Interview with Julia Norton

Julia is a Jungian voice coach, singer, actor, and podcaster who, for the last two decades, has been empowering other creatives and voice professionals to embrace vocal confidence, get unstuck, and move into the full magnificence of their creative potential. She has over 25 years experience teaching people how to have a free and healthy voice and develop vocal confidence.

Julia Norton noticed that teaching singing was bringing up emotions in her clients which took her on a journey that brought her using movement therapy and shadow work using Jungian therapy. Julia is a Jungian voice coach, singer, actor, and podcaster who, for the last two decades, has been empowering other creatives and voice professionals to embrace vocal confidence, get unstuck, and move into the full magnificence of their creative potential. She has over 25 years experience teaching people how to have a free and healthy voice and develop vocal confidence. Born in the UK she studied jazz musicianship and qualified as a Voice Movement Therapy practitioner in 2000 and then moved to San Francisco, where she composed music for theatre, recorded an award winning album ‘Lullaby Island’, sang jazz, musical theatre and trained as a voice actor. She was a teaching artist for the San Francisco Opera, has presented at multiple international conferences, won a ‘Voice Arts Award’ for her role in Disney’s game ‘Jedi Challenges’ and has two podcasts ‘Dark and Twisty Tales’ and ‘Your Free Voice’.  She lives in Northern California and divides her time between coaching, acting, singing and getting up to stuff with her family and noisy terrier. She is passionate about helping people to uncover their shadow, discover a free, connected and healthy voice and step into their full creative potential.

Connect with Julia

Website: yourfreevoice.com
Facebook: @julianortonsvoicebox
Instagram: @depthvoicecoachingwithjulia
LinkedIn: @julianorton

 

00:03 Welcome to the Resonate Podcast with Aideen. I’m here today with Julia Norton. Hi, Julia. Hi, Aideen. Thank you so much for having me on. We’re so excited to have you on. Julia is a Jungian voice coach, a singer, actor, and podcaster, who for the past two decades has been empowering other creatives and voice professionals to embrace vocal confidence, get unstuck, and move into the full magnificence of their creative potential.

00:33 You’re so welcome. We’ve so many parallels in our careers because I know that you are also singing teacher and you’ve moved into this new realm of Jungian voice coaching and working with the shadow. How did this all come about for you? Where did your journey start? Ooh, well, I think I was always, I always sang, you know, I would just kind of.

01:02 born singing, it was that kind of thing. And I sang in church choir because that was where I could sing and I loved all the close harmonies and everything. And so I started teaching harmony workshops when I was in my teens, I was like 18 or 19 and I would rent a community centre and I’d teach a part harmony workshop. And the reason I’m telling you this is because I realised very soon that people were

01:29 get into tears, they get really emotional about what was happening, you know, either a breathing exercise or just the harmonics, the resonance in the room. And from that really early age, I was like, Oh, I don’t feel qualified to be able to handle this much emotion, right? That’s a lot of emotion. I can sense that this is not just we’re not in Kansas anymore, right? This is not just singing, right? This is something else. And so I feel like I withdrew from

01:58 trying to share it with other people until I found voice movement therapy training in London in 1998. So I did a full two year training with that and that voice movement therapy is like an expressive arts therapy using the voice as the main tool. It comes from the work of Alfred Wolfsohn, who was a World War One.

02:27 stretcher carrier, he suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome and was having oral hallucinations. And the quick cliff notes is he cured himself, because he had been a singing teacher prior to that, by singing the sounds that he could hear in his head. Right? And so by singing the sounds they heard from the screaming dying men in the trenches, he actually healed himself from the PTSD.

02:54 and went on to have this rather extraordinary voice practice in London. He moved to London and his singing students had like four and five, six octave, seven octave ranges. I mean, crazy, crazy ranges because his approach was use all of it, right? Use all of your voice from the highest squeaks to the lowest rumbles. So that course introduced me to shadow work.

03:23 because there’s a lot of Jung in there. And I kind of been there. Jung as in the psychologist. So. Yes, Carl Jung. Carl Jung, yeah. Yes, thank you. And so that’s kind of how it set off into the shadow realm for me, was in that training. And that was now 25 years ago, 20 years ago. How do you explain shadow work to someone who doesn’t know what that is yet?

