Julie Slick: Succeeding as a Female Bassist in the Male-Dominated Music Industry

Virtuoso bassist and composer Julie Slick is a true rockstar, known for her spectacularly inventive style and stunning collaborations with acclaimed musicians in the progressive rock and jazz scenes. For many years, Julie has toured and recorded with the Adrian Belew Power Trio and her own bass duo-fronted band, EchoTest. As an internationally touring and recording artist, she has also collaborated and/or shared the stage with Victor Wooten, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Robert Fripp of King Crimson, Stewart Copeland of The Police, Alice Cooper, Ann Wilson of Heart, Jon Anderson of Yes, Danny Carey of TOOL, and many others. In this candid conversation, Julie describes what inspired her to pick up the bass, and how she continues to blaze a trail and rock it as a woman in the music industry.

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Episode Transcript:

SHE ROCKED IT // KAREN GROSS:

(00:41) Hey, rock stars. Thanks for tuning into the She Rocked It podcast here on our YouTube channel. And if you haven’t already, I would love it if you hit subscribe and even better, leave a comment and let me know what you think of the podcast so far. It’s been awesome to hear your responses already. And today, we have an incredible conversation with Julie Slick, a true rock star and a virtuoso bass player who has toured around the world with the Adrian Belew Power Trio, with The Crimson Project featuring members of the iconic band King Crimson, and also with her own band, Echo Test. And Julie’s gonna tell us what it’s been like to blaze a trail as a woman rock star in the music industry and how she got her start in her hometown of Philadelphia at the School of Rock, which was founded by Paul Green. Soon after she got started picking up the bass, she found herself on stage with the likes of Stewart Copeland from The Police, Alice Cooper, Ann Wilson from Heart, and many others. So without further ado, let’s hear how Julie Slick rocks it.

SHE ROCKED IT: (01:40) So why don’t you tell us actually a little more about how you kind of des-describe yourself and what you do and I-I know this past year was probably kind of an odd year for a musician-

JULIE SLICK: (01:49) Yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (01:50) … so maybe what you’ve been up to of late. Yeah.

JULIE SLICK: (01:53) Well, that’s like, yeah, a lot. Um-

SHE ROCKED IT: (01:54) (laughs)

JULIE SLICK: (01:55) … well, you know, so, you know, uh, the last year, you know, not much has gone on obviously. The world has been really shut down, but that’s been-

SHE ROCKED IT: (02:03) Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JULIE SLICK: (02:03) … kinda good. It’s been kind of a nice reset.

SHE ROCKED IT: (02:05) Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JULIE SLICK: (02:06) I’ve been touring with Adrian Belew, um, since 2006 and in, especially like in the previous six years before quarantine, I was a nomad and just like traveling all around the world, basically simulating tour. So, if I wasn’t on tour with Adrian or Crimson Project, I was doing my own shows with Echo Test, g-, you know, everywhere around the world. So-

SHE ROCKED IT: (02:26) So this has been like a huge change for you this past year ’cause you are-

JULIE SLICK: (02:28) Yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (02:28) … a, famously a nomad, so then having to just-

JULIE SLICK: (02:31) Yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (02:31) … be planted for the past year was probably hard I would imagine in some-

JULIE SLICK: (02:34) Yeah. Um, well, it was, it was ha-, it was hard, but not really. Like at the same time, I was really exhausted, so I really-

SHE ROCKED IT: (02:40) Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JULIE SLICK: (02:41) … needed like to just relax and just, you know, and it, it’s been nice, you know, because also I think it’s important to take time away from, you know, music and, you know, being creative in that field, you know, to, you know-

SHE ROCKED IT: (02:55) Yeah.

JULIE SLICK: (02:56) … to, in order to get that like fresh inspiration, you know? It’s, you know, we, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves in, in every industry, especially music industry, you know, to just work, work, work, work, work, you know?

SHE ROCKED IT: (03:07) That’s a great point. I’m from Philly. I know you’re originally from Philly and, as I recall, you kind of got your start in the School of Rock, um-

JULIE SLICK: (03:15) Yep.

SHE ROCKED IT: (03:16) … there and tell us a little bit about how that began for you and also what inspired you as a young woman to pick up music and then, you know, obviously pick up the bass.

JULIE SLICK: (03:26) Um, well, so before the School of Rock, uh, I was about 11, uh, 10 or 11 years old when I, my dad has this like amazing guitar collection-

SHE ROCKED IT: (03:34) Mm.

