Combining coursework with her career is somewhat of a trend for Julia Pratt. In the spring of 2022 she submitted a song for an assignment in the Berklee Online Counterpoint course she was taking, and last week she debuted the song as the leadoff track on Two to Tango, her new EP.
The Two to Tango title is an apt one for Julia Pratt. When she ties together her educational learnings and her professional experience as a musician, the sum of the parts seem to set her success in motion. The results of this dance between coursework and career include a song with more than 3 million streams and an opening slot for Brandi Carlile, but more on those later. What about the Counterpoint assignment? How did she do?
“I think I might’ve gotten a B on that,” she says with a humble laugh.
She says she “had a lot of errors,” in the original version of what became “Hopeless Romantic,” a lush tapestry of vocal harmonies that kicks off Two to Tango.
“I really loved my instructor [Beth Denisch] and there was a Live Class where no one else showed up,” she recalls, “and she helped me revise the song so that it was actually proper counterpoint.”
Talking from her Philadelphia apartment, Julia is quick to downplay any musical training she had prior to Berklee Online: “I played saxophone as a kid, and I had all the music lessons and did all the normal stuff that kids do,” she says, “and then I promptly forgot all of it.”
In high school she began writing songs, gradually playing out and building up a local following in Philly. Her songs showcase a singing voice that moves effortlessly between intimate whispers and heartbreaking wails.
In 2021 she enrolled in Berklee Online’s Interdisciplinary Studies undergraduate degree program and continued to perform live more and more. She says this combination of education and real-life experience has not only expanded her confidence, but has also expanded her audience. Last month’s experience opening for Brandi Carlile made it clear that she gained at least one influential fan.
“When she sat at the piano for some of her songs, she was facing me directly,” recounts Julia of the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter. “She looked at me and was like, ‘decide if you really want a career in pop music because you might just get one.’ … That experience opening for her was amazing. I’m a longtime fan, and she’s really influenced me and my music, so it was really special.”
Julia’s music also seems to be really special to more and more people. The second track on Two to Tango is a duet with fellow Philadelphians Mt. Joy, and the song, “A Little Love,” is the one that has been streamed more than 3 million times already. She says that beyond the thrill of creating music that is resonating with a wider audience is the possibility of learning what to do next.
“I’m taking Creative Entrepreneurship right now, and there’s a huge focus on looking at your metrics and what do you do to spin that data into new ideas,” she says, “so now that there’s actual numbers, I’m learning more about what to do with that, especially on the marketing side.”
Julia’s enthusiasm for her music industry courses led her to recently declare a new major: Music Business. Just like with what she learned in her Counterpoint class, what she learns in these business courses she also applies to her work.
“At the end of the Music Publishing course, you’re encouraged to start your own thing, and I took that literally and I started my own LLC and this has been the first full year of me having my own publishing company,” she says.
Every single day there’s something from the courses that I’m applying to what I do, which is cool. — Julia Pratt
She says she’s also currently enrolled in the Touring 101 course, where she’s learning how to budget for being on the road for extended periods of time, and how to have better contact with venues. She says the course has also helped in her conversations with her manager, lawyer, and booking agent.
“When I’m on calls with my team, I know what questions I want to ask, and I am more aware of the ins and outs of things so that I can look out for where I may be missing something or where I could be more involved,” she says. “So definitely every single day there’s something from the courses that I’m applying to what I do, which is cool.”
One of the things that Julia has tasked her team with is finding grant opportunities, which they found in the Salt Lick Incubator, a nonprofit artist development organization founded by former Berklee President Roger Brown.
“I applied and I had this really extensive idea to make a visual EP and requested funding for recording and filming, and I won the grant,” she says about a new project that she hopes to release in 2024. “In the same phone call that I was awarded the grant, they said that for this charity event, three grantees were selected to open for Brandi Carlile, and I was one of them! So it was kind of like a double-whammy of good news.”
As far as that other “double-whammy” goes—juggling music business course work and the actual music business—she says that she wants to continue to try and do both.
“I’m getting better at finding a balance and prioritizing my career,” she says. “If I had planned to do schoolwork and then I get a call that I need to go to a gig, I’ll go to the gig, but then maybe the next day I’ll wake up and do my homework.”
She’s going on tour with Mipso this winter, and planning on continuing with a full course load while on the road.
“I made the decision this semester that I just needed to be more intentional with how I balance going to school and getting a degree, but also just learning about this stuff is important to me right now, and I think it’s really helpful,” she says.
As for the “decide if you really want a career in pop music” suggestion that Brandi Carlile made to her, Julia says that one is a no-brainer.
“Oh, I’ve decided,” she says with a big grin. “I’m going to give it a shot.”