03:50 Well, if you think about it as, if you were naturally inclined to be a poet, right, if you were maybe a sensitive child who wanted to write poetry, but everybody in your family was athletes or really into American football or rugby or something like that, it may be that your tendencies to want to write poetry…

04:18 go into shadow because it didn’t fit in with your home environment. Sometimes it doesn’t fit in with the culture that you’re raised in or, or the community, right? So things that aren’t helpful or acceptable when you’re forming your identity can get pushed into shadow. Now, also what goes into shadow is also the things that are unacceptable. Uh, laughing at funerals.

04:44 you know, throwing your cat in the bin, you know, anything like that, anything horrible like that also would go into shadow. And most people don’t have inclination to do those things. But if you did, that would go into shadow too. But lots of positive things go in there, anything that doesn’t feel right. So, like with some cultures, it might be speaking at great volume, right? Wouldn’t be acceptable culturally. So that would go into shadow. So they might have to work harder to project.

05:13Right. that’s kind of the Cliff Notes version of what the shadow is. I’m really curious to know what you learned about yourself through that process. Oh, straight for the jugular. Let me see. What I learned. Well, I think. In the initial process, when I was doing my voice movement therapy training.

05:42 I had come from having this very pure, clean, kind of crystalline voice, you know? I actually remember it getting moulded that way by my choir teacher because it was very open and quite breathy as a kid and he was, he wanted me to sound like a choir boy, you know, cathedral choir type of that sound. So I had naturally gone on to singing folk.

06:10 a lot of Irish, actually, Irish, Scottish and English. The most tragic ballads I could get my hands on. I mean, that was the stuff I really loved to sing. And so I did a lot of work at folk festivals and then I went to this training and I realized that I kind of had two modes because I don’t know about you, but I went to every voice workshop that was available, like in my teens, it was like Czech Gypsy singing or Bulgarian singing or…

06:38 South Africa and whatever, you know, I went to all these things and I was able to do this quite loud calling style, right, like the Eastern European style calling style. All this very clean, Flutie folk style, if you like. And in my training, I learnt how to kind of identify different aspects of myself.

07:07 that had different qualities of voice. I started to learn that it wasn’t just one or the other. There are places in between and…

07:21 taking up space, I suppose, is okay. It’s not going to get you killed, right? Because sometimes it can feel that scary. Yes. You don’t realize that’s what it is when you don’t want to go on stage, but it can feel pretty intense. So that was kind of the first stage for me that taking up space was kind of okay. I love that because I feel a lot of people don’t feel they have permission to speak.

07:51 So there’s this feeling of I, I’m not worthy of speaking or I need someone else to give me an opportunity to speak. I need to put up my hand to speak and it and it’s not safe for me to speak unless I’m invited to speak. And that not everybody, everybody’s very different. I mean, our personalities are very different. So whatever is the part of you that you don’t

08:20 want to look at, that would be the shadow for you. Whereas for someone else, it could be like, say for instance, I might’ve been very gregarious and very outspoken, but I wouldn’t have spoken about my feelings. I didn’t feel safe to express unhappiness and things like that. So a lot of emotional stuff got put away, even though I seemed very confident with my voice. So that would have been my version of the shadow, right?

08:50 Right, yes, except there’s another little kind of nuance to it as well, because the stuff that we feel uncomfortable about and keep small, that’s not as much shadow, because we can see that. Shadow we can’t see. Yeah, right. Shadow is very hard to access, because it lurks in the unconscious. It’s gone into this unconscious area. So how you might identify what’s in your shadow.

09:20 one of the ways is to work with triggers. So it could be what, so it could be, here’s an example. I remember during that training being introduced to the work of Meredith Monk. Do you know Meredith Monk? So she’s a super experimental New York avant-garde composer, vocal, layered vocal stuff. And I was listening on the train, I was going from London to Sheffield to go and visit my

09:51 And it was lots of squeaks and extended vocal technique and rhythmic stuff and wailing. And it made me so angry. Like I had a really visceral, trigger-y, angry feeling about this. And it turns out that’s how I wanted to sing, right? Like that’s, I wanted to, I didn’t realize it at the time.