JULIE SLICK: (03:34) … um, in Fairmount, um, you know, this small little row house in, in Philly like just guitars lined up everywhere-

SHE ROCKED IT: (03:40) Got it.

JULIE SLICK: (03:41) … and, and so there’s like over 30 guitars still in the house and I, you know, my brother was like a drummer out of the crib. We’re only a year apart, um, so he was already like drumming from the get go and I would just like tinker around different instruments. And then finally, one day when I was like 10 or 11, I looked over at the bass and I just realized like, “That seems easier. (laughs) It’s only got four strings. I can play one note at a time.”

SHE ROCKED IT: (04:05) (laughs)

JULIE SLICK (04:06): I’m shy. I don’t have to like do big crazy solos or play chords, which is funny because I play cords and solos on the bass now. Then my mom kinda challenged me and said, “Well, don’t you think that’s like more of a masculine instrument? And don’t you think like that would be more hard for like a girl with the big thick strings?” And of course, that just lit a fire under my butt to wanna do, wanna go further with it and di- [crosstalk 00:04:28]

SHE ROCKED IT: (04:32) I love it.

JULIE SLICK: (04:32) (laughs)

SHE ROCKED IT: (04:32) You took that as a challenge. Yeah.

JULIE SLICK: (04:32) Of course.

SHE ROCKED IT: (04:32) (laughs)

JULIE SLICK: (04:32) Like, “I’ll show you.”

SHE ROCKED IT: (04:32) I love it.

JULIE SLICK: (04:32) ‘Cause that, ’cause that was always the thing for me growing up like, you know, as far as like it, if it was something that, you know, s-, that, you know, “boys did” or, you know, it was more masculine that like, to me, why did it matter, you know, if it was so-something that I was interested in and wanted to do, then why not do it? You know, why should I let that, you know, gender thing like be a, become a barrier, you know, or an issue?

JULIE SLICK: (04:56) So, uh, fast forward to a year later, uh, my brother started getting, you know, pretty good at the drums. I was, you know, just plunkin’ around on the bass, not really, like just like taking lessons from my dad, learning Cream songs. Uh, this was a fretless bass by the way.

SHE ROCKED IT: (05:13) Wow.

JULIE SLICK: (05:14) Uh, yeah. So, i-, you know, I wasn’t that good, but I was, I was trying and then my, you know, my brother had this friend Spencer who was taking lessons from this guy Paul Green and he was getting pretty good at the guitar, my parents noticed, and so they signed me up for lessons with Paul. Um, he was starting this coo-, School of Rock and he only had one other bass student, so I thought, “Ooh, this is gonna be sweet. Like if he’s gonna be doing these shows, and I’m playing bass, I get to play like half the show.” (laughs) So, I thought that was another benefit to playing bass. (laughs)

SHE ROCKED IT: (05:45) I love it.

JULIE SLICK: (05:46) Yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (05:47) So, you just too-, and good job mom for like, you know, gettin’ you in there too and, and pushing.

JULIE SLICK: (05:51) Exactly.

SHE ROCKED IT: (05:52) Um, that’s amazing. You know, you just said something a moment ago about, you know, well, for [inaudible 00:05:57] of women playing the bass or not or doing different things. I just wanna, I just wanna point to a-a statistic that I just read about women in the music industry. It’s from-

JULIE SLICK: (06:05) Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SHE ROCKED IT: (06:05)… USC Annenberg’s Inclusion Initiative, yeah. Um, women account for 21.6% of artists in the industry, songwriters only 12.6% and producers 2.6%, Julie. So, the truth of the matter is women are highly underrepresented in the music industry. I don’t have to tell you this. How, how have you gotten the courage to kind of raise your musical voice and, you know, that way, we, we ask, we always ask this question about what gave you the courage to raise your voice, but I think for you, it’s really raising your bass or raising your musical voice.

JULIE SLICK: (06:38) Yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (06:38) What gave you the courage to kind of persevere as a woman with all these dudes, really (laughs) around you all the time?

