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Talented Local Musician Uses Life’s Winding Road to Inspire Herself And Others

For many of us, life’s long and winding road of ups and downs can either be a grinding detriment, or a  blooming inspiration. For Juliana MacDowell, when it comes down to where she is now in her life, it has to be the latter, for sure.

MacDowell has been through it all, a childhood chock full of moving and shaking beginning as a baby living away from her parents, then briefly raised by her grandparents at massive Kentlands farm in Gaithersburg MD while her folks found their place in the world to eventually raise her and her eventual ten siblings, all amounting to, well, a pretty intense beginning for a youngster.

And the challenges didn’t stop there, she ended up losing close relatives and friends throughout her early years, including her beloved great grandfather, the legendary Otis Beall Kent, and then lost her 27 year-old brother to cancer. She was always dealing with ongoing anxiety and depression amidst all the ramifications of her early life. Yes, joy was also present in threads and places, as was a flow of loving family as time went on, yet it was a pretty rocky road here and there for Juliana back when.

But if you look at lovely “Jules” now, where she is and what she has accomplished since she began the serious musical phase of her life eight or nine years ago, she has cautiously embraced her talent and gloriously blossomed into a stellar, talented and revered Loudon County-based singer-songwriter with an unforgettable voice and a stunning sense of songwriting, taking the challenges and the triumphs life has brought her and turning them into an inspirational revelation of power, beauty, compassion and yes, fabulous homegrown talent. MacDowell tells her motivational life story rife with candor to Living On Music‘s Steve Houk this Monday at 7pm.

Juliana plays piano as young girl (courtesy Juliana Macdowell)

“There were things that happened when I was very young that kind of set the tone, held me back for many years and created an anxiety disorder that was so debilitating,” MacDowell openly tells Houk on Living On Music. “Things I wanted to do, I couldn’t do. And everyone who has experienced this knows what that’s like. But the one thing I could control is music. That is the one thing in my life they can’t touch, they can’t take that away from me, it’s what I need, it’s what I do, it’s who I am. And I know that now more than ever.”

MacDowell’s anxiety and self-doubt kept her from pursuing and believing in her musical dreams throughout her formative years, that is until around 2012, when she was finally almost forced into joining a band. It was then when things began to take off for her and her solo music career and since then, she has released two solo albums and has a third on the way produced by renowned Nashville producer Bil VornDick, she has bonded with some of the DC and Key West region’s most respected musicians, and performs shows often (moreso outside of a pandemic of course) in both the Virginia region as well as down south in Florida, where her burgeoning musical life was unexpectedly given a huge boost by a wonderful community of music people.

MacDowell continues to struggle a bit with feeling confident in her truly glowing talent, given her late coming in the music business, another likely consequence of her often wearing youth. But it’s the producers and musicians she works with and revels in that remind her of what she brings to the table. “These guys have been so good to me over the years. They keep reminding me that what one may lack in formal training can somewhat be made up for by a deep passion and true connection with music.”

Mike Ault, Andy Hamburger, MacDowell and Sonny Petrosky play live in 2021 (photo courtesy Juliana MacDowell)

Overall, MacDowell has taken those anxious early times and turned them into a perfect motivational cog in her stunningly strong and powerful musical machine, which also includes a love for charity-based performing, illustrating her deep sense of empathy. She even created a concert called Julesapalooza during the last year to help local musicians get some money and play some music.

Like many musicians, MacDowell still battles that omnipresent aspect of self-deprecation, but given the way her musical career is flourishing, and how it shows such strong and infinite promise, she does find ways to dodge the bullets and thrive.

“When you’re doing music, you’re reaching deep into your insides all the time,” MacDowell openly reflects. “And you’re taking them and spilling them out for the whole world to look at. It is a very challenging lifestyle to lead, this music thing. But…it also drives us on.”


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