With her graceful grasp of melody and poetic yet piercing lyricism, L.A.-based singer/songwriter Julie Mintz creates Gothic Americana—a country-infused take on folk that’s both sweetly ethereal and steeped in moody melancholy. Produced by Moby (whose live band she joined as a background vocalist and keyboardist in 2011), Mintz’s debut EP The Thin Veil proves possessed of a dreamy sensitivity and soul-stirring honesty reminiscent of songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris. And while all of The Thin Veil is built on lush, atmospheric arrangements, each song lets Mintz’s gorgeously rendered and quietly powerful lyrics stand as its stunning centerpiece.
Culled from a collection of more than 60 songs that Mintz has penned in recent years, The Thin Veil finds the Texas-bred multi-instrumentalist collaborating with a host of musician friends (including Moby and pedal-steel guitarist Michael Rozon, whose elegant playing lends another layer of tender emotionalism to the EP). Whether illuminating the loneliness of L.A. living in “Wildflowers” (a breezy serenade that likens the city’s love-deprived girls to roadside blossoms that “smell like Mama’s perfume and bar-room smoke”), ruminating on romantic self-destruction in the sweeping and sorrowful “Til She Disappears,” or revisiting Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Lodi” with lilting harmonies and wistful strings, Mintz approaches each of her songs with artful authenticity and aching intensity. It’s that complexity that also prompts Mintz to deliver a meditation on death that’s sublimely haunting but hopeful, as on The Thin Veil’s “Lavender Lips” (a gently hypnotic piece that opens with the lyrics “When my blood runs black and my skin’s cold as snow/And no one can tell me where my soul goes/I’ll have secrets inside me you’ll never know/They’ll hide in the dirt with my ashes and bones”).
Born and raised in the South Texas city of Corpus Christi, Mintz grew up on the bittersweet, heartbreak-addled balladry of classic country artists. “My dad loved Patsy Cline—her greatest-hits album was always playing when I was a kid, so now my ear naturally goes to that old-school-country chord progression and the melody that comes along with it,” says Mintz. Learning to play piano as a little girl and picking up guitar in her early 20s, Mintz also held true to country’s emotional tradition and gravitated toward “sad songs about love and heartache” at the start of her songwriting exploration. But as she developed as a lyricist, Mintz began delving into darker themes. To that end, she points out, The Thin Veil’s title refers to her longtime struggle with insomnia and to one possibility of its origins. “In certain spiritual traditions there’s a theory that the veil between the living and the dead becomes thinner at night,” she explains. “The idea is that artists and creative people often have insomnia because it gives them easier access to this whole other realm and, because of that, heightens their intuition and creativity.” Adding that the veil image also “evokes the fragility of the marriage veil and the funeral shroud, as well the concept of disguising oneself,” Mintz notes that The Thin Veil ultimately “encompasses love and death and all kinds of hidden feelings.”
With her onstage experience including performances with Moby at L.A.’s Fonda Theatre and Avalon (as well as on major late-night talk shows like Conan and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno), Mintz now frequently shares her boldly intimate music by playing local venues like the Secret Bar on Fairfax and School Night at Bardot. Naming Joni Mitchell’s deeply confessional album Blue as infinite inspiration for her own songwriting, Mintz points out that—through her live performance and the recording of The Thin Veil—she aims to provide both herself and her listeners with a sense of reflective release. “Songwriting lets me tell the darker stories about myself through melody and through lyrics that people can interpret in the way that means the most to them,” she says. “It’s a vehicle to express and work through my neuroses, so that it all goes down easier.”