“While you walk on your path, you pick up something from the ground and put it in your pocket. As you go further, you look in your pockets and see lots of different things—These things make you,” explains Julia Bardo of the happenings that shaped her debut EP, Phase. “You want to pick up more because it is good, and you never want to stop. There are never enough things in your pocket; you’re rich with experiences you meet on your road.” For Bardo, that road began in Brescia, a small city in Northern Italy, and led her courageously to Manchester, England, where she would develop her striking, singular style as a solo musician. Phase marks a facet of this ambitious evolution, and represents an artist’s quest to make music that is entirely her own.
In Brescia, Bardo sang and wrote lyrics for a local band between shifts working at her father’s bar. Feeling disheartened and uninspired by the music she was contributing to and the life she was leading, she knew it was time to begin her next phase. She packed her bags for Manchester to pursue music, despite knowing no one in the city. There she fought her loneliness by fine-tuning her self-taught guitar skills, working odd jobs, and taking some university classes. It was at school that Bardo met the members of Working Men’s Club, the chugging post-punk English band she would join. Yet she still itched to have full creative control over her music, which she uses as a means to understand herself better. “For me, music is about healing what is hurt inside of me. I heal by writing and talking about what troubles me. I’ve always been very lonely, and I’ve always been very emotional—these things inform my music quite a bit.”
Bardo’s first-written, debut solo single “Desire” earned attention from The Line of Best Fit and BBC Radio, and saw her enchant audiences at Neighbourhood, Liverpool Sound City and The Great Escape. Yet Phase marks a defining moment for a forward-facing young artist, and comes with a stark warning: don’t get too comfortable. “Phase is a wave, you know; I get inspired and each time I write, it’s an evolution of what I wrote before.”
Bardo’s music illustrates her constantly changing world through journal-like observations that log each trauma and triumph, influenced by the music she grew up with (Italian musicians from the ‘60s such as Mina, Lucio Battisti, Patty Pravo, and other icons of that era like Nancy Sinatra) as well as her modern day heroines (Cate Le Bon, Angel Olsen, Aldous Harding, Lucy Dacus, Sharon Van Etten, Jessica Pratt and Weyes Blood, to name a few). She co-produced Phase alongside The Orielles’ Henry Carlyle Wade at Stockport’s Eve Studios. “It was exciting,” Bardo recalls. “For the first time these songs feel like me.” Altogether the EP presents an artist who unapologetically understands herself—an individual showing inner strength without need for outer justification.
Belying Phase’s uplifting façade, heartbreak ballad opener “Into Your Eyes” brings vulnerability to the fore through Bardo’s bare vocals. “It’s a very personal song. I wrote it when I was feeling very lonely; I had a lot of time for myself and spent a lot of time by myself, which gave me the chance to think about everything related to my life, my past and my family,” she explains. “I wrote this song thinking that I was writing it to myself, but every time I sang it and read the lyrics, I realized that it was actually referring to my dad and our relationship.” “Lonely Morning” picks up the pace with rhythmic bongo percussion and "Please Don't Tell Me" is an anthem of individuality, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing your own voice over the ones surrounding you as Bardo repeats "please don't tell me who I am" over steady guitars and melodic temple blocks. Closer “I Wanna Feel Love”s Italian lyrics fittingly sound like a bittersweet farewell to her former life. “I miss Italy, it’s my safe place; but Manchester is where I need to be.”
“If you stay where you are nothing’s going to happen...you need to move your feet, otherwise you’re standing still,” Bardo says. “I’ve already started my album and it feels entirely different because you change based on what you do, where you’re coming from and what you go through.” With that refreshing view of the world, playing it safe was never going to be in the cards as Julia Bardo considers her next move, on her own terms, excited for whatever sits around the corner.