Country Next: Julia Cole
We take pride in introducing fans to country music’s brightest new stars through our Country Next series. Here, we chat with Julia Cole.
Julia Cole; Photo by Alejandro Medina III
Julia Cole may seem like a newer name on the country scene, but she is not new to the country music world. The fast-rising artist and CMT Next Women of Country member has already opened for the likes of Dan + Shay, Dierks Bentley, Kane Brown, Carrie Underwood, and Kenny Chesney, to name a few.
A former athlete with a well-developed team-player mindset, Cole got her start in music singing the national anthem for her sports teams. That led to her performing for even bigger audiences at NFL, MLB, and NASCAR events. Eventually, Cole made her way to Nashville, where she continued to hone her craft and develop her sound, which combines big beats with raw, honest, and sometimes humorous lyrics that encourage self-worth and empowerment.
In 2020, Cole released a debut self-titled album. During the summer of 2022, she officially made her Grand Ole Opry debut, where she performed her touching song, “White Pearls,” and her streaming hit “Thank God We Broke Up” to a packed house. The Texas-born singer/songwriter, who releases new music consistently, followed her Opry debut with her EP Whole ‘Nother Margarita, which includes the slipping into love title track, “Growing Up (Are You Happy),” “Phoenix,” “Rather Be Crazy” and “Thank God We Broke Up.”
And there’s no denying that Cole’s music has struck a chord with her fans, who she affectionately refers to as the #ColeTeam. The talented Cole is on track to reach the 100 million music stream mark.
Now, Cole is exclusively premiering her brand new lyric video with readers of Country Now. The new song, titled “In A World,” finds Cole imagining what life would have been like with a former love interest had their broken relationship lasted.
“You told me I was all you needed / You said forever. I believed it / Oh, I saw everything we could be / Oh, in a world where you still loved me,” Cole sings, utilizing her distinctive raspy vocals throughout the chorus of the uptempo track.
Cole caught up with Country Now to talk about her brand-new single, her recent releases, her journey in country music, and much more.
Read on to find out more about Julia Cole in this exclusive Q&A below.
How did you begin a career in country music?
So, I grew up playing sports. Then in high school, my coaches on both my basketball and volleyball teams heard me singing along with the radio on bus rides to games or just hanging out in the locker room. They heard that I could hold a tune, and they were like, ‘Why don’t you sing our national anthems?’ So, I started to sing the national anthem for my games. Then, my volleyball coach was like, ‘Why don’t you send in a video to the Texans.’ So, I did, and they ended up taking me to come and sing their season closer, a sold-out Texas/Jaguars game with jets flying over and fireworks. I realized at that moment when I was looking around at the crowd, and I wasn’t nervous, that performing was probably something in the cards for me. So, I started to transition from sports into the music world.
You are a member of CMT’s Next Women of Country. How does it feel to be a part of that group, especially since you love empowering other women, connecting with people, and collaborating?
It’s an honor to have been named one of the CMT Next Women of Country. This group is so cool. It’s like a sorority of country music females. We can all collaborate, understand each other, and talk about the difficulties that you might go through in this industry, specifically, and all the facets of life. The reason it’s such a huge honor is the list of names who have been in this group in the years before me. It’s everybody that people have heard break on the radio in the last, maybe six years ago. Kelsea Ballerini and Maren Morris used to be in it. Everyone else who you’ve heard on the radio that is a female has been a part of this class unless they were already so famous that they didn’t need to be in Next Women of Country.
In that group, do you get ideas for songs through talking with one another?
I don’t necessarily think I get my song ideas from talking to other people unless we’re in a co-write. So, anyone I’m writing with, sometimes those are artists, sometimes they are songwriters and producers. But, with people I am in the creative space with, we start pulling from our life experiences. I try to write what I’ve experienced, lived, and known because I can come at it from a place of honesty and understanding. I feel like I can write about that more effectively.
Can you tell me what inspired your new track, “In A World”?
