Julia Finnegan remembers her relationship with Kingston’s music scene beginning when she was a teenager and winning the Renaissance Music Song Writing Contest. Now working on her second EP, Finnegan hopes to make a career out of her passion.
Finnegan, BFA ’20, has been surrounded by music her whole life — her father plays guitar and was in a band in high school.
Growing up, Finnegan wanted to be just like him and her desire quickly inspired the start of her music career.
“He would write songs for me when I was little and I just always wanted to do that too,” Finnegan said.
When the family moved to Kingston in her fourth year of elementary school, the city itself proved to be the missing piece in Finnegan’s musical development.
After encouragement from local musician Andrew Vanhorn, Finnegan entered a song writing competition at 13 years old. Despite the inexperience of the young musician, Finnegan won the under 18-category.
“That was my first time letting people hear my music other than me,” she said. “Kingston is just a very musical city so it made it easy for me to do that.”
Since then, Finnegan received more positive feedback from her competition performance and encouragement from other local Kingston artists.
With this support from the city’s music scene, Finnegan has made the transition from high school band performer to a musician with an EP, making money off of her music and her gigs. She’s taken her musical talents to Tir Na Nog, The Mansion and other essential Kingston establishments.
For Finnegan, the best part of the musical experience is meeting people who share similar experiences with their careers.
One such artist is Emily Fennel – after meeting when Fennel was a judge at the contest Finnegan won, they bonded together during joint vocal lessons. Finnegan now views Fennle as a mentor and friend to bounce songs and ideas off of. She even gave Finnegan’s music more exposure by performing a cover of her original song in Kingston with some of the city’s most famous musicians.
“I showed her this song, [‘Speechless’] and she asked me if she could cover it at her show. Pan Chancho has these backyard barbeques and I was really exited so I went and she plays with Rob Baker and Gord Sinclair from the Tragically Hip so they were there,” Finnegan explained. “She texted me later and told me that Gord Downie was watching from the parking lot so that was really fun for me.”
For Finnegan, her musical process is different than most artists she knows about.
“I think for me, words matter a lot. I love writing and that’s usually the first thing I do is write lyrics before I put music into it,” Finnegan told The Journal. “I think that’s different because other people usually prefer music before lyrics. I just think that there is a big importance to words.”
Finnegan released her EP Thoughts Collide in 2015 and the next big milestone she’s working towards is releasing a second EP.
Of course, as a full time second year university student, finding the time can be hard. That kind of scheduling includes putting in as many hours as necessary into the studio and performing shows. Even so, Finnegan plans to continue passionately pursuing her musical career.
“You just have to learn to make time for the things that you love,” she said.
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