillusionment and longing, and what the solution was. Once I made the album, I became empowered to make changes in my life, and ultimately to become a mother.
CS: I love talking to artist moms – to me they actually embody the most spiritual aspect of motherhood, as they sort of linger in the creative pinhole through which all that is latent in the void, so to speak, passes through into this world as new creation. How has motherhood impacted your creative brain and your creative process – the imaginal spaces you inhabit, and how you bring them forth into manifest reality? Give me a snapshot of the before and after.
IASA: I feel really energized! It took me some time to re-adjust to my new mom brain, which is partitioned differently than it was before. A lot of my energy is now spent momming, and I also have much less time to work than I previously did. But still, I feel more abundant. More free, less stuck. I’m not experiencing the same kind of creative roadblocks I faced in pre-mom life. Back then, I struggled with compulsive and counterproductive habits, like working all night and being unable (or unwilling) to walk away from a song or project to get some perspective and come back. I was a perfectionist, but to my own detriment. It was inefficient. Some of my perfectionism has lifted now and it’s a relief. I feel more efficient and more patient.
CS: Of course, there’s so much to be said for the practical implications of caring for a baby or child while also maintaining a creative practice. You seem like a constant creator, and have released tons of material both before and after your son was born. What can you share about how you manage the nitty gritties – time, space, energy – with other moms (or parents) who create? What support systems do you have to help you, and where do you struggle?
IASA: Honestly, it’s an ongoing struggle for me to feel like I have ample time for creative work. I now have childcare most mornings from 9am to noon, which is really helpful. If I need a bigger block of time (which is often the case for a creative deep dive), I set aside some evenings where I can work from 7 or 8pm until midnight or 1am. I find it’s difficult to simultaneously feel creatively satisfied and well rested.
CS: Regardless of pre- or post-motherhood status, you really are incredibly prolific. Where does all your inspiration come from? Are there some main themes or questions you return to again and again, or does it change over time?
IASA: A lot of it just bubbles up from my subconscious. I often learn about my emotional condition by listening to the music I’ve just made. Sometimes I do use cues or assignments to get me started with a song – specific things, like “write a song with only one chord,” “write a song in a major key”, “write a song with a person’s proper name in it.” Or write about nature, write about motherhood, write about lost love. But a lot of the time, I think as little as possible and just see where my inner creative mind wants to go. I learn about myself that way.
CS: To dig a little deeper here, what do you consider to be your musical roots? When we knew each other in high school, you were playing piano and just starting to play guitar and write songs, but definitely seemed to come more from the singer-songwriter lineage. Now you’re a producer, and make mostly electronic music – when and how did that evolution take place? What drew you to production? What parts of your brain or creativity does it feed?
IASA: Yes I was definitely in the singer songwriter genre for many years, until I ultimately felt trapped there. I stumbled into production and I didn’t intend to go in the electronic direction but I did. A deeper part of my brain pulled me there. I find that producing, especially using electronics, activates a deeper part of my creativity. I’m able to get into a deep flow where my mind is creating the music without having to use superficial thoughts. I can go to a spiritual and meditative place.
CS: Your work really does seem to dance between singer-songwriter vibes and full on electronic music in this really lovely and unique way. Sometimes it’s ambient, sometimes it’s driving and even dancey. But there's usually a kind of chordal progression holding down what feels more like, for lack of a better term, "traditional" songs. Talk to me about the interplay between these orientations and sounds.
IASA: Yes I definitely use conventional song structures, even with electronic production. That may be the vestiges of my singer-songwriter self coming through. I do enjoy experimenting from time to time with pure ambient sound, but even when I try to do this (see my instrumental track “Life Breath”, released in March), there is still a feeling of chordal resolution. I guess I’m so attached to traditional songwriting structures that I employ them without even intending to.
CS: As a female producer, do you feel like the field is as gendered as it seems?
IASA: Historically, it has been very gendered. It’s been difficult for women to gain recognition and thrive as producers and engineers. I do feel like this is changing. Female and nonbinary producers are gaining a lot more visibility and support, especially through organizations that are either longstanding or recently formed – Gender Amplified, Sound Girls, female:pressure, Women’s Audio Mission, just to name a few. I co-founded an organization in 2015 called Female Frequency, whose mission is to support women in audio production.
CS: I’m so inspired by Female Frequency and everything it stands for – a community “dedicated to empowering female, transgender, & non-binary artists through the creation of music that is entirely female generated.” That seems like a huge deal in the music world. Is it an online community? How does it work? What has the response been, and where do you want to go in the future?
IASA: Female Frequency began in 2015 as a recording project. We created an album that was entirely female generated, from start to finish. That meant the writing, performance, instrumentation, engineering, production, mastering, artwork, publicity and more, were all carried out by women. (While countless albums have been entirely generated by men, the same cannot be said for women, unfortunately.) We’ve hosted – and continue to host, now online – a variety of events, all aimed at helping women develop skills and confidence in production, mixing, live sound, programming, live looping, sound design and more. The response has been really enthusiastic, and I’m proud to have been involved in starting this group. Unfortunately, I struggle to stay involved at the level I’d like to be! Between my own creative endeavors and my for-hire production and sound design work – and now motherhood – I’ve hit a limit on the number of projects I can comfortably accommodate. Hopefully this balance will shift over time and I’ll be able to re-engage more fully with the FF community.
CS: Knowing your limits, and being honest about them, is one of the most profound forms of respect – to others, and yourself. I applaud your ability to even juggle all that you do – maintaining a career as an artist and parenting a small child is no joke. Both endeavors get at every single inner part of you, energetically and spiritually. That said: Where is your heart leading you next? What are your hopes for this release, and what feelings, concepts, sounds, or collabs are you looking forward to for the rest of 2021 and beyond?
IASA: This new EP, like my other recent EP ‘elegy’, feels very organic and low-key to me. I don’t have any specific goals, other than for these songs to resonate with listeners and help them feel more deeply. I plan to release a full length album in the fall, which, interestingly, features a lot of conventionally written songs, with electro-pop production. As of now, the working title of the album is LOST WORLD. Aside from that, I’m not sure what my creative future holds but I feel optimistic about it!