Feature/Interview

Mothers In Jazz (2): Julia Hülsmann

Mothers In Jazz” is a new series, started by vocalist Nicky Schrire, and this is the second feature to be published.

The initiative aims to create an online resource for working jazz musicians with children, those contemplating parenthood, and jazz industry figures who work with and hire musicians who are parents. The insight of the musicians interviewed for this series provides valuable emotional, philosophical and logistical information and support that is easily accessible to all. “Mothers In Jazz” shines a light on the very specific role of being both a mother and a performing jazz musician.

Julia Hülsmann at Unterfahrt München. Photo copyright: Ralf Dombrowski

Pianist Julia Hülsmann is a pivotal figure in German jazz. Her seventh ECM recording, “Not Far From Here”, won Album of the Year at the inaugural German Jazz Awards in 2021, and her eighth for the label, “The Next Door”, is about to be released. Among her many fans is the German Head of State, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who recently invited her to curate a celebration of German jazz at his official residence, Schloss Bellevue. Julia lives in Berlin with her family and has an 18-year-old child.

LondonJazz News: What is the best advice you received about balancing/juggling motherhood and career? 

Julia Hülsmann: The best advice was to build a network, and to find friends with children and to support each other.

LJN: What information or advice do you wish you’d received but didn’t (and had to learn through trial and error or on-the-go)?

JH: I wish I’d been told how some books about how your child will learn to sleep through the night are nonsense! You have to follow your own feelings – every child is different, and every parent is different.

LJN: Your top tip(s) for other mothers in jazz?

JH: You can be a jazz musician and a mother. You just have to accept that the time is different than before. I started to be a lot more efficient once I had a child. For example, writing music when I had just 20 minutes to spare.

LJN: Baby/child gear tips for travel/touring:

JH: A bottle warmer for the car.

LJN: Best general travel/tour-with-child advice: 

JH: It’s possible to be on tour with your child. We had a babysitter with us, everybody accepted that we needed an extra hotel room and sometimes different schedules. You also need days off on a tour (for example, maybe after four consecutive concerts/dates).

LJN: What has surprised you about becoming a parent and remaining engaged with your professional activities and ambitions?

JH: I was surprised that it is possible to do both. I made much better use of the time I had. But I was also surprised at how much my child grounded me. You get a different view of things, of what life is about. It’s quite good not just circling around one thing, like music.

LJN: What boundaries have you set for yourself as a mother in jazz?

JH: You have to understand what you can manage to do so that you don’t always feel overwhelmed by all the things you’re supposed to do. Also, you learn to juggle all the love you feel for your child with any guilt you have because you are following your dream. Even though this “dream” is also a profession.

Julia Hülsmann. Photo credit: Peter Hundert

The Julia Hülsmann Quartet’s new album The Next Door is out on ECM Records on 26 August 2022There will be a prize draw for copies in the LJN Wednesday newsletter. SUBSCRIBE HERE

LINKS: Julia Hülsmann’s website / management

Julia Hülsmann artist page at ECM Records

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