Student Spotlight: Julia Perry

The seventh-semester student talks about the women who inspire her, offers a glimpse into her musical "treasure box," and explores how silence helps her make noise.

December 19, 2022

What’s it like to study at Berklee? Our Student Spotlight series asks current students all about their Berklee experience—what they’re learning in class, what kinds of projects they’re involved in onstage or behind the scenes, how they recharge, and of course, what they’re listening to.

This week, get to know Julia Perry, a seventh-semester songwriting major from Beverly, Massachusetts. Julia's band, Exit 18, was recently crowned Hard Rock/Metal Act of the Year at the 2022 New England Music Awards (NEMA). Check them out on Instagram, Spotify, and Facebook.

Tell us about your path to Berklee. What made you decide to come here?

My path to Berklee was a double-handle-bubble-wand-shaped one. One straight line, but with a big middle loop. After high school I knew I needed to continue to make music. I was on a mission to record an album with my rock band, Exit 18. I took a gap year and worked with a producer who ended up being the exact kind of phony they warn you about on your first day of Music Business 101. But despite all that, nothing could stick any wrenches in my heart-nucleus. Berklee was the only school I could imagine feeling right at, so it was the only school I applied to. Like there’s only one Hogwarts. The way I saw it, my two options were to either get into Berklee or figure out what to do with this thing on my own—that being a very confusing and convoluted passion. Gratefully, I got in!

What's been your favorite class so far, and what has it taught you?

So far my favorite class has been Stealing from the Masters, written and taught by Ben Camp. This class has taught me how to analyze and understand the properties of my favorite songs—the moments that make you go, "Oh! What is that feeling?!" It has taught me how to interpolate those properties to use in my own art in an authentic way that’s totally not actually stealing. Ben is an amazing professor; I would absolutely recommend them for any songwriting class.

What's a project you've worked on since coming to Berklee that you've been especially excited about?

Throughout all my time at Berklee, I’ve been working on my career with Exit 18. What excites me now as a seventh-semester student is being able to look back on how far we’ve come, and also to see how much I feel like I’ve been able to heal as a person through the art I made here, on and off campus. Music is a seriously powerful force, and I get to play with it. That excites me. The future excites and terrifies me, but there is nothing like the power of a clear voice and a good noise to break through barriers: emotional, political, physical, spiritual—this stuff is medicine!

Watch Exit 18’s NEMA-nominated video for “Plastic Art,” which was filmed in Julia's mom's garage: 

How do you typically recharge or find new ideas outside of class?

Classes can be very demanding here. Being is already a lot before you add 10 classes. Ironically, though, I took a class called Contemplative Studies with Sheila Katz, which has been my recharge ever since. In it, I learned I really love to meditate, and it’s been hugely important for me while in school to be able to manage being at all. And as it turns out, sitting in silence is actually also great for noisy ideas. So, that, and I also love eating and kissing and bathing and doing people stuff to recharge. People stuff is also usually a good place to find ideas. People are super weird.

When you think towards your own future, who inspires you most?

Um, women. Björk inspires me all the time. So does Fiona Apple, and Regina Spektor. Even if they don’t exactly make rock music. I don’t know about my own future, but if I can take note of the way they have only gotten stronger over time, I would be taking very important notes. These women are fearless, never afraid to metamorphosize, altruistic, and sometimes kinda freaky. Their dedication to “doing them” is the blueprint.

What's one piece of advice you'd give to your high school self?

I have about a 10-volume encyclopedia of things I wish I could tell my high school self. I wonder if she could hear me. Top of the list might be that nobody else gives you power. Julia, the patriarchy has literally socially conditioned you into thinking that power comes from appealing to the male gaze. It puts a detrimental limit on femininity, on sexuality, on our autonomy, and it serves the powers that be when you’re gaslit into thinking belittling yourself is attractive. Our societal understanding of what a woman should be controls us. It keeps us so insecure that we can’t speak up and looking in the mirror instead of out at a world that is sick. We deserve to feel whole, more powerful, more intimate, more alive. Feminine power is limitless. It’s yours. No one can take that, define that, or touch that. And nobody can give it to you.

Also, side advice: really, Julia, you don’t need to mourn My Chemical Romance like that; they’re gonna get back together.

Julia's Favorite Artists

We asked Julia to share five songs by her favorite artists. "I have so many treasures I would love to share on a larger playlist,” she says, "but please enjoy this keyhole peep into the treasure box."

1. "It’s Not up to You," Björk

This song is like taking off an invisible soaking-wet wool coat and realizing you have the free will to cartwheel to work. Unthinkable surprises are bound to happen!

2. "Fetch the Bolt Cutters," Fiona Apple

This part:

I grew up in the shoes they told me I could fill
Shoes that were not made for running up that hill
And I need to run up that hill
I need to run up that hill, I will, I will, I will, I will, I will

Fiona is leading the march, and I’m following.

3. "CMND/CTRL,” Deftones

I have this tattooed. Supposedly CMND and CTRL are gods and goddesses looking over Earth, assessing the damage, and ultimately concluding that humanity’s demise will be of their own volition, gods or no—thought that was an interesting idea.

4. “Biscuit,” Portishead

This might be my most-played song of all time. Gives me a special feeling I can’t find anywhere else. When I listen to this song particularly, and Portishead in general, it's almost like I’m the same “me” I have always been since the first time I heard it. Like the song is a singular moment I can step into separate from this current one at any time.

5. “Like a Mirror,” Morphine

This is another particularly feely song. Songs are like spells. They can change your whole perception of reality, or your reality itself! This one makes for a very dreamy few minutes. I can just feel it affect my neurochemistry for some magical reason.

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