Growing up in church, Philadelphia-based R&B singer-songwriter Julian King was surrounded by and cultivated a love for music from an early age. In the 8th grade, he realized he loved the stage more than anything and began to focus his energy on song and dance, going on to attend the acclaimed Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts and Philadelphia University of the Arts where he graduated with a BA in vocal performance. “As I matured, and my understanding of love and relationships developed along with my voice, I realized I could truly express the depth of love in my heart through song. I treat relationships with the greatest respect. I love people and all creatures. I’m all about tolerance and respect. I’m all about inclusivity. I love having seats at tables, but I would love for everyone to have a seat at the table,” says King. King expresses himself and the depth of love in his heart through song, which has allowed others to relate to him on a deeper level. 2019 allowed him the opportunity to appear on The Voice as a part of John Legend’s team, which re ended of the power he possessed inside of himself and opened him up to a wider network that has helped him in his music career. He released his debut 2019 album Made In China and 2020 EP Takeout, which featured collaborations with Mare, Just Frenchie, Kymberli Joye, Shaun Sounds, Kevin JZ Prodigy, Precious, and Brayla.
Most recently, King released the single “Can We Go Back”. “I remember sitting in my room recording this record, not knowing it would be the very song that would begin my healing, from one of the most trying dating experiences to date,” says King. “I found my heart in the palm of what now feels like a stranger, and making the decision to walk away was utterly gut-wrenching. That universal feeling of wanting to go back to the days where your stomach fluttered at the sight of his name on my phone, is something I will always credit him the author for. Yet, it’s from this song on that I started writing and feeling in a way that directly mirrored the exact chapter in my story of love, which was something I didn’t do often or as intentionally. I describe this song as the backbone to the emotion of this next era of mine, and the catalyst for boys like me feeling seen. Ironically before I let him go, he ended up loving the song and requesting to hear it all the time. As much as I loved that he loved it, I knew it was over at that point. This song is for all the lovers”. With a focus on releasing more music and visuals and future projects, make sure to follow Julain King to stay up-to-date on all upcoming music and news!
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You have always loved music but it wasn’t until you were in the 8th grade that you realized you loved the stage more than anything and put your energy into song and dance. What can you tell me about your childhood and developing a love for music and the arts, which you have said started in church? In what ways did attending a performing arts high school cultivate your love for music and the stage in your younger years?
Growing up in church, music was introduced to me at a very early age. It was the foundation of my weekends, and I naturally gravitated to the things I had the ability to participate in. Attending The Philadelphia High School for Creative & Performing Arts only further gave me the opportunity to find just exactly what made me happy. I did it all! It allowed me a non-judgmental space to be free and try all of the things I had been doing in a closed private space (church), but for the “world”. Imagine being a fat kid in a bakery — that was me!
You joined Grammy U in college while attending University of The Arts, as well as the Recording Academy-Philadelphia chapter. In what ways did these programs help you to network and build connections and establish your name in the industry?
To be honest, Grammy U was the reason I met almost every Philadelphian musician and music industry person. It opened up doors to panels, networking events, parties, soundcheck .. anything that I got invited to, I made it a priority to be there. And the work payed off. I feel like I know just about everyone in the city of Philadelphia who is anyone.
What can you tell me about expressing the depth of love in your heart through song? Do you feel as though you have an easier time expressing your emotions and what you want to say through song rather than talking?
As an Aquarius, expressing myself can be challenging, but through music it’s a bit easier. Depth of love, and my personal dating experiences was actually never apart of my initial plan, but through it, it’s allowed others to relate to me on a deeper level, and has been pretty healing, not gonna lie.
You released your first EP ‘Sing For You’ in 2017, followed by ‘Made In China’ and ‘Takeout’. What has your journey as an artist been like, from your early days through this current time, in finding your sound as an artist and your place in the industry?
It’s been one hell of a journey. I started off as a reference singer for someone I met at a Grammy party (who just so happens to be a great friend of mine now), and from there, it led to labels asking who I was, into artistry. It was almost as if this life chose me, and I actually was with the shits lol. Now looking back, I didn’t know who I was back then. Just was taking direction and hoping for the best to be honest. Over the years, the sound was found. And over the past 3 year specifically, I’ve honed in on that sound and have perfected it. I’m proud to say that when I hear my records, they sound like “Julian King” records, undoubtedly.
A few years ago, you moved to China for a year and performed sold-out shows. How did that opportunity come about and what was your experience like?
A friend recommended me for the job, which was touring different parts of south east Asia, and Middle East – I however was just stationed in China. At the time, it was a divine moment, as it almost seemed like I had no choice.
The first few months were depressing being away, and in a city where like four people spoke English, but it taught me valuable lessons about solitude, as well as giving me time to think about who Julian really was. By the time I left, I was super popular in Guangzhou, and had many friends. Quite honestly, I wasn’t ready to leave.