Well, this song is one that I’m extremely excited about. I wrote it with Josh Ronen and Joybeth Taylor. It was the first writing the three of us had together. Josh and I have about a million songs together, but it was the first one with Joybeth. We just started throwing around different song ideas. The cool thing about going through breakups is that once you’ve gone through one or two, you don’t need to keep reliving them over again to be able to pull from those experiences for years to come. So, I was able to think about my past breakups and heartbreaks, and pull from those ideas and think about this concept of, ‘Well, what would life have been like if I was still with this person in that world where you still love me?’ You know, what could’ve been. Everybody has gone through that after a breakup of this fear like, ‘Was it the right decision? Was it the wrong decision?’ And running those circles around in your mind, even though that’s obviously not the right thing to do. Sometimes you’ve got to get it out there in the open, and then you can remind yourself afterward like, ‘No. These were all the reasons why we broke up. This was the right decision.’ But in those moments of loneliness or weakness, you fall back into that, ‘Oh, well. What if in a world where you still love me, what would it be like?’
Why did you choose to wait to release this song as a single rather than include it on the EP?
It is the newest of the songs. In the way that I release music, it is a pretty rapid release strategy. So, we are working on putting out new releases constantly. That means sometimes we pull from songs that were written two years ago. We finally have a system and the audience for those songs to be heard and appreciated. But it’s funny because we just sat down a few days ago and pulled up all of these old demos from the last few years, and I think we are going to start pulling some songs from the vault. So it’s a mixture. Some of the songs we are putting out are fresh. ‘In A World’ is pretty fresh. We wrote that one in 2022. So that one is definitely not from the vault, but ‘Rather Be Crazy ’ – one of the other releases that just came out – I wrote that a few years ago. So, it’s fun because we’re discovering some of these older songs, where we are like, ‘Wait. We love this. This lives in our world now better than it would have two years ago.’
You are about to reach 100-million streams as an independent artist. Have you thought about how you’ll celebrate when you reach that milestone?
Oh my gosh! It has been a crazy journey, but as much as it might look to the outside world that I’ve done it alone, a ton of people close to me have been a part of this journey for years. One would be my producer, Josh Ronen. We’ve been working together for probably six years now. We grew up together. We’ll go back and listen to some of our first songs compared to ours now, and it’s hilarious the difference. So, I think this win for me is a win for the whole team because it took a village of us. It took my management team, my agent, and every person who has been putting in the time, energy, and effort for years and years. I know it looks like I’m brand new to the scene, but I’ve got pictures of me opening for tons of big country artists from over five years ago. And it’s just where I had to figure out my sound. Over the last two years, we really honed in on exactly what I’m trying to say and how I want to say it. So it’s time to put all that other experience and hard work that we’ve done starting the fanbase out to use because now we’re giving them better songs that they can connect with.
You recently released your EP Whole ‘Nother Margarita. Can you tell me about that project, and how you chose the songs for it?
It’s definitely difficult to pick songs because if you break it down, I mean, there are only 52 weeks in a year. We tried to release something almost every week. What we’d do is release a full song, a full production, and an acoustic version of something or a cover. Then we would have a week off. That’s the cycle that I’ve been doing. So, that’s not many slots for new songs per year. After the hundreds and hundreds of songs we’ve written, and the five songs that made it on that EP, I think they tell the story of a relationship. You start with falling in love, and by the end of it, it’s moving on. And, I think if you look at it that way, it’s the cycle of a love story.
One song that isn’t on the EP is “White Pearls.” How did that song come about?
