We had the good fortune of connecting with Julian Graef and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Julian, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I was raised in Missoula, Montana. Growing up I spent a lot of time with family down near Jackson, Mississippi, as well as Gulfport/Biloxi, Mississippi. Growing up in a predominately white city with not a lot of ethnic diversity – spending a lot of time in these areas early on gave me a new perspective of people and where I lived that I feel not a lot of my peers/friends had growing up; having been introduced to a variety of different cultures and ways of living. The city (if you can even call it that) that I grew up in had/has little to no music scene: unless you want to be a folk or country singer of course. There’s about 5 venues in the town of 80-something-thousand people that host real rap shows, few of which are all owned by the same company that for whatever reason doesn’t like supporting/booking local acts; and the other two being a questionably maintained basement dive bar, and the other being a literal bicycle shop (all love to Free Cycles).
Literally, nobody, not a single person has ever made it big in the rap scene; not only from my hometown, but from the entire state. I feel as if I could change that.
Spending a lot of time out of the state of Montana growing up showed me a broader scope of opportunities that lie outside of Montana’s borders. What especially intrigued me was performing arts, specifically dance and music. My parents had raised me listening to Michael Jackson, James Brown, Various classic rock bands, and a sprinkle of Shinedown and old Maroon 5 here and there. Specifically Michael Jackson was a huge early inspiration, starting what would be a 10 year long journey in dance I embarked on starting at the age of 5; giving me an introduction to music and rhythm at a young age.
In my life, I’ve endured a lot of struggle and change. When my family first moved to Montana we barely had any money, sleeping in a friends basement. Mac and cheese, hot dogs, and beans and rice was essentially the diet. We were on almost every financial assistance other than Welfare that we could get. It wasn’t until my early teens towards the end of middle school for me that my family started seeing a bit more monetary success; still not ballin, but definitely not broke anymore. This rapid change would help me keep grateful for everything I have around me. While we were far from being in the best position, we still could have had it a lot worse: and I’m forever thankful to my parents for making all the sacrifices they made for myself and my four brothers growing up.
A lot of these different positions I was put in growing up; staying at friends houses for prolonged periods of time, staying with family for months at a time, being around the country for prolonged periods of time, being in poverty and in the middle class, etc., really helped shape the head that I have on my shoulders today, and I’m forever grateful for everything and everyone I have around me.
While my upbringing was strange, bouncing around from big southern cities to my small northern home – being broke in childhood but seeing my family find success as I grew up, coming to The City of Angels from somewhere where nobody cares about the music…I’ve seen both sides of a few coins: I feel like I finally have the opportunity to bring people together from my home-state, and open the doors for the success of many from where I’m from.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I was introduced to Hip-Hop/Rap and R&B music at a young age from a few different sources, one of the most influential was my brother Michael. I’m the youngest of four children in my family, all of my siblings being brothers who are about six, eight, and ten years older than me; the oldest of which had formed a rap group when he was in high school. About ages six through nine I was so inspired by my oldest brother. I looked up to him like he was my super hero. I constantly wanted to hang around him and be like him and listen to the music that he listened to, but what he was listening to at the time (early 2010’s) was a lot of Eminem, 50 Cent, Gucci Mane, Papa Roach, and various other artists. So whenever I was around he would put on Mac Miller for me, who at the time was starting to really pop off in the music scene with ‘Blue Slide Park’, ‘KIDS’, ‘Best Day Ever’, ‘Macadelic’, and ‘Watching Movies with the Sound Off’. My brother (Michael) playing this around me made Mac Miller (aside from my brother) the first rap I ever listened to; and having been primarily raised listening to Michael Jackson, Chris Brown, and countless classic rock bands, this changed how I listened to music forever. This (as well as being introduced to other Hip-Hop and R&B artists by my cousins in the south) inspired me to start writing lyrics of my own in about 2nd or 3rd grade in poetry class, just wanting to be like my brother.
Years and years passed, my brother changed his focus and started building a brand for photography and videography: but I kept writing music. In about 6th grade I started getting bullied by my classmates and the kids I had previously called my best friends. This, along with another event I would rather not speak about, was the beginning of the mental health struggles that I would continue to endure for the rest of my life leading up to now: and was the beginning of music truly taking my heart and becoming more important to me than ever.
Throughout middle school I found writing music in my notebook during class or when I was on the bus or when I was at home, or really anywhere was my only escape from what I was facing mentally. I never told anyone, I never shared what I had written with anyone, and I certainly did not want anybody to know that I was struggling. … In freshman year of high school I found myself at the lowest I had been at that point. I found myself home alone one night, feeling like I was fighting for my life in my bedroom. I don’t know where the thought came from exactly, but I decided I would get an app on my phone and record something that I had written and put it on SoundCloud as kind of a journal entry: or a cry for help. But it wasn’t long after I did this that my whole high school was bullying me to absolute shit over this (to be fair, it was awful music); but I had a couple of friends who thought I had potential and told me to keep with it.