10:19 I did not realize it at the time. And it was like, who is this one making this racket? And it’s a terrible somebody who professes to feel really, really open about the human voice. And it’s all lovely. And whatever you’ve got, I love it. But in my, you know, late 20s, sitting on that train that particular day, I had this really strong visceral reaction to Mark. I will go on to say I have every single one of our albums. And I’ve been to a workshop with her since then. But you know, at the time, I was like,

10:49 And, but it opened up something in my unconscious. And I think what we do is we try and keep it unconscious by pushing it by saying, No, I don’t want that trigger that that’s, that’s ugly to me. I don’t want it. Right. Yeah. But actually, when I was writing music for theatre and circus and stuff over here, that was that was the style I use, I use layered vocal stuff with squeaks and noises and

11:18 all the kind of ugly sounds and wailing and it opened my improvisational chops kind of completely wide open. That’s really fascinating because I mean, I studied jazz music so that first stage of you know, being okay with making a mistake because improvising…

11:42 you have to put your voice into the room to hear, does it work or not? And it’s, it’s scary. And I’d often say to people who are learning to sing that singing is guessing because you’re just somehow picking a note out of nowhere. And a good singer is someone who’s guessed so many times that they are more confident of what will come out of their voice, but it really is a guessing game at the beginning, we don’t really know how it’s going to sound until we do it.

12:10 And that can feel very vulnerable. Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Although I will say that one of the beauties of voiceman therapy is that you’re making all kinds of noises that you would normally throw out. OK, you’re making all kinds of growls and squeaks and hisses and moans. And I’ve got quotes here, but ugly sounds, right? Yeah. And when you can do that.

12:41 And you can do that in front of a room of people, like in a workshop, and be okay with it. The freedom that comes from that, because I think we get too hung up on being perfect and too hung up on getting it right, getting all the tone and the resonance and making sure you remember the lyrics and hitting the timing just right. And you can kind of forget the animal side of what it is to sing. That animal engagement. And I think…

13:11 that makes jazz improve easier too. Because once you’re not afraid of making a crazy sound, actually if you listen to some really, really excellent Ella Fitzgerald improves when she’s doing her funny little growlies, that ne ne ne ne ne ne ne, you know that kind of stuff, like that’s off the charts, you know. Like not only is she an amazing singer with crazy improvisational chops, but she is preferred to make funny noises too.

13:40 I know. Well, my favourite way to teach singing is with funny noises. Right. Exactly. It’s very freeing. It is very freeing. And it is about unlocking that, you know, the part of our brain that’s being critical. So that left right brain kind of the linear thinking mind is fighting with the creative side. And if we can make things playful and silly, it’s like even a serious adult can start to.

14:09 have fun with it. And if anyone’s listening and you’ve never sung before, just finding the right coach can be the key. Just somebody that lets you just let it out. Yeah, absolutely. That’s so true. Being a playful attitude is a really big deal when it comes to singing, you know, being prepared to make mistakes and to play, you know. Yes. I loved the kind of people that I met when I studied jazz music.

14:40 just the way that people were within a band environment and how accepting they were of that process of figuring it out. And I know that the research does show that if you are in a group or in any kind of a band situation, that it fosters that team effort very highly and it reduces bullying and things like that. Everybody’s the same, you know. People forget how important music is as…

15:08 Yeah, a form of personal development, a form of self-development, and it’s being minimized a lot. What do you what do what you? How do you encourage people to work with you on voice, you know, as a as a way to get to that magnificence of their creative potential? How does it define how do you go from making funny noises to having magnificence and creativity?

15:37 so it depends on the person, right? Because everybody is very, very different. And I think when I look at my, you know, because I’ve been teaching voice for over 25 years, right? And so when I look at it on a spectrum, there’s the very technical stuff. You know, when somebody really, in order to feel empowered in their voice, in order to feel vocally confident, they need, and they’re looking to master.

16:04 their mix range or something like that, you know, because they want to be, you know, having their voice not pop apart in the middle of their head and chest voice. So there’s a very technical stuff. And then there’s the deeply therapeutic. And it’s very, I’m very clear with everybody. I’m not a therapist, but that doesn’t mean the work isn’t therapeutic. Right. And so depending on where they’re coming to me, you know, on that line, it’s going to depend on how we work.

16:34 But say if somebody comes to me, and I do tend to attract a lot of people who either were singers, like they maybe went and did a musical theatre degree or they were doing stuff and then they stopped and it got shut down and they don’t know how to start again and they feel like they’ve missed the boat and it’s over, right? Or they…

16:57 always wanted to sing but it was such a secret hidden thing and somebody told them they sang flat or somebody said they made too much noise or something like that. Those are kind of like the people I tend to draw most to me now. I think when I was first teaching I worked with a lot of people with abuse histories, eating disorders, you know it was much more intense work in that respect, but now its people who have shut down in one way or another. So

17:25 we work on freeing the body, obviously. So it has to be a somatic experience. So a lot of movement, centering, expanding their vocal range, working with volume, different textures. I want you to have all the paints in your paint box, that kind of thing. And then working with the emotions that come up as we work.

