Meet Our Muse — Julianna Laine

She rises with the sun, tiny fragments of light sifting through the trees into her kitchen window. She pulls her favorite beanie over her tangled hair and pours a hot cup of coffee. She takes a sip and jots down a lyric in her journal that she thought of on the spot. She loads her surfboard and wetsuit into her car and drives straight to the beach. When she strides into the water, the cold pacific somehow finds a way to bite at her skin through her thick neoprene wetsuit and gloves. As she catches wave after wave she unravels an entire song in her head, each turn in the wave a new lyric. She dances on the water as she plays with the melody. Later that morning, she sits on her porch steps with her guitar. As her wetsuit hangs to dry, she begins strumming and piecing together the notes that the ocean sang to her. Before she knows it, she has fragments of a song.

Meet our Muse — Julianna Laine

We got to sit down with Julianna in Tofino, British Columbia on our latest expedition. She serenaded us at our campfire where her voice painted the perfect backdrop to the fire embers dancing and twirling amongst each other. We did manage to ask her a few questions along the way, but really, we just wanted to listen.

Julianna was gifted her first guitar when she was just twelve-years-old. Music seemed to come as naturally to her as breathing, her father being a musician since childhood. “I remember being so captivated by how music can create an environment, how music has the power to make people feel comfortable and present.”  Growing up in the countryside of land-locked Calgary, Julianna dreamt of the sea her entire childhood. With a wonderment towards water, and the stark differences between the ocean and the landscape of her upbringing, she found a way to the ocean in young adulthood. “When I was 18 I moved to Byron Bay, Australia, and this is where I learned to surf and crossed paths with a couple important people that encouraged me to start taking music seriously.” Splitting her time between the local bar she worked at for cash, and busking on the main street, Julianna unknowingly kickstarted her musical career living in Byron. When her work visa ran out, she moved back home and got her degree in Graphic Design. “I was studying abroad in Austria and I started booking shows that I could play on the days between my university classes, or more accurately, instead of going to my university classes. I would sneak my guitar on the plane (it IS small enough to be a carry on- I swear!) and book a last minute ticket to whatever venue could speak enough broken English and agreed to let me near a microphone.” After graduating university, she moved to Tofino, a rainy cold-water surf town nestled in the cedar trees at the end of the road. “It is a town that has always had a special place in my heart since I was a kid and it finally felt like the timing was right to make the move. The foggy, peaceful morning surfs, the lively creative community, and strong female surf presence in the lineup captured my heart once again. Out of all the places I have lived, this one feels most like home.”

“Recently my mom gave me a book that is called How to Make a Living Living. I guess that is what I am doing - trying to make a living by living a life I love.”

julianna walking
julianna in motion

“Tofino’ is my first single and it actually has an interesting story of how it came to be. I had been wanting to write a song about Tofino for quite some time and had so many notes in my phone about observations of the town, the people I was meeting and experiences I was having. I was sitting on this idea for awhile and had gotten a message from two writers in LA, Thomas and JP, wanting to schedule a co-write (this was during COVID, so virtual writing rooms had become quite common) I had never met them before and we hopped on a call for our first co-write together (I almost bailed on this call to go surfing but I am SO glad I didn’t). I started to tell them about Tofino and how it can be difficult living in a tourist town because it can be so transient with people coming and going. You have to learn to say goodbye to people you thought would always be around. We started digging deeper on my experiences in this town and put all these thoughts together, trying our best to capture this nostalgic, fleeting feeling.”

“I once had a friend tell me that songwriting is like playing the lottery. Each time you sit down and start to write, you could be writing the next hit.”

the girls walking

“While I was writing lyrics, Thomas and JP were playing a beautiful melody on piano and the words just seemed to find their way into this melody. ‘Tofino’ was written right then and there and hasn’t been changed since this initial call. It always amazes me what you can create out of thin air.

I once had a friend tell me that songwriting is like playing the lottery. Each time you sit down and start to write, you could be writing the next hit. Sure, the chances are slim but you never know how a song is going to turn out and where it might take you…  I think that mystery and excitement is why I love it so much.”

julianna portrait
Q&A with J

ROARK: If you could pick a favorite song you’ve written, which would you pick? And why?

Julianna: This question is like asking a parent to choose their favorite kid haha… But ‘Tofino’! This song has such a special place in my heart because it was the first time I felt like I had created something that truly represented myself as an artist and captured a feeling I had spent so long trying to figure out how to put into words.

This song is my love letter to Tofino, and I wrote it for all the people who have come and gone and have special memories, moments and relationships in this (or any!) magical little town.

“My ‘notes’ on my phone are out of control, with little sentences or conversations I overheard that feel like they have a spark to them - I always am looking for pieces of inspiration.”

ROARK: How do you write a song? Is there a specific creative process that you follow?

Julianna: Each song tends to have a different process, depending on my creative headspace and flow of the music. I am first and foremost a songwriter - so the words and lyrics have a lot of weight in creating my music. My ‘notes’ on my phone are out of control, with little sentences or conversations I overheard that feel like they have a spark to them - I always am looking for pieces of inspiration. When I am in the water, I have a lot of time to think without distraction so often, I will think of new concepts and ideas while waiting for waves. Most of my songs start with an idea or concept and then I play around with chords on the guitar until I find something that sounds like it could match the concept or words. From there, I hum the words over it until something interesting happens.

Currently, I am experimenting with a free flow way of writing where I will play one chord and sing over it for about 10 or 15 minutes and just try to zone out, turn off my logical brain and judgment and see what comes from just being creative and free. I will then listen back to my recording and sometimes there will be something that sticks out to me & I will build off that.

ROARK: What is the most gratifying aspect of writing music?

Julianna: Having people connect with your music and messages. Since releasing music, I have gotten so many messages from random people who have connected with different songs and that makes me feel like I am doing something right.

“If where I am going is like anywhere I have been, I am already living my dream life.”

Julianna: As an artist, I feel that it is our job to take emotions & feelings and translate those into something that anyone can relate to. I aim for my music to capture those feelings that are sometimes difficult to put into words and my greatest hope is that these songs are a soundtrack for important moments and memories that people are making.

ROARK: Where do you want to go from here?

Julianna: If where I am going is like anywhere I have been, I am already living my dream life.

julianna playing