Born and raised on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Julia Stone makes up one half of the brother-sister singing duo Angus and Julia Stone.
Over the last seven years, Angus and Julia have made waves in the Australian and international music scene, but now the older sibling of the group is taking a step back to pursue her solo career.
While Julia’s second solo album By The Horns, stays true to the duo’s folk roots, a newfound sense of fragility can be heard throughout the earthy melodies of her 11 new songs.
Asked to describe her music style in three words, Julia struggles to find an answer. “I don’t know,” she says, “there, that’s three words.”
One place where Julia doesn’t struggle to find a voice is on stage. At the time of the interview, she is just leaving the airport in Perth, where she has touched down for that night’s gig. She has already been touring across Australia for three weeks and is getting ready to fly to Switzerland to start her European tour this October.
Julia says making an album and touring on her own is a completely different process to working as a duo. Working solo, she has the freedom to record all the songs she has ever wanted to sing and doesn’t have to make compromises in the studio.
“The thing with Angus is the albums are half his songs, half my songs, so we both get to put six songs on a record. There’s always a lot of songs that you don’t get to play or don’t work as well as a duo.”
This is one of the reasons for their decision to take a year out to work on their own careers. The inherent musical ability that exists within both Angus and Julia has been partly instilled by their parents who also worked as a folk duo.
“Expressing ourselves through music was a natural thing to do,” says Julia, “getting up to sing at school as Baby Spice seemed like the most normal thing in the world”.
Surprisingly, growing up the two did not hold big visions of becoming a household singing name. The unwavering bond that permeates their music didn’t always exist, in fact as kids they rarely sang together.
“I was a real girly-girl and into dancing and pop music and he was a real boys-boy into skating and surfing and more harder music,” says Julia.
Their shared musical passion developed in their late teens while travelling through South America. Julia was undertaking a trip with her boyfriend at the time, camping and driving from beach to beach, when she met up with Angus and their mother. The family stayed together in an isolated Amazonian eco-lodge.
Julia reflects fondly on the amazing sense of calmness that encapsulated them as they rested far from civilization, seven hours up the Amazon River and two hours inland, with a hammock and a guitar as their only friends.
Julia saw a new side of her little brother Angus, as she spent time listening to him play songs about love and feelings, “I was just fascinated,” she says.
This idyllic setting laid the earliest foundations of their intertwined singing careers. “When we hung out overseas it was the first time I think we sort of connected over music,” says Julia.
On returning to Australia, Angus and Julia started working together out of convenience more than anything else. The two would help each other as they played individually at open microphone nights across Sydney.
Their easygoing partnership gradually developed into something more concrete, and the two officially started collaborating in 2006. Looking back, Julia describes the way they started making music as “really random”.
Their laidback attitudes can be heard in the notes of their two albums Down the Way and A Book Like This, which reached number one and number six consecutively on the ARIA album charts.
For many, growing up in the same household as a sibling is a big enough ask. So working alongside a little brother or older sister isn’t everyone’s dream. Yet Angus and Julia Stone have proved that it is possible.
Julia says: “There’s a kind of bond there that you can’t really understand, but it’s there, and it’s always going to be there.”
The duo wouldn’t be able to call themselves siblings if their tours weren’t dotted with the odd fight or two. Julia admits, “I look back at our life together and think ‘Wow, it really could have ended at that airport when I was calling him names’.”
However, she considers their ability to move past the little disputes and remain focused on the music, one of their greatest successes as artists.
The last time they toured together was in 2011. Throughout the tour, Angus and Julia spent time in between shows recording new music for what fans hoped would be a third album, but those songs are yet to make it past the recording studio doors.
Despite having at least 20 songs recorded, the two decided instead to pursue their own solo careers, and have been doing so ever since. As for all those recorded songs? Julia says: “They will just disappear into the oblivion, I don’t think they’ll be dredged up actually, it’s not really how we work.”
Julia doesn’t give too much away on the topic of a reunion between Angus and herself because she is still unsure of what the future will bring. “Who knows we might bump into each other at family Christmas and have a jam and start talking about another record or we might not, I don’t know.”
“There’s a lot of ‘I don’t knows’ in this interview,” Julia jokingly points out.
For now she is content leading the nomadic lifestyle that comes with being a touring artist. Her album By The Horns reached number 11 on the ARIA charts, and her domestic shows have been a huge success.
Unfortunately for fans of Angus and Julia collaborations, the future of the duo remains an “unknown entity”. A reunion may never happen, or if we are lucky, it may just be a stone’s throw away.