FemFocused: An interview with singer Julianna Sweeney

Welcome to the blog Julianna Sweeney!

Up-and-coming singer/songwriter Julianna Sweeney will release her new album titled “Exit Fo[u]r” tomorrow, January 27th. The album will be released on the birthday of her mother, who died of metastatic breast cancer 3 years ago. Julianna is dedicated to continuing her mom’s mission of leading a life in service to others, and is donating all proceeds from merch and physical copies to childhood cancer research – a cause that was close to her mom’s heart. It’s quite impressive to learn of the singer’s mission to give back through her music, which you’ll hear more of in our interview below. She also writes, plays and produces all of her own music, and has founded and run multiple benefit concerts for those in need alongside playing shows up and down the east coast. Julianna can be found on Instagram, Facebook, Apple Music and Spotify.

Welcome Julianna! To begin, tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Julianna Sweeney and I’m a 21 year old independent singer/songwriter. I grew up in a small town in Warren County NJ, and it wasn’t until I went away for College that I really appreciated that little rural home base. I wrote my first song in the summer before fifth grade (I was about 11years old) and I have been writing ever since. A few fun facts, I am Portuguese (50%, my mom was born there), Irish and Italian-American, I have a passion for nature and learning about different cultures, I love to cook, and I am a sucker for a good cup of cappuccino. I come from a very big and very close extended family that taught me hard work, paying it forward, and prayer were the keys to success. I wrote, arranged, produced, and engineered this whole album with minimal help from a few colleagues, and just graduated early from college in Albany, NY where I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Music Industry. My style has been noted to sound like Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and Norah Jones, with a hint of John Mayer.

Photo credit Tiffany Simone

I would love to hear more about your work, especially how you give back through music. 

Before I even started writing music, I knew that it was what I wanted to pursue in life. Not everyone knows what they want to do with their life, especially at such a young age, and for that I count myself lucky. That doesn’t mean it was easy though. I remember getting cast out and treated differently because of my aspirations and my focus – especially in middle school – but with my family’s support, I was able to continue on the path that led me to where I am today.

My mom was a beautiful soul. She dedicated her life to giving back to those around her, and she always put others before herself. I always aspired to be like her. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I actually made it my mission though. My mom passed away to metastatic breast cancer a few months before I graduated high school, and all I wanted to do was continue her legacy. The first project that I started was a benefit concert titled the “One Stop Tour.” It was a concert at the high school that enabled the students to gain real world industry experience in putting together a live show, all the while bringing the community together and raising money for a notable cause such as giving back to a family in the community whose son was undergoing treatment for brain cancer, raising money for a local Marine unit that had been deployed to Afghanistan, and others. It became an annual occurrence that brought in more people every year. Unfortunately the streak had to end last year due to COVID-19.

I also aided in putting together benefit concerts at college giving back to Hurricane Michael relief, and various other causes. At every gig the past 4 years, I have made it a point to donate a portion of my tips. For my debut album, I knew it had to be big and I wanted to honor my mama, so I decided to release the album on her birthday and give back to a cause that was close to her heart. All proceeds from physical album sales and merch, along with all royalties from the first week of streams, are being donated to childhood cancer research through the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Research Institute. I also recently started a lifestyle newsletter to help bring people together, update them on the music, share ways to help each other out and much more.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

When it comes to songwriting, it depends on the song or the situation, however, most of my inspiration comes from these 3 areas: personal experiences, observations, and stories of others’. I firmly believe that the best songs evoke a certain metaphysical and other-worldly feeling in its listeners and that’s all done through storytelling. My debut album, “Exit Fo[u]r,” is all about observing, experiencing, overcoming and growing. The name was inspired by the fact that Exit 4 is both the exit that brought me to school in NY as well as the exit that brought me home in NJ. The “u” is in brackets to give the title a second meaning in that sometimes in life, you have to take the exit that’s just for you. It’s not easy, but it’s the only way to grow into your fullest potential. When it comes to working hard and aiming for success, my inspiration is all from wanting to do good by my family, give back to others, and be as strong and genuine in my faith as possible.

Photo credit Tiffany Simone

Finally – as a woman in music, I would love to know what makes you feel strong when you’re performing. 

Knowing my worth is what makes me feel strong when I’m performing. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says or thinks because I know that I was created in God’s image. I know that my family and friends love me. I know that I have been through hell and came out stronger because of it. And I know that I can use that to inspire others to see themselves the same way.

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