Julia Kasdorf is one of those rare souls who has managed to make a lifelong career of being a musician. From her early high school days as a “kinda goofy kid” who “stayed home learning to play David Bowie songs,” to a 13-year stint in San Francisco exploring the punk and honky-tonk scene, to her evolution as a well-known solo act on Loudoun’s winery and brewery circuit, Kasdorf has pretty much seen it all.
Gutsy and self-possessed in her performances, whether alone or with her Ready Boys, Kasdorf is preparing to release her fourth studio album, “Motel,” in January. Get Out Loudoun caught up with her ahead of Saturday’s release show—following is a portion of our conversation.
Get Out Loudoun: What first attracted you to the idea of becoming a songwriter and musician?
Julia Kasdorf: My dad played bluegrass and country/western music all the time and sang for everyone at family reunions. I just joined in, singing and listening. I actually learned to play guitar in junior high in a classroom of 30 students—the clamor! But, I found that it came really easily to me, probably because I’d been exposed to it all my life. I didn’t plan on being a singer or a songwriter, it just kinda came along with the territory.
GOL: How did your band name, Julia & the Ready Boys, come about?
Kasdorf: ‘Cause I always say, “Ready, boys?” before we start.
GOL: Who’s in the band these days?
Kasdorf: My band is made up of whoever fits where I’m at at the moment. … The main musicians on the record are also Ready Boys at this November 18 gig—Lynn “Leon” Kasdorf on bass and pedal steel; Buddy “Bud’s Collective” Dunlap on flat-top and fiddle; Gary “East of Monroe” Ferguson on flat-top, telecaster and mandolin; and Dwayne “Randy Thompson” Nitz on drums. These are really solid, top-notch players with decades of stage time and we are going to kill and stomp Saturday.
GOL: You command a large catalogue of covers that you make use of at solo gigs across the area—what attracts you to a certain piece of music, and what tips the scales as far as songs you want to learn and perform for others?
Kasdorf: Playing solo can be a lonely business. I have to keep myself entertained and on top of my game, so I play songs that challenge and delight me. I love to play songs that no one else plays. I love to dig deep and play old pop songs that people love and have almost, but not quite, forgotten. I am not afraid to try anything at least once.
GOL: On the flip side, you’re a skilled songwriter with a new album out—talk a bit about how the tracks on “Motel” evolved, what inspired you and what you want listeners to get out of the album.
Kasdorf: I’ve written a bunch over the past few years, but the songs don’t really fall into any particular category. I have soul and Americana and rock ‘n’ roll songs, and I couldn’t see putting these things all on one album. It just didn’t make sense. But, then when I rashly booked studio time, I realized I didn’t have much choice and so the good songs got picked, regardless of style. It troubles me a bit, the “arc” of the record being somewhat strange, but at the same time it’s totally, 100 percent Julia Kasdorf, and that’s all I got to offer.
I knew that this was going to be a real journey of discovery for me. I was going to find out a lot about who I am and what I love most about music. And, so it came to pass! I discovered a whole new, better way of singing and expressing myself that I never found before. … It’s so different that when my mom heard one of the tracks, she said, “Who’s that singing?”
GOL: What should audiences at your Nov. 18 show expect to see and hear?
Kasdorf: Lucky ticket holders may expect two really solid, excellent bands, and music diverse as stomping bluegrass to smooth R&B. Both bands feature commanding, charismatic front people who don’t hold much back when it comes to giving a performance. Honestly, I’ll be surprised if the place doesn’t burn down. It’s going to be a hell of a night.
Julia and the Ready Boys ‘Motel’ Album Release Show with Jason Masi Band
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18
Barns of Rose Hill, 95 Chalmers Court, Berryville
Advance tickets are $15 per person, or $20 at the door
For directions or to book tickets, go to barnsofrosehill.org/event/julia-and-lynn-kasdorf-the-jason-masi-band
By Samantha Bartram