That song is on my debut album. It’s one of my favorite and most special songs close to my heart because I wrote it for my grandma, Maude, on my mom’s side, who had a liver transplant at age 52. She’s 77 now, and it’s been incredible watching her reach these milestone birthdays. For her 75th birthday, my mom was like, ‘The kind of gifts Maude wants for her birthday is not tangible. She loves music, and how much would she love a song?’ So, I sat down and wrote it in the living room at my parent’s house in Houston. My grandma came over from Louisiana, and we had a surprise birthday party for her. Ever since then, it’s been the song for me, mom, and grandma. It’s never been the biggest one with the most streams or anything like that, but I played it at every show since then because I love it so much. It’s so special to me. It’s a song for moms and grandmas. It is dedicated to them and the fact that they are why we all exist. And they are, for most of us, our angels here on earth. Even when they’re gone, they are still your angels looking after you.
You made your Grand Ole Opry debut in July. What was it like stepping into that historic circle for the first time?
My Grand Ole Opry debut was the best day ever. Seriously, it was an ongoing joke throughout the day because it felt like a wedding. It felt like I was getting married to country music because my whole family was there. Everyone flew up from Louisiana and Texas. The videographer was getting all of these pictures of my dress hanging on the mirror with my shoes, and everyone was bringing me flowers and stuff. But, singing “White Pearls” was very special because Maude was there. It was a strenuous journey for her to make it from Louisiana to Nashville. It’s the furthest she has gone in probably a decade of travel. There was no guarantee she was able to even come. Her husband, my grandpa, Poppy, passed away on New Year, and she has been having a lot of firsts this year just being by herself. But, I was able to ask Poppy before he passed away if I could wear something of his on the Grand Ole Opry stage. My friend, Kelly, customized a dress for me that we found at the Showroom in Nashville. She added Poppy’s fabric from one of his shirts along the neckline of the dress. Then she made a necklace, earrings, and a ring with pearl snaps from his shirt. So, Poppy was there with me on stage.
You also host The Julia Cole Show on YOCO 96.7FM, and your TV series, The Ultimate Fanfest, will be coming out in the fall on Circle TV. How will you be juggling those projects with music?
I have no idea! I’ll tell you when I figure that out. But, the television show is something that I am excited about. It was supposed to be filmed in 2020, so it has been a long time coming. All of the festivals got canceled. Then they started trickling back in of being re-booked and rescheduled. We are finally about to finish filming Season 1. It’s called The Ultimate Fanfest, so we are going around to the coolest music festivals we can find and showing people behind-the-scenes clips of the most unique pieces of the festival and the coolest things you should do if you come to the festival. For people who are never going to travel far to get to these festivals, they can experience it through us and with us and feel like they are actually at the festival too.
What are your goals for the rest of 2022?
My goal for this year – one is to hit that 100 million streams mark. We’re getting so close to it, and we’ve broken a lot of different milestones on social media. It’s fun because the goals keep getting bigger and bigger. I think another goal is to get on an incredible tour. I’m playing a lot of shows, but I think a new big goal of mine is to be on one of the main country tour circuits as the opening act for someone. But, the main goal that I have, and have had for my music in general is to help people feel empowered, understood, and part of something bigger than themselves. The #ColeTeam is a community and everybody can be impacted by my song lyrics in a way that helps them realize they’re not alone and they are strong enough to get through whatever they are going through. That’s when I know that what I’m doing is successful and when I feel like I am on the right path, because at the end of the day, the accolades, awards, and money, none of that matters. It’s if you can impact people and help people get through life experiences because it is not an easy journey for most people. I know music has helped me get through so much.
Fans can keep up with Julia Cole on Instagram.
Melinda Lorge is a Nashville-based freelance writer who specializes in covering country music. Along with Country Now, her work has appeared in publications, including Rare Country, Rolling Stone Country, Nashville Lifestyles Magazine, Wide Open Country and more. After joining Rare Country in early 2016, Lorge was presented with the opportunity to lead coverage on late-night television programs, including “The Voice” and “American Idol,” which helped her to sharpen her writing skills even more. Lorge earned her degree at Middle Tennessee State University, following the completion of five internships within the country music industry. She has an undeniable love for music and entertainment. When she isn’t living and breathing country music, she can be found enjoying time outdoors with family and friends.