17:53 So when somebody has very strong emotions, maybe a memory, maybe a physical trigger, I will, you know, I’m intensely focused on keeping a safe boundary for people. And I can hold that person in a space where they’re safe to go through that feeling. Maybe we’ll bring in.

18:22 drawing or, and when I say drawing, I mean, making marks on paper, right, journaling, scribbling stuff down. It’s very kind of in that expressive arts therapy approach to a point where they are having more understanding about what it is that’s underneath, what it is that is bubbling up from the unconscious, from the shadow about why they felt like they couldn’t do this before. Why did they think they would die if they sang?

18:52 at the work karaoke event. Right. And yet their co-host that would get up there and do it and not even think about it. You know, it’s because something in your story has told you that it’s not safe in one way or another. So we do with that kind of thing until it’s integrated, right, that that story is integrated and seen and, and sometimes it’s helpful to name

19:19 that sub-personality. I work a lot with the idea of sub-personalities like we’re a theatre. Okay. So you have different characters that come along and so maybe I had a diva sub-personality and she takes up a lot of room and so sometimes if I notice her coming and it’s not helpful, at least I can catch her before she comes in because I’m so

19:48 Does that make sense? Yes. I think we can all be caught up in the moment at times. And sometimes we want things to be just the way we want them. That’s the kind of way that I would say, I would, you know, in my head, identify a diva is just, it has to be just sad. And I’m like that sometimes too, you know, but there are times when that just makes life much harder.

20:17 if I don’t have that control or if it’s going to make it very difficult for someone else to do what they’re doing because they can’t give me what they’re hoping for and expectations are being dashed and I’m just making it a fuss. And I believe that it’s safe for me to make a fuss, but I actually don’t want to make a fuss if it’s not going to get me anywhere, because I just hate that. Right. And I think my point, what I meant more was,

20:48 understanding that we have different sides of ourselves, different personas actually that come out in different situations. And Jung said, you know, until you make the unconscious conscious, it will rule your life and you will call it fate. Right? So if you are unaware of your diva or your antagonist or your sloth or whatever, then

21:16 they will interfere with your life, they will run the show and you don’t even see them coming, you’re projecting all the results onto everybody else around you and you can’t do anything with that. So it’s all about self-awareness, it’s all about understanding yourself and there’s no judgment in any of it, right? There’s no judgment in any of it. I just, I can understand sometimes, like you were saying, sometimes the diva can be really useful when you’ve got to get on a big stage in front of hundreds of people.

21:45 feeling like you could raise your arms and take that space, you need her, right? Yeah. But not necessarily at Thanksgiving. Yeah. Not necessarily at a family dinner. It’s not going to help. It’s not going to help anybody. Right? Yeah. So yeah, it’s more that we’re multiple, not multiple personalities, but we have separate personas for different events, different occasions in our life. And they probably all sound different as well, I’m guessing. They do.

22:13 do sound different. And if you, as part of our voice woman therapy training, we had to do a cabaret where you present 15 of your personas. And they each have a different song, a different way of using their voice. So, you know, it might be a dance, it might be a rap. It’s totally bonkers. And I don’t think we presented all 15. I think we each presented maybe five. I can’t quite remember.

22:41 But it’s a deep dive because first of all, you’re really trying to identify all the different ways you can use your voice so that you can do that. Yeah. Because otherwise you’re just going to sound somewhere in the middle all the time. Right. Where’s the, where’s the fun in that when you’re trying to train to be a coach who can take people to the, to the moon and back in a way. Yes. I’m trying to show them all the places they could go with their voice. You kind of have to be able to do that yourself as well. Right. I mean.

