Julia Nunes: How a YouTube star was born

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Since then, Nunes has released three independently recorded albums of original material, as well as a collection of YouTube covers online. Her second album, I Wrote These, came together quickly. “I recorded it in a barn my freshman year of college entirely for free,” says Nunes. “In truth, it’s not the most professional of efforts…you have to really love my music to listen to the poor production of that album.”

Each subsequent release since I Wrote These, though, has demonstrated a substantial increase in production quality — and many of the tracks from that disc have been rerecorded for Settle Down.

In addition, Nunes has also performed lives shows across the country throughout her college career. “For almost my entire junior year of college, I was on tour every single weekend,” she says. “I basically had three days of classes every week: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The rest of the week I was traveling.”

All that live experience served her well. In June 2009, she performed at the Tennessee musical festival Bonnaroo, and a year later, she was asked to play it again. During one of the festival dates in 2010, she even got to hop on stage with Weezer. Just last month, Conan O’Brien asked her to perform on his late-night talk show, and she made her television debut there playing current single “Stay Awake” on Jan. 24.

Now, Nunes is preparing for the release of Settle Down, which was funded entirely by her fans through the website Kickstarter. Initially, Nunes had drawn up a budget of $18,000 to record her album in 16 days in Brooklyn. But she wasn’t prepared to take that financial leap independently, so she looked into the world of crowd-funded music — with some major doubts.

“Fans have watched me all this time, and I’ve never needed $20,000,” she explains. I was really worried that they would feel taken advantage of, and it left a bad taste in my mouth to ask for money.” Nunes ultimately decided to seek $15,000 in funding, and she would cover any other costs herself. She set up her Kickstarter goal with a 30-day time limit, and was shocked by her fans’ generosity.

After 24 hours, Nunes had already raised $19,000. “Immediately, we were like, ‘Thank God!’” she remembers. Over the course of the month, money kept flowing in, and Nunes ended up raising over $77,000, which allowed her a level of flexibility in the studio that she’d never enjoyed before.

Suddenly, “We could spend more time, we could afford to mess up a little bit — to be a little bit more creative.” Nunes happily added quirky features to her record, like her new favorite instrument, the Snapple cap. “I’ve fallen in love with that noise,” she says. “It’s all over the album. That kind of stuff came out of having the time and letting some breathing room into our schedule. It was so necessary, and I was unbelievably happy while it was happening, and I still am.”

Despite all her success, Nunes still has trouble believing how all these pieces came together to give her her dream career in music. “I feel unworthy because I know so many people really try hard to do what I’ve done, and it just kind of happened accidentally,” she confesses. “I’ll be honest, at first, I was just kind of like, ‘Why? Why does anyone like my music?’” But hearing audience response has made Nunes a more bold artist. “I just had to learn to take it seriously, to earn it in my own eyes…. They’ve pushed me to consider myself an actual musician.”

Listen to Julia’s current single, “Stay Awake” below, pick up her album Settle Down on Feb. 28, and check her out on her latest tour.

Are you a Julia Nunes fan? If so, how did you discover her? Will you be checking out her new album?

More YouTube stars on EW.com:
‘A Very Potter Musical’ star Darren Criss talks about his EP and the future for Team StarKid
YouTube’ Christina Grimmie: The 17 year-old talks about her album, opening for Selena Gomez
Kina Grannis’ jelly bean-infused video for ‘In Your Arms’ is totally amazing
YouTube stars Karmin make their ‘SNL debut’
YouTube delights: Five singer-songwriters you should get to know

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