By Jan Mercker
Fifteen years ago, Juliet Lloyd had a brush with musical fame and gave it up for a corporate career. Now the singer/songwriter is shifting gears again, taking the plunge into life as a full-time performer—with Loudoun at the heart of her latest release.
Lloyd is a fan favorite on the county’s winery and brewery circuit. She said her new five-song EP “High Road,” which drops July 6 on streaming platforms, is inspired in part by her Loudoun shows. And, like many musicians, her musical journey involves a pandemic-inspired pivot.
“It was a chance to reflect and think about what’s important. How do I want to be spending my time–knowing that opportunities can come and go,” she said. “Having the live performance part of music taken away, having to find other ways to create and connect with people was really eye-opening for me. It reignited in many ways a desire to do more of this—because now you know what it feels like not to be able to do it at all.”
Lloyd said “High Road” is a departure from her past piano-driven pop songwriting style. The new record has a country edge, inspired in part by fan requests at Loudoun gigs.
“I have found myself gravitating more toward country music and country-influenced music over the last couple of years,” Lloyd said. “I think a large reason for that is that we play so many venues [in Loudoun], and I get so many requests for country songs. It sort of opened my eyes.”
Lloyd embraced country influences on her new album’s lead track “Starting Something.” She had the idea for the song in 2019 on a flight back from Nashville and wrote the full lyrics last year. But she struggled to find the right tune–until she allowed her more recent country influences to fall into place.
“The pieces finally came together,” Lloyd said. “It had been bouncing around in my brain for a while. I think the key to that was letting it be what it was, which was country-influenced.”
Lloyd grew up in Rochester, NY, where she fell in love with the piano in elementary school and took up the trumpet in school bands. She discovered her talent as a vocalist in high school musical theater productions and as part of an all-woman a capella group in college. Lloyd earned a degree in economics before shifting gears and attending Boston’s renowned Berklee College of Music on a vocal scholarship. She spent the early 2000s building a name as a musician, playing gigs in Boston, and touring with international acts. When her second full-length album “Leave the Light On” was released in 2007, the Boston Globe declared that Lloyd was “on the cusp of stardom,” with several tracks featured on television shows on MTV and VH1 and played on radio stations around the country. But like many musicians, Lloyd was torn between the need to create with bread-and-butter issues.
“It was really hard to make a living at it,” she said.
Lloyd found she enjoyed the promotional aspect of being a musician and went to graduate school for communications.
“That led to having a ‘real job’ for a long time and leaning into that—and having music take a back seat,” she said.
Lloyd moved to the DMV in 2009 for a communications job and now lives in Montgomery County, MD. But a few years ago, she decided it was time to start performing again. Lloyd dipped her toe into the burgeoning Loudoun music scene while visiting favorite wineries. She said she regularly grabbed copies of Get Out Loudoun and reached out to venues one by one, quickly building a solid fan base. But coming out of the pandemic, it was time to take things up a notch.
“I suddenly had this urge to write and perform a lot more,” she said. “It’s like I finally had things to say again.”
Lloyd recorded “High Road” with noted Loudoun-based producer Jim Ebert, founder of the beloved Cancer Can Rock nonprofit and continues to play Loudoun shows nearly every weekend.
“I have more opportunities than I can handle at this point,” she said. “I feel like I’m out in Loudoun County multiple times a weekend most of the time. … Every time we play, I’ll recognize a handful of people who are there to see me. Sometimes people will sneak in a request for originals, which always means a lot.”
Lloyd recently won the 2022 Bernard/Ebb Songwriting Competition, recognizing top songwriting talent in the DC region. The award includes studio time, so she’s gearing up to crank out some more new material. And the musical momentum inspired her to leave her day job earlier this spring.
“I feel like the release of [“High Road”] combined with really leaning in full time into music and the momentum I’ve gained from playing so many shows this year, it’s really the start of something,” Lloyd said. “I’m really excited to see where the next year goes.”
Catch Juliet Lloyd Saturday, June 25 at 5 p.m. at Lost Barrel Brewing in Middleburg. “High Road” drops Wednesday, July 6, on streaming platforms. For more information, go to julietlloyd.com.