I was fortunate to make several incredible friends while living in Louisville, Kentucky during graduate school in the early 2000s. Collectively, we refer to ourselves as the Lady Gems. Louisville is a wonderful and weird city (the city motto is Keep Louisville Weird), and I my time there was rich and precious.
Julia Willow Purcell is a dear friend from my Kentucky creative circle. She's aptly named--willowy, lyrical, whimsical, subtle and beautiful. Julia is a Music Therapist at Louisville Expressive Therapies, a mother and talented musician. She is a gentle soul, and when she sings, a hush falls over the room, no matter how many people are in it! Julia's band, Maiden Radio, will be playing in Nashville on June 20th at the Musician's Corner Festival. I had the privilege of photographing and interviewing Julia in her home:
What are some of the ideas and inspirations behind your personal and/or professional work? Do you even separate the two?
In the expressive therapies world, sometimes it's impossible to do that. Working creatively, professionally and personally become very entwined and ultimately amount to living creatively. I am driven by my need for connection. I love connecting with people, and in my profession I use music to build a relationship of therapeutic trust wherein my clients are free to take risks, be creative and hopefully move toward a better, more fulfilled self. My love and ability for music inspires me to help others realize their potential as music-makers and as creative beings. I think everyone should have access to music as a means of communication. To connect with another human being through the act of making music is pure joy.
You have many creative irons in the fire! You are one busy Momma. I remember when I first met you over a decade ago in Cherokee Park. You had just moved from Michigan and hadn't lived in Louisville for very long. Will you share a little bit about your life journey and what brought you to where you are now?
Landing in Louisville over a decade ago feels like a lifetime ago! Much of who I am today can be attributed to the influence of my father and his musical inclinations. I grew up listening to my dad's folk band practicing in the living room: harmonica, guitar, dulcimer, three part harmonies...this was the music that made sense to me, and when I moved to Kentucky and discovered this same feeling of music, I felt at home. My work as a musician in a band and as a music therapist is equally influenced by my early education in the traditional-style roots music. This old music is meant to be sung and played in groups. It's about connection and health of the spirit. Meeting other creative arts therapists along the way (you and Susanah and Theresa) was certainly one of the best things that happened to me when I moved to Louisville. To know others who are similarly driven by connection and creativity gives one confidence to carry on. Now that I am a mother of a four-year-old, I feel like it's really important for me to show her what it looks like to love what you do, be good at it and make money doing it. I hope she is inspired by what I do and follows a similar path of being true to herself while being gracious to others.
Share about a time when you had to take a leap of faith and just jump over the cliff.
My most courageous leap was when I quit my first job as a music therapist after 5 years to start my own private practice. This leap was as terrifying as it was exhilarating. The idea to start a creative arts therapy practice was born out of a conversation with my friends/co-workers while hiking through the woods at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky. Without the courage and creative ambition of my other two collaborators/colleagues/co-owners--Emily and Theresa--there would be no Louisville Expressive Therapies. I definitely wouldn't have and couldn't have done it by myself!
What is your favorite creative space/environment like?
A naturally lit, quiet room that smells like peppermint and lavender.
What books are currently on your nightstand?
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert; Daring Greatly by Brene Brown; Wild Feminine by Tami Lynn Kent; The Artists Way by Julia Cameron: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell...all half or partially read!
What is your go-to musical selection?
These days it's Blake Mills' newest album, Heigh Ho or Joni Mitchell's Hejira.
You always look so fresh and natural, and I know you're smart about what you put in and on your body. Do you have any beauty secrets or tips?
Thank you for saying that! I definitely don't always feel that way! I feel my best when I keep a positive attitude and drink a little yerba mate or green tea! I also love the dance practice--NIA--it nurtures the body, mind and soul...it's transformative!
Do you have any mottos or mantras?
I have enough. I do enough. I am enough.
Mermaid or Forest Fairy?
Spoons and bowls or forks and plates?
Haha! I like this question...spoons and bowls all the way.