For 2 years I recorded and released spotty music to less than 50 followers on SoundCloud, and it wouldn’t be until November of 2019, during my junior year of high school when I first got noticed. The night before my 16th birthday (I was a year young for my grade) I recorded a song called ‘Thorns’ featuring vocals from a close friend who wishes to remain anonymous. I had previously talked about being at the lowest point in my life, but my junior year brought a new low for me. I had just been diagnosed with a list of mental illnesses as well as my fourth diagnosed traumatic brain injury, I had fallen into addiction and abuse of several substances which I prefer to not be public about as of now, and I was forming a plan to take my own life. I recorded and released this song (Thorns) as kind of an “outro to my life” if that makes sense. A final cry for help. That same night of recording and completing the song I said screw it and threw the song on SoundCloud and went to bed, thinking at the time that it would be the last song I ever release, and that this would be the last week of my life. The next morning I went to school like any other day. It wasn’t until fourth period right before lunch that I checked my phone and saw a list of SoundCloud and Instagram notifications going down my screen. I opened the SoundCloud app to see that my song had nearly 5,000 views in less than 12 hours. This was insane for me. When lunch rolled around I hopped on my computer and found out that my song was added to a SoundCloud Editorial playlist, and random people were eating that shit up. That sparked a whole new wave of inspiration inside of me. Never before had I thought of the music I was making for myself could have an impact on totally random people.
This truly started everything for me.
In the time that ‘Thorns” was available for streaming it amassed roughly 85,000 SoundCloud streams, and 20,000 Spotify streams. Unfortunately, the song has been taken down from all streaming services including SoundCloud as a part of my rebrand, but you can still find the audio for the song on YouTube on some repost pages.
With a whole added meaning to making and releasing music, and a small fanbase that I had earned from the release of ‘Thorns’ and the singles that followed after, I decided that I wasn’t quite ready to be done with this whole “life” thing yet.
Moving in to January of 2020, I had gotten clean from the addictions that had plagued my life for months at this point, formed a small local Art Collective, and met and started a relationship with a girl (this relationship lasted for a little over a year and a half, under further questioning I would love to talk about the influence and inspiration this individual had on me, and how the end of our relationship further progressed my music career). Overall, I was in a much, much better place in life.
In March of 2020 I was introduced to a Utah artist named Buppy. (Edward Kingston) by a mutual friend who I had grown up with. At the time of this introduction I had just turned 17 years old, and Buppy. had just turned 16.
Over the next few months, Buppy. and I would send music to each other back and forth, finishing each other’s songs and building a catalog of collaborative unreleased music (only 2 of which songs would ever be released, then eventually taken down).
After keeping close contact with Buppy., I was told that he intended on starting an independent record label and wanted to sign a small roster of artists. After a few months of confusion and being in the dark about the whole situation, Buppy. contacted me and reached out to me with a contract offer. I took said offer to my dad and paid him to have a lawyer look over the contract as well. After reading through the terms, I quickly agreed and signed to Resonance Entertainment for 5 single deal over the course of a year for a dollar amount I choose not to discuss.
This contract offer felt like my first foot in the door for my own success, and the success of the rest of the talent in Montana since the release of Thorns.
In February of 2021, I completely removed my entire discography from every streaming platform and completely rebranded myself and my image, and in March of 2021 I released my debut single ‘TIDAL WAVE’ under the same alias “Xedrin”, but appearing as a completely new artist.
Both the audio and video of TIDAL WAVE were a huge success in my book, with TIDAL WAVE sitting at just over 110,000 Spotify streams, and about 35,000 views on the video on YouTube; and it was with this release that Buppy. and I started planning my relocation from Missoula, MT, to Los Angeles, CA.
While in 2021 my discography is limited to only 2 songs on all platforms (‘TIDAL WAVE’ and ‘RUNNING BACK’), and 3 additional SoundCloud Exclusives (REAP & SOW (feat. Buppy.), ‘Vendetta’ (feat. KM 11:11), and ‘Bye Missoula’) I’ve seen more success this year than ever before in my life. I’ve grown my following substantially, and made connections and friendships with individuals who 2 years ago I could have only dreamed of.
While I don’t think I plan to release another song in 2021, my calendar for 2022 is looking more than stacked; and I have released planned for the entire year starting right off the bat. I have a LOT that I’m very excited for. I have a lot of music that I’ve been saving for over a year planning the right releases, I have a lot of music planned to release featuring some of my favorite artists, now close friends; and I couldn’t be more excited to share it with the world coming in to 2022.
While my upbringing was strange, bouncing around from big southern cities to my small northern home – being broke in childhood but seeing my family find success as I grew up, coming to The City of Angels from somewhere where nobody cared about the music…I’ve seen both sides of a few coins: I feel like I finally have the opportunity to bring people together from my home-state, and open the doors for the success of many from where I’m from.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
1000000% taking them to the following places:
* Melrose Trading Post (only open on sundays @Fairfax High School on Melrose x Fairfax)
* LALA’S Argentine Grill on Melrose
*Bak Kung KBBQ, honestly forgot where it’s at but somewhere in KTown
*Dockweiler Beach, I got a dope spot that’s kinda hard to get to
*Maybe take them to a concert in DTLA if there’s somebody good playing for relatively cheap
*Abandoned LA Zoo
*Topanga or Malibu depending
*Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles
*Walk the shops of Melrose/Fairfax district as a whole
*Drive up to Big Sur or Monterey
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Chris Ramsey, an old close friend and former gymnastics teammate of mine who was tragically killed in a car crash during a summer storm. I looked up to him like he was one of my older brothers. He truly taught me perseverance, patience, self control, and confidence. He was one of the few who early on told me to pursue my passion in music, and who always did everything to support me in all aspects of my life. Rest in Paradise, Chris. I wish that you could see me right now.
Gretta Eberline Matthew Crawford Michael Graef