Making Folk Music With a Hard Edge

Julie Woods

By day, Julie Woods '81-'86 is a mild-mannered, Harvard-educated administrator with American Science and Engineering in Cambridge.

But by night, she becomes a self-professed "maniac" as she jumps onstage with her guitar.

Woods, who will give a solo performance of her own songs this Friday night at Paine Hall, has been a singer with the popular Boston-based rock band "Rick Berlin" since she was an undergraduate living in Claverly Hall.

She describes herself as "schizophrenic as hell," balancing what she calls her "work mode" with her "performance and writing mode."

"When I go onstage, I'm completely out of my mind," she says. "If I'm in performance mode or writing mode, then there's nothing else."


Mental Hazards

"The reason I can function, while so many musicians can't, is that I consciously surround myself with a group of people who, if they see me go glassy-eyed, know it is their job to get me from point A to point B without getting myself killed," Woods says.

Besides the apparent mental hazards, Woods says performing can be risky as a career because of the inherent uncertainty. In light of Rick Berlin's long-standing difficulties in acquiring a major-label recording contract, Woods says she would advise prospective musicians, "Get some training, and get a regular job. You don't want to do this. I would wish this on somebody I don't like."

But Woods says she persists because "I don't want to do anything else. I have `masochist' written all over my forehead."

"I perform because I have to," she says. "It's better than chocolate, it's better than sex, it's better than...anything."

Woods compares herself to Tom Hanks' character in Big, a 12-year-old in the body of a 30-year-old. "I'm playing adult," she says.

"People Music"

Although Rick Berlin is a hard-edged rock band, Woods' solo material leans more towards what she reluctantly calls "folk music," as problematic as that term is.

"I'm not a big folk freak. John Denver does not make my heart go `sputter, sputter,'" Woods says. She prefers the term "people music."

The old connotations of folk music--"Peter, Paul and Mary, that kind of thing"--are too narrow for her music, Woods says. "Just because its folk doesn't mean it can't be danceable or have a funky side or be bluesy," she said.