In her music, Julia Hamilton of Lava Dreams creates landscapes and terrains to explore. Ambient sound and swimming melodies fill the environments that Hamilton is constructing through song. In "I Could Fly," Hamilton takes those environments into the physical world and asks us to jump into them with her. Through writing, producing, and performing music as Lava Dreams, Hamilton has spent a significant amount of time in a mode of self-discovery. Hamilton wants to bring the same kind of energy to her audience, asking us to look past our limitations and understand ourselves through a lens of self-love and care. Hamilton shared some thoughts about creation and inspiration with us.
When I record a song, I add ambient sounds that I feel are specific to its mood. It helps take me into the setting or feeling of the song. In “I Could Fly,” there’s wind, birds, and playground noise. It’s probably obvious why I chose these specific effects when you listen to the song. The white noise and organic textures usually add intimacy and context for me. As I’m writing a song, specific sounds like these start playing in my head. They get louder as I finish writing and they are already there once it’s time to record. To me, nature creates some of the most emotional and beautiful noises. When I add natural elements to my own music, it expands the scope of the song. Eventually I’d like to go out and capture my own field recordings but for now I’ll have a sound in mind and I find the 1 or 2 options that pre-exist as apple loops in GarageBand. And yes I’m still working with GarageBand for now. That will be changing very soon though.
All that I experience inspires me, I think. I believe that almost anything can be valuable to observe and learn from. I’ve been writing songs for ten years now and even before that I was writing poetry and creating art. It feels involuntary to me at this point and has for a long time. I could be anywhere doing anything when a lyric or a melody rises to the forefront of my mind. I could be dreaming. I could be just laying in the grass at the park as I was when the chorus for “The Bottom” randomly started playing in my head for the first time. I like to think my songs are gifts to me. I’m not sure who the giver is… God? That you? But I always feel so excited when a song pours out of me like that, which they often do. Most times I don’t fully realize the true meaning of a lyric or a song until long after I’ve been performing it. And then it strikes me like lightning. “Ohhhh, THIS is why this song came to me at this time.” I learn things about myself from this process and I get really excited by it. My own intuition guides me and I’ve learned it’s best to follow that.
I am limitless. When I feel I’m limited, it’s because I’m not seeing myself clearly in that moment. I’ve been noticing that as a child I knew a lot more than I realized at the time. Reconnecting with my childhood perspective has helped me see through to some basic truths that became clouded with the anxiety of adulthood as I got older. Lately I’ve been culminating this cycle of unconditional self love. So far it’s allowing me to look at myself through a lens of brutal honesty. I know what my weaknesses are and I have the power to work through them with love for myself. In this light I can see a mistake I’ve made a million times and finally figure out why I’ve been making it. In this light of choosing to love myself thoroughly, I’m revealing myself to myself. Through this lens I can also see that my potential has no ceiling. If I can keep that in mind, I can rise and grow forever. Lava Dreams itself has been a huge part of loving myself and reminding me I’m limitless. I never thought I would be a producer. Now I find myself trying to be the best producer I can be. With every track I record I see tremendous growth in myself and it comes out through the music as well. Each song I release will be better than the one before it. It’s a way of pushing myself to go further every single moment. I hope that other people can listen to my music and choose to love themselves in a similar way. You’re limitless.
This process is evolving constantly. Since I’m focusing on production and learning how I can be a great producer, lately I’ve been creating the beat first before I record the guitar or vocals. I used to think of my guitar part and vocal melody as the skeleton or foundation of the song. Now I’m seeing the beat as the skeleton and I like where this is leading me. Because I’ve been songwriting since I was 15 but I’ve never been a producer until now, this change in perspective is allowing me to elevate my music and skill set at the same time. It’s helping me learn and get better.
My live set has a live sound but it also sounds like my recordings. This is because I sing live and play guitar live but I also play with backing tracks so the beat and other sounds are still present and a part of the performance. My live set will evolve as I can afford more gear, I think. Eventually I’d love to use a drum machine and loop pedal to have more control over triggering specific sounds spontaneously and building the beat live. For now though I’m super happy with my live set and it’s just exciting for me to play shows and perform live.
Catch Lava Dreams live in Kansas City this summer: