Julie Rhodes is no longer the music scene’s best-kept secret

Roberto Terrones

To call Julie Rhodes an overnight sensation is not far off.

The Woburn native, 30, wrote her first song in one night. And, until a few years ago, not a soul had heard her sing, save for a few pals in her car.

After spending a good part of her post-college years working at an ice cream shop, the powerhouse blues-belter has since toured the US and Europe, recorded at Muscle Shoals, and won new artist of the year at the 2016 Boston Music Awards (she was nominated for three others) for her debut Americana/blues-rock album, “Bound to Meet the Devil.”


We caught up with the Woburn High grad as she readies for two upcoming Massachusetts shows.

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Q. I think to a lot of people, it feels like you just burst on the scene. Have you always wanted to be a musician?

A. I’d wanted to make music for a long time, I just never thought I was capable. I was always shy. I took guitar at 13 for a few months, and didn’t really like it. I was too self-conscious and nervous. I picked guitar up again at 24 and started learning chords, but still never did anything with it. It wasn’t until a few years after that that I started to get really into music. I wrote my first song at 26, “Help Me Roam.” It’s not out on any album or anything.

Q. What prompted that?

A. I was at a house show, at someone’s house in Providence. They had a couple friends [musicians Dan Blakeslee and Jonah Tolchin] playing. After that show, I was talking to Dan, and he was trying to remember a song by Spirit Family Reunion, and I sang it to remind him, and he was like, “Wow, you can really sing. You should write a song.” And I wrote it on the drive home. As soon as I got home, I [set it to] chords and sent it to them the next morning. They listened to it together and said I should keep writing. I didn’t expect them to be so encouraging. So I kept going with it, writing other songs, and sending them to Jonah. After the third one, he told me he wanted to produce a record for me. That was “Bound to Meet the Devil” [in 2016].


Q. So before that house party, no one had ever heard you sing?

A. Before the house party, I was not singing in front of anyone, ever. I was always a shy person. I never really thought that I was able to do that until I had encouragement. But I can’t be in the car without singing [laughs], so some friends knew I could sing. As soon as I could drive, I’d go to shows all over the Northeast, all over the country. Some friends spent long hours in the car with me, driving anywhere from New York to Pittsburgh or Cleveland. I’d be in other states on school nights. I’d sneak out for shows in Connecticut or Rhode Island and be up for school the next day.

Q. What shows would prompt you to drive that far?

A. Good Old War, a band out of Philadelphia. A band out of New Jersey called Steel Train. Punchline out of Pittsburgh. Seeing shows is my favorite thing ever. I didn’t have a lot of friends in school; I found my friends at shows. They were people like me who loved live music. You’d go to see one band, another band would open, and your catalog grows. It’s like dominos.

Q. What do you love about live music?


A. That’s indescribable for me. It’s something that just happens when you and so many other people are in a room together, and you’re all experiencing the same thing, this beautiful feeling of togetherness. Then the music is touching you, too.

‘I was always a shy person. I never really thought that I was able to [sing in front of others] until I had encouragement.’

Q. What did you want to do?

A. I always knew I wanted to do something with music, but in the back of my mind — so far in the back of my mind that I didn’t acknowledge it. So I never knew what I wanted to do. I got my degree in computer science from Endicott College, but never did anything in that realm. I worked in food service for 6½ years; I worked at an ice cream shop. But I never had any other dreams aside from music.

Q. You talked about that spiritual feeling you get from being at live shows. Do you get that feeling now at your own shows?

A. It’s a different feeling at my shows. There’s something special about being on the other side of the stage. You can see the people in the crowd feeling that thing, that togetherness. That’s a special thing, to provide that for people. It’s an incredible feeling.


At the Sinclair, Cambridge, Nov. 24 at 8 p.m. At Treehouse Brewing Company, Charlton, Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. Tickets:

Interview was edited and condensed. Lauren Daley can be reached at