Isolation Drills: Julianna Sweeney

Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area are staying at home, learning to adapt to our “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’re doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.

Sweeney: Being a musician is not the easiest career path to pursue. Add in a global pandemic that essentially eliminates the main source of income in the industry, and for many, it becomes an absolute detriment. The thing that a lot of people don’t understand, however, is that the creative’s urge to pursue their craft is rooted in something far greater than simply earning a living (as important as that may be). It’s about connecting with a deeper level of the soul of life. It’s about taking listeners along on an experience that resonates with them to their core.

You see, creatives thrive in uncertainty.

The past year has not been without its fair share of tragedy—lives lost, families torn apart, restrictions on our freedoms and the list goes on. No one was spared some sort of heartache, and yet this past year has brought about some of the most genuine displays of gratitude, affection and ingenuity that I have ever experienced. It has changed my perspective on multiple levels.

The thing that inspired me the most was not only seeing the creativity thrive, but actually having the opportunity to be a part of the spectacle that was born of the tragedy of this past year.

Between school, work, an internship and recording my album, Exit Fo[u]r, it wasn’t always the easiest to find the time to write. The overwhelm was real, but so was the irony. Writing, as with many creatives, is my getaway, my coping mechanism, my release, and yet because of everything else going on in my life, it was put on the backburner.

Having to stay at home—especially at the beginning of the pandemic—gave me the opportunity to really carve out the extra time that I’d normally be driving, to focus on writing. Between the extra time and the countless stories that came about, it was a prosperous writing period for sure.

Recording & Collaboration
The recording process for Exit Fo[u]r was anything but conventional. Due to the circumstances, availability in the studios was extremely limited. I was fortunate to have a friend who was kind enough to lend me his equipment to record at my apartment. Although I wasn’t able to track a lot of the album alongside a complete band, I’m grateful for the opportunity to record in-person with at least half of the talented gents who played on the album.

It’s quite unfathomable, when you think about it, just how much of an impact technology has had on our world. The fact that we were able to complete this album, and at the level of quality that it is, is a marvel. I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity to do what I love and give back to others in the process.

My Mission
I lost my mom to metastatic breast cancer my senior year of high school. She dedicated her life to helping others and touched the lives of so many. Ever since her passing, I’ve made it my mission to give back through my music. I’ve started benefit concerts, dedicated live gigs and pursued many other efforts to give back to various causes: veterans with mental illness and hurricane relief, to name a few. With COVID making large gatherings nearly impossible, I had to get creative.

At the inception of the pandemic, one of my pals and I were creating daily music videos in dedication to those affected. Later on, I decided to release my debut album on my mama’s birthday, January 27, and donate proceeds from merch and album sales to childhood cancer research, a cause that was close to her heart. I’m excited to say that the album has raised more than $900 so far for the cause, and I know it’s only just the beginning.

Change forces you to adapt. Adaptation is a magnificent opportunity for creativity.