JULIE SLICK: (06:44) I mean, it was just always, I mean, Paul would always and, and my parents, of course too, was just hammered in our heads like, “It doesn’t matter what anybody else says. You know, don’t listen to those people that are just jealous,” you know, just like there’s, it’s like that cheesy, you know, cliché like there’s nothing you can’t do if you like put your mind to it kind of thing, but it’s kinda true. Like it was pretty unreal. Yes, I recognize that I was extremely lucky to get a phone call to be in Adrian Belew’s band six years after discovering him and becoming a huge fan, like super fan at the age of 14.(07:15): Um, but at the same time, you know, I worked my butt off and, you know, of course people a-, you know, would, you know, try to shut me down along the way and have still even after like getting this dream gig, you know, of course I run into people that, you know, it’s not to say that like respect is like warranted, but you know, you run into these situations in live gigs, you know, or, you know, you might run into a sound technician that nec-, doesn’t necessarily listen to what you have to say or, you know, might assume you’re the merch person because you’re a woman walking into the venue-

SHE ROCKED IT: (07:53) Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JULIE SLICK: (07:53) … or, you know, i-it’s still, it’s, it’s rough, you know. As, as you said, we’re grossly mis-, um, represented in the industry, but of course, that doesn’t mean, I mean, of course how many artists out there are women, you know, that, you know, maybe be too, like are too afraid to, you know, try to.

SHE ROCKED IT: (08:12) I’m so glad that you obviously kept going and that you’re-

JULIE SLICK: (08:14) Yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (08:14) … here and you could share the journey with us and, when I got to see you live, um, actually was in Pennsylvania, the Sellersville Theater, you are truly worshiped.

JULIE SLICK: (08:21) (laughs)

SHE ROCKED IT: (08:21) Like (laughs) when you’re onstage, like people love you. They are screaming for you and it is so, as a woman myself, it’s so exciting to see the love and appreciate you get, even in the chatroom right now, you’re getting so much love and from the, you know, chatter, I don’t know if you can see the comments-

JULIE SLICK: (08:36) Yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (08:36) … but people are just sending so much love for you. So, tell me a little more about, um, your journey in terms of any women along your journey. Was there any mentor, were there any mentors or women who kind of inspired you or gave you that kinda s-, you know, safety net or keep going or, or n-not so much, you know, along the way? Was it actually men who all just gave you a great mentoring?

JULIE SLICK: (08:56) I mean, it, it’s funny because along the way like in my earlier years, I would definitely ha-, I would say it was mostly men, uh, just in, in the School of Rock-

SHE ROCKED IT: (09:04) Yeah.

JULIE SLICK: (09:04) … there weren’t a lot of, um, women around. I mean, yeah, there were other female students like, you know, my own age, um, but, you know, my teachers at school, but like that was not really, you know, that wasn’t part of my musical, those were the academic side of things. Um, so yeah, I kinda, it was, I would just have to say it was mainly my mom was my main inspiration-

SHE ROCKED IT: (09:26) Yeah.

JULIE SLICK: (09:26) … you know?

SHE ROCKED IT: (09:27) You’d be surprised how many women answer, “My mom,” when I ask this-

JULIE SLICK: (09:30) Yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (09:30) … question. So-

JULIE SLICK: (09:30) Yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (09:31) … yay mom. I think moms even tuning in-

JULIE SLICK: (09:32) (laughs)

SHE ROCKED IT: (09:33) … hi moms-

JULIE SLICK: (09:33) So, again, bonus points.

SHE ROCKED IT: (09:36) (laughs) Yes, that’s right. Amazing. No, I mean, I think that, um, you know, if mom is supportive, if parents are supportive of an unconventional path as an artist-

JULIE SLICK: (09:44) Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SHE ROCKED IT: (09:44) … a nomadic artist, I think that’s actually really huge because-

JULIE SLICK: (09:47) Oh yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (09:48) … I know some parents can kinda, you know, put the lid on it and that’s the end of that story, so that’s-

JULIE SLICK: (09:53) Yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (09:54) … beautiful. I love that. And they, I’m sure, come to, get to see you at so many performances over the years. They’ve got to be there wi-, along your journey?

JULIE SLICK: (10:00) Oh yeah, yeah. They, you know, they’ve come on tour with us and, you know, have done like the merch duty and, and things like that, so and I’m hoping that they, they can do that again soon, you know, now that they’re both, you know, gonna be retired, so come out on tour.

SHE ROCKED IT: (10:14) I love it. So, um, and yes, obviously we’re She Rocket It and we’re focusing on, you know, women’s paths and so forth, so I would ask also in terms of, you know, your musical style, your, you’re skilled not only as a bass player, but with electronics and pedals and all these things, what do you think, how do you think being a woman affects your playing and your, you know, kind of your approach, let’s say, to the work that you do? And of course, with your own band, Echo Test, I would think you’re able to really raise your creative voice, um, in a even stronger way perhaps with your own collaborators. So, how do you think being a woman impacts your technique and approach?