23:11 Yes. Oh, absolutely. I feel like you’re offering people like a map, you know, but you’re saying you can get from here to here on this road, but here’s the, you know, the road less travelled and here’s the high road and here’s the low road and here’s the cross country road and, you know, to really start exploring and seeing it as a form of an exploration of yourself and your life. And that just brings in that idea of it’s a playful

23:39 the serious thing as well. Yes, yes, absolutely. And you know, and I have people bring costume elements and the play saucepans and you know, I mean, it’s fun. And the thing is, you get to try on all these different things and often they’ll come from an authentic movement journey where, and that’s, you know, part of the dance movement therapy kind of approach where you’ll move from

24:09 and then, and then we add voice, right, to that. So sometimes sounds and songs will come from that, that you didn’t even know you could sing that way. And people will be like, I didn’t even know I had that voice inside of me. Right. So they’re, wow, who would sing like that? Right. What kind of song would they sing? And you can try all those things on and then you don’t have to hang on to anything that you don’t want to, right. You totally get to choose. It’s so much about choice, but if we don’t try all the things, how can you know what

24:39 your authentic voices, because the voice you’ve been talking with your whole life might not actually be your authentic voice. Now that’s trippy to me, right? Because if you’ve been conditioned into being quiet or not taking up space or not singing high notes, then maybe you haven’t even found your authentic voice yet.

25:07 You’ve created all this suspense now. So we’re all going, it’s going to pop out any second. My authentic voice, but it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful. And you know, to not be critical of our voice when it’s doing weird things. I mean, sometimes, you know, you are moany and sometimes you’re sad and sometimes you’re happy. And there is sometimes that bit of judgment, you know, from others. If you’re doing something out of the ordinary, it seems to put everyone else on.

25:35 the back foot sometimes too. So how do you handle how others are responding to our voices?

25:43 Well, I think that being okay with yourself on a much broader level is going to mean that you’re okay with your voice. Right, the sooner we can let go of the idea that we could possibly please all the people, let that go, like right now. That idea you had about

26:12 pleasing that person that you want to get a job with or just let it all go. Like the more you can tap into who you really are, because nobody else can do that as well as you, right? So tap into like who you really are. The things that absolutely bring you joy, the gift that you can share with other people, whether that’s through your creativity or how you work in the community or.

26:42 writing a book or whatever the thing is. And just understand you get to shine that light and people are going to love it, hate it, be indifferent, really, really, really doesn’t matter. And the same is, it’s nobody’s opinion about your voice matters, except your own, right? Nobody’s. And the sooner that you can, because I think it’s hard for.

27:09 a lot of people to love your own voice and I still have plenty of criticisms about my voice but there are things that, oh I’d like to work on that so I can, I was just trying to sing a Barbra Streisand just before we came on air actually because of her memoir this week and all that and I thought oh yeah I need to work on that because I want that to be more ringy but that’s different from oh I hate my voice, I don’t want anybody to hear my voice right and if you can’t love your voice

27:40 can you like it? If you can’t like it, can you appreciate that you have one that you can communicate with the people that you love or that you can set boundaries for yourself, right? So that people don’t have to set boundaries that you can ask for help when you need it, right? Can you at least appreciate the voice? And that’s the first step, right? Just sometimes baby steps is the way you have to go. Yeah, that’s just…

28:09 there you go. Drop in the mic here. There we go. Is there anything else you would like to say to the listeners before we start to wrap up today?

28:25 I suppose it would be that thing of… if you have…

28:33 always wanted to sing or express yourself more fully creatively, right? But you’ve never done it. Start to just kind of maybe sit with why is it? Like why, what are those reasons? Like maybe write out the reasons why you haven’t done it yet. And you can go through that list and then think, ask yourself like is that real? Is that a real thing? You know.

29:03 and you can go through and kind of eliminate things. It’s giving yourself permission to have a creative life. We’re so driven to try to just exist in this super high speed, very technical, very capitalist world, that giving yourself the space to be creative is really undervalued. And understanding that every time you are creative, you’re getting…

29:32 giving somebody else permission to be creative. You’re going to inspire your friends and your family to do it too. So, you know, take some quiet time and think what’s stopping me really. Beautiful. That would be what I would say. That’s gorgeous. So it’s the inner work, so the inner self, the inner voice and really listening to what’s going on inside so that then you can step out with confidence.

30:01 Absolutely. In many ways. It’s been an absolute pleasure to have you on the show today, Julia. I have been on your Instagram, so I’ve seen that everyone can check that out. And you’re on LinkedIn. You’ve got a great website. I’ll be putting all of your ways to contact you in the show notes, obviously. And I’m really excited to share this episode. Thank you to all of our listeners. And I just am so grateful to everyone listening today.

30:29 Thank you for being here and good night and goodbye. Thank you.

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