Illustration by Maria Ines. Photo by Tonje Thilesen.

Collage by Maria Ines, using a photo by Tonje Thilesen. Illustrations by Maria Ines.

Julia Holter’s music is as exciting as it is challenging; though precise, it takes many twists and turns. The singer-songwriter/producer’s new album, Have You in My Wilderness, is no exception. It’s an empathetic study in loss and love, and when we chatted with Julia last month, she shared five things that inspired her to record it.

Illustration by Maria Ines.1. Home. Home is Los Angeles. I’ve been traveling a lot, and it can be intense at times. You need to have your home, and that can be your family, friends, or loved ones. I love L.A. because it’s comfortable and there’s space. It’s where I’m from.

Harmonium2. Harmoniums. A harmonium is a keyboard instrument, like an organ, that I play. I got mine in India. They make a sound that is very haunting, but also squeaky and not delicate. It’s the first thing I played when I started singing and writing songs. It [can be] a fickle instrument, too—each one is different. Mine is always a quarter sharp. I like that about them–they’re all unique. Nico was famous for playing harmonium.

3. If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho by Anne Carson. Carson’s translation of Sappho’s [work] is a classic. I always come back to it. It feels like tiny statements or aphorisms, and the way Anne Carson puts it on the page is very poetic.

4. Bluets by Maggie Nelson. It’s really beautifully written, but it doesn’t feel too personal. She’s talking about things that have happened to her, but she uses them to tell an interesting story. It’s really moving, and has really helped me through some things.

joni5. Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell. This classic record has always inspired me. I’ve always wanted to make a record [like it], with very direct ballads, and about people and relationships. ♦

(As told to Meagan Fredette.)