By Chantelle Wallace | November 7, 2012
It’s a chilly Monday evening at Opa’s South Lamar patio. Juliette Buck serenades bundled-up listeners who enthusiastically applaud after each song in her one-hour set. Buck, 30, plays her mix of original music, blues and oldies with her guitar and harmonica each Monday at Opa after working 8:00 – 5:00 as a Medicare Supplement Insurance Specialist. She can be seen many times each week at venues from Round Rock to San Marcos playing solo or with her band, Seventh Sun.
Her day job pays the bills so she can pursue her musical aspirations at night.
Like many musicians, Buck got her start singing in church. She joined the Houston International Theater School (HITS) at the age of 5, and starred in shows such as Grease and How to Succeed in Business. In the 8th grade, she was given a guitar and at 18 began to write songs, which were mostly performed for family and friends.
“In high school I sang soprano 1, and at UIL state competitions there was always this one girl who was one place higher than me in the rankings,” Buck says. It turned out that girl was future American Idol Kelly Clarkson.
After her 2006 move to Austin from her Stephenville, Texas, hometown, Buck says she continued to “bum around on the guitar” and only dreamed of playing onstage.
Two years ago, Buck’s HR Manager saw an Austin 360 ad for Girl Guitar.
“She told me the ad said Girl Guitar classes involved drinking wine and playing guitar, so sounded perfect for me,” Buck says. She joined a Tuesday night group class taught by Girl Guitar founder and singer/songwriter Mandy Rowden, and became fast friends with Rowden and the class’ eight other women.
Despite years of playing alone and teaching herself, Buck found the classes challenging.
“Playing around other people in a group makes you really want to improve,” she says. It also afforded her the opportunity to play on stage at world-famous Antone’s Night Club, where Girl Guitar showcases are held after each six-week session.
Being a veteran musical-theater performer didn’t prevent Buck from battling stage fright during her first few Girl Guitar showcases. She says she still experiences performance anxiety – sometimes during her whole set.
“Whether I’m nervous during the show depends on what else is going on in my life,” she says. “The events of my day definitely impact how comfortable I feel onstage, although I calm down and my worries seem a bit more trivial as I focus on playing a good set.”
Rowden and www.drumlessons.com taught Buck the drums, which she plays with Girl Guitar bands in showcases. Buck also became lead singer for Seventh Sun, a rock/blues band composed mostly of seasoned male musicians.
Though having a “real” job remains a necessity, Buck finds creative ways to incorporate music into her day.
“Sometimes when I’m on the phone with clients, I’ll practice my drum riffs with pencils,” she says. “And if songwriting inspiration hits me during the day, I add notes to my iPhone and eventually put those notes together to make a song. Most of my songs are about a bunch of different moments in my life.”
For musicians just starting out, Buck recommends putting yourself out there at open mics because “even if you stink, you have to start somewhere – usually that’s at the bottom.” She also encourages aspiring songwriters to write what comes naturally even if others say the songs aren’t good or if performing them makes you feel self-conscious. And, of course, she suggests joining a supportive music-networking group such as Girl Guitar to which she attributes her success.
“Had I not joined Girl Guitar, I would still just be wishing I was playing in public,” she says. “It pushed me off a cliff in a good way, and I landed on a trampoline.”