Julia Nunes is your average music major: always busy, always practicing and always on tour.
Wait a minute. On tour?
Maybe she’s not that average after all. Rochester, New York-based Julia Nunes, or the YouTube user Jaaaaaaa (with seven a’s) as she is known by many of her fans, is gaining popularity fast. Originally beginning with a piano at age 7 and migrating to writing her own songs on guitar and ukulele, she has increased her fan base to include soccer mom YouTube users, college students and middle-school students.
Both of Julia’s parents are musically inclined, and from a very early age she was exposed to music. Her grandfather on her mother’s side was a jazz pianist, and her father continues to write educational children’s songs today — his father was a Portuguese composer.
When Nunes was 7, she was required to play the piano and said that she hated it because at that age, she didn’t want anything to do with music as it was something her parents did. She first thought, “Ew! Music is for dorks, like my dad.”
Although it wasn’t always something she was happy about, Nunes’ musical childhood is something she is grateful for today. She said that if it weren’t for her parents playing songs by The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Who, then she would not have had been influenced to play the music she plays today.
Hearing her father compose songs also taught her about the process of writing music, and she said she appreciates having the encouragement from her parents.
But some things Nunes taught herself, like playing the guitar, ukulele and melodica, in addition to piano.
On YouTube, Julia Nunes’ account Jaaaaaaa is nearing 160,000 subscribers, which places her at 35th most subscribed musician of all time. The name Jaaaaaaa was originally “Ja,” a nickname that Nunes’ friends came up with when she was in high school that combined the first and last letter of Julia.
“There’s seven a’s because that’s how many a’s came out when I held down the a key,” she said.
Nowadays, Nunes is a busy self-made musician. She tours four days out of the week, spending Friday through Monday playing shows on the road.
In addition to touring, she attends college three days of the week (she won’t say which college for privacy reasons). She carefully planned this semester’s schedule to have classes only Tuesday through Thursday.
“My teachers were pretty cool about it.” Nunes says. “Some were not cool with it, but I got by.”
As busy and hectic as she is, “It’s fun!” Nunes said.
At first she kept what she was learning in her music theory classes separate from her song writing, but Nunes is beginning to incorporate some of her education into her songwriting.
Nunes plans on graduating and receiving a music degree, and although not entirely sure when she will graduate, she says she does not want to drop out of school and become famous.
Julia has released three albums on the Rude Butler Records Label that she set up with her mom and dad. Her latest EP, “I Think You Know,” was recorded with the help of fellow YouTube-based musicians Pomplamoose.
The title track is her most recent and favorite song that she has written, and as she says, “probably my most famous.”
Nunes has opened for Ben Folds and played in his set several times, and she still keeps in contact with him by phone. Whenever Folds is touring and has a show within 10 or so miles, he and Nunes try to perform together. Now that she is out of school for the summer, Nunes says it will be much easier to collaborate with Folds for a show. Out of all the bands she could tour with, however, Nunes says she would love to tour with Say Anything.
“I talked to Max (Bemis, lead singer of Say Anything) the other day. He said he was proud of me!” Nunes said excitedly.
Among upcoming performances, Nunes is scheduled to play at Bonnaroo 2010, a four-day music and arts festival in Manchester, Tenn. As for upcoming YouTube videos, Nunes says she might have a chance to record one before Bonnaroo.