What can you tell me about your experience of being on The Voice in 2019 and of being on John Legend’s team? What did you learn from him and from being a part of the competition in general? Do you feel that it opened up opportunities for you going forward?
What I will say is that, it was the best welcome gift I could have ever received. Being away for a year, I had my thoughts of how I’d be received back after so long, and babyyyy — what a way to come back. Although not much time spent with John, he did remind me of the power I possessed the entire time, and wanted me to wear that crown not just in the competition, but outside of it too. His last words to me were “I’ll be seeing you soon” and I can’t wait until that moment manifests itself.
The show opened me up to a wider network which I’m grateful for, and really gave me the upstart to being back home that I needed. Also helps to get verified on IG because of it lol
You recently released your latest single “Can We Go Back”, influenced by one of your most trying dating experiences to date. What can you tell me about the process of writing the song and how you feel that it helped you to heal? In what ways do you feel the song is the backbone to the emotions of this next era of yours and does this new era look like for you?
Readers read. Painters paint. Writers write. Singers sing. It wasn’t even anything I thought about, more so everything I just released. What I will add is that yes, it is the backbone to this next era of mine. One in which a black man, who just so happens to be gay, is being vulnerable, open, curious, explorative, confident .. all of the above.
Having also released a music video for “Can We Go Back”, what can you tell me about the concept behind and filming of the video?
I wanted it to feel just like our situation ship felt. Raw. Homebody. Curious, yet in love. Lazy. Mushy. Touchy. I wanted it to tell the story of our story, and I wanted it to feel cinematic, which I believe we captured beautifully.
As an openly queer Black man in America and in R&B, how have these different aspects of your persona intersected to inform your experiences? You have also said that you aim to make room in R&B for a greater LGBTQ+ experience. Do you feel like the industry has made strides in being more accepting?
Let me rephrase you .. I’m a black man in America, in R&B, who just so happens to be gay. If the world can start to reshape our need to subconsciously label everything, then we can get to a place where acceptance is a subconscious verb, not a conscious action. Yes, I believe we’ve made strides, but we (the LGBTQ community) have made noise, we just haven’t made the right type of noise — and I’m hoping to do that.
As someone who is not afraid to push the bounds of what it means to be a Black gay man in today’s world, what does that look like for you? What can you tell me about your journey in living unapologetically as your most authentic self and the ways you hope to change hearts and minds within your culture and beyond?
Honestly, I don’t have all the answers. All I can do is live my life as example, and treat people kind and with respect. With anything in life, it’s about love. Everything you see with me isn’t a gimmick, its my actual life. I love to jump rope. I love fashion. I love clothes. I love switching up my look. I love dancing. I love it all. Live life as an example is what that journey looks like to me. And I will continue to figure it out with the grace of God, and with the love of everyone who I encounter.
You recently did a photo shoot with photographer Amadeus Purcell that was picked up by Italian Vogue! How did you come to meet and work with Amadeus and what can you tell me about the photo shoot and what it felt like to be featured in Italian Vogue?
Amadeus is a young, yet very gifted photographer. Never in a million years did I see this being published in Italian Vogue, but it was one of those divine timing moments that was so unexpected but so beautiful. What was just meant to be an explorative, editorial shoot, turned into one of the highlights of my summer last summer. I remember getting the call that morning and his first words were “holy shit!”. Lol the rest is history.
With regards to the photo shoot, you said that you wanted to explore the concept of masculinity and use your platform to redefine masculinity and challenge the ideas around it. What does masculinity mean to you and do you feel that society as a whole is beginning to challenge old ideas of masculinity, as well?
As I look back, I should have chosen my words better. Masculinity doesn’t really mean shit to me, to be honest. It’s a label that we give so that we feel comfortable about the energies we receive from elsewhere, but it’s not a way of living nor is it something that produces anything. While I believe my “masculine” and “feminine” coexist beautifully in the same space (balance), I love that I, and many like myself, get to rewrite the script of our lives. And as I navigate this world, I see more and more people doing the same. That to me is masculinity. Leadership. Ownership. Confidence. Love.
You’ve said that “one of the greatest powers we have is to express ourselves through fashion.” What statement do you hope to convey through fashion and do you have any favorite designers and/or fashion icons?
“They gone talk anyway, just do the shits”.
My favorite designers include Therry Mugler, Ye West, and Jerry Lorenzo.
What can you tell me about the ‘Dance Dance Dance Ball- The NYFW Edition’ you were recently a part of?
The Dance Dance Dance Ball was put on by one of my close friends Julius Ferriera, and held at Le Bain nightclub in meatpacking district. It was honestly a beautiful celebration of ballroom, queerness, and just overall life. It was half the week of NYFW and was huge success. Recently joining the ballroom community, it was a beautiful night that I was able to capture to put in an upcoming video for the next single “Bring it Back”. It was the essence of confidence and sexiness at its finest.
What’s next for you?
After world domination??!??!?! Lol Releasing more records, more visuals, and preparing for an amazing pride month. Also I’m working on some future projects — stay tuned! Xoxo