The ambient folk artist discusses her use of physical space and choral singing to create delicate, haunting soundscapes.
Born in Louisiana, Julianna Barwick spent her youth singing in the church choir. Now based in Brooklyn, the music she makes certainly isn’t religious, but there is something spacious and otherworldly about it. Barwick’s songs are rooted in her own voice: Her early work often involved short looping refrains that blossomed and swirled, flanked by piano and sparse percussion, walking the line between experimental, ambient and folk. Her self-released debut LP, Sanguine, appeared in 2006, but it was 2011’s Magic Place that put Barwick’s talents on a wider stage. For its followup, 2013’s Nepenthe, Barwick opened up her solitary process, recording with producer Alex Somers in Reykjavik, and collaborating with string ensemble Amiina and a youth choir. Following several years of intense touring, she returned with 2016’s Will, a more electronic-sounding record that included contributions from multiple musicians. Barwick continues to evolve, yet the haunting beauty of her music remains intact, and is perhaps more potent than ever. In this Fireside Chat, she discusses her love of movie soundtracks and church hymns, her use of physical spaces and choral singing and the impact of the environment on her music.