Bathing in the Light: Julia Holter on Her New Album, Have You in My Wilderness

Photo by Tonje Thilesen.

In her songs, Julia Holter has trouble being herself. “I don’t think I can really sing and think, ‘This is me, I’m just singing,’” she says. “It’s so weird for me, personally.” Instead of direct confessionals, the acclaimed L.A. songwriter has regularly projected herself backwards in time, building her records off of high-minded old fictions. Her 2011 debut, Tragedy, inhabited Euripides’ ancient Greek play Hippolytus. Last year’s Loud City Song mused on modernity, but brought its setting only as far up as the turn of the 20th century Paris described in the 1940s novella, Gigi. Even working outside of that formula, she’s remained elusive. The title of her breakthrough 2012 album, Ekstasis, directly translates as “to stand outside of oneself.”

“I am always trying to inhabit a character,” she says. “I like it to be different for each song.” In a time of carefully doled out public transparency, she keeps reaching for a mask. “I don’t have a ‘persona.’ Once I take off the character, it’s just me.”

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