Earlier this year, Julien Huntley, who performs professionally as Jul Big Green, decided that one of his 2020 goals was to hone his digital recording software skills.
The Bedford resident has long had the art of composition and songwriting down, as evidenced by his debut album 5am to Midnight, an eclectic 2019 effort encompassing hard rock, indie-pop, hip-hop and all points in between.
In collaboration with local songwriter Astronymer, Huntley’s slow-building, pop heady “Miles to Go” was chosen as the theme song for this year’s virtual Cleveland International Film Festival. Following a weeklong residency at Cedar Point and a handful of acoustic performances at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he’s now hard at work on his second album, 5pm to Twilight, which will incorporate more rock and pop than the last.
“The next album is going to have a lot more of the upbeat type of feel,” he says. “I think this next one is going to be better.”
Although he’s well-versed in other creative musical outlets — he DJs weddings and has been known to loop his own instruments for live performances — the hands-on process of actually capturing his ideas in the studio hasn’t always been his favorite thing.
“Doing the mixing side, that’s not fun,” he says. “But if this is an avenue that I can use to get into more writing or more playing, as long as I’m in music, I’m going to learn every side of it.”
Pushing himself to be self-sufficient and versatile landed him a new deal in July when he was commissioned to create a song for the West Coast restaurant chain Del Taco. When he needed to have final recordings ready to go within 72 hours, Huntley had his managers install composing and recording software Ableton on his computer.
The resulting 30-second jingle, which appears in two Del Taco commercials, is driven by the same laid-back hip-hop beats, sinewy bass and throwback soul grooves found in most of his music.
In local music circles, there’s no chance that Huntley, who was born in New York but grew up in Twinsburg, is in danger of being jettisoned. While the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of many of his summer gigs and a planned tour that would have culminated at South By Southwest this year — the ever-optimistic Huntley found a silver lining. He captured the rhythmic repetitiveness of the everyday in a slow-building pop-heavy new single “Work” in September, and plans to release more new music this fall.
“I’m actually really appreciative for what has happened, because it’s turning out to be a better year than even last year,” he says.