JULIE SLICK: (10:50) In a band setting like in a more like, you know, personal, you know, like relation, ’cause really that’s where it comes into play I think, you know, you know, what that, what energy it brings, you know, to have like an all male band or an all female band or, you know, um, both. The dynamic definitely shifts, you know, when there’s a woman in the band. T-, you know, guys might say-

SHE ROCKED IT: (11:11) Yeah.

JULIE SLICK: (11:12) … things like, “Oh, we can’t use as much, you know, locker room talk if there’s a girl around,” or, you know, you know, “We have to be more polite”-

SHE ROCKED IT: (11:21) Yeah.

JULIE SLICK: (11:22) … which is kind of funny. (laughs)

SHE ROCKED IT: (11:23) (laughs) More respectful perhaps?

JULIE SLICK: (11:28) Exactly. [crosstalk 00:11:28]

SHE ROCKED IT: (11:28) Yeah.

JULIE SLICK: (11:30) But also I’ve been in situations where they’re, they specifically hire women to belittle them on stage, which is very interesting. Um-

SHE ROCKED IT: (11:39) Interes-, really? Just to kick-

JULIE SLICK: (11:39) Yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (11:40) … their asses kind of on stage a little bit?

JULIE SLICK: (11:41) Yeah, yeah. Kind of like, yeah. It’s very weird and it’s, yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (11:47) Got it. Wow-

JULIE SLICK: (11:48) (laughs)

SHE ROCKED IT: (11:48) … and how do you feel about, I mean, you’re obviously ass-kicking as a bass player, so no matter what, you’re like doing amazing stuff, but you’re saying like in the conversation kind of onstage just to like-

JULIE SLICK: (11:56) Oh, they’ll make me angry and I’ll start shredding. (laughs)

SHE ROCKED IT: (11:58) Oh got it. I see. Interesting. This is so interesting to hear, you know, the behind the scenes and by the way-

JULIE SLICK: (12:05) Yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (12:05) … you’re, um, you’re in your 30s I believe, right?

JULIE SLICK: (12:07) Yeah, mid-30s now.

SHE ROCKED IT: (12:08) Mid-30s. It’s a-, well, I-I’m saying that’s amazing because-

JULIE SLICK: (12:11) Yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (12:11) … over the years, you’ve played with, I mean, if I can just name a few artists, I said Adrian Belew-

JULIE SLICK: (12:17) Uh-huh (affirmative).

SHE ROCKED IT: (12:18)… I wanna say Danny Carey from Tool-

JULIE SLICK: (12:20) Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SHE ROCKED IT: (12:20) … gosh, Les Claypool. Gimme some of the other artists that you’ve collaborated with over the years and maybe like what’s one favorite memory or a story you might wanna share from one of these collaborations.

JULIE SLICK: (12:31) Well, I mean, through like the School of Rock, we got, you know, to through promoting the movie, I got to play with Jon Anderson from Yes and-

SHE ROCKED IT: (12:37) Yeah.

JULIE SLICK: (12:37)… Stewart Copeland from The Police and, um, uh, Alice Cooper, uh, played on School’s, School’s Out with Alice Cooper and Stewart Copeland at the same time. That was pretty epic. That’s one of my, that’s a pretty awesome story.

SHE ROCKED IT: (12:49) Um, were you just pinching yourself like, “I’m from School of-“

JULIE SLICK: (12:52) Yes.

SHE ROCKED IT: (12:52) “… Rock-“

JULIE SLICK: (12:53) Yes.

SHE ROCKED IT: (12:53) “… to actually playing with the real guys.” (laughs) Like-

JULIE SLICK: (12:55) Yes, I was, yeah-

SHE ROCKED IT: (12:56) What-

JULIE SLICK: (12:57) … I was like 19, about to be 20 years old-

SHE ROCKED IT: (12:59) Wow.

JULIE SLICK: (13:00) … like flown to LA like playing with these guys like-

SHE ROCKED IT: (13:03) Incredible.

JULIE SLICK: (13:04) Yeah. Um-

SHE ROCKED IT: (13:04) You graduated from that school really fast, like immediately. (laughs)

JULIE SLICK: (13:07) Yeah, yeah, exactly.

