Interview by Carol Wright | Photographer: Tiffany M. Simone Photography

We got to chat with singer/songwriter Julianna Sweeney who recently came out with her debut album Exit Fo[u]r.

Growing up did you write original stories or poetry before you found yourself writing songs?

Writing has always been something I was fond of. I had written a few stories before I wrote my first song but my main outlet in terms of writing was definitely poetry. I have always revered the magic that happens when words click together – both in terms of rhyming and functionality.

You recently released your album Exit Fo[u]r which you created while in college. How did you balance finishing school and completing the album? Did you carve out time each day to work on Exit Fo[u]r or did you focus more on writing when inspiration hit?

Writing and Recording the album were actually a part of my capstone project for my major –  Bachelor of Science in Music Industry. Although I took the project a step further and used it to really help launch my career, I was very fortunate to have it take a priority alongside the rest of my classes during my final semester. I typically scheduled anywhere between 2-7 hours a day on the album (depending on what else was going on that day). In regard to the songwriting aspect, because I have been writing so long and preparing the outline for the album, the songs were written before I began recording the album.

How did you settle on the name Exit Fo[u]r? What does it mean?

The album title has two meanings: 1. Exit 4 is the exit that I take in NJ that brings me home, but it’s also the exit in NY that I would take to go up to college. I feel like there’s something to be said about a journey that begins and ends symbolically in the same fashion. 2. The bracket around the “u” gives the title a more personal meaning in that sometimes you need to take the exit for you. Sometimes we can be hesitant about taking our own path because we are afraid to stand out, or fail, or go it alone. It’s only through those experiences, however, that we really grasp what it takes to reach our fullest potential and do the things we never thought we were capable of.

Ready” is a beautiful opening song. What inspired the lyrics?

Thank you so much! “Ready” was a song that I wrote about a year and a half ago now. Shortly after my mom passed away in 2017, I entered into my first “serious” relationship. You know the deal – you think you’re in love only to realize the both of you aren’t actually on the same page as to what exactly that really means. Needless to say, we only lasted about six months. For the next year or so though, I couldn’t get him out of my head. It wasn’t until I wrote this song that I came to understand that I was using him as a distraction from processing what had happened with my mom. It wasn’t until I wrote this song that I was finally ready to move on.

You’re donating all proceeds from merch and physical CDs, as well as all royalties from the first week of streams to childhood cancer research. Tell our readers a bit about the reasoning behind this and where they can listen to the album.

My mission is to give back through my music. This mission began shortly after my mom was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer back in October of 2016. She dedicated her life to helping those around her – especially kids. She was a mother to many (her 3 children and over 100 youth group members) my best friend and my biggest role model. She ended up passing away in April 2017. Whenever my siblings or myself would show our frustration at the situation, she would always remind us that there were kids out there that had to go through the same thing, and in many cases worse. I chose to release the album on her birthday in honor of her and donate the proceeds to childhood cancer research because it was a cause that was close to her heart. You can check out the album now on all major music platforms (Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Deezer, Tidal, Etc) and you can find out more behind the scenes info on my website at https://www.juliannasweeney.com/album-no-1.

What advice do you have for aspiring singers?

My advice for aspiring singers would be to know your worth and never give up. If this is something you’re serious about, don’t let anything stand in your way. Remember that your value comes from you, and the only one who stands in your way is you. Lastly, never forget the people that helped you get to where you’re going, and if you’re ever given the opportunity, or you have the ability, give back through your art – it is, in my opinion, one of the most rewarding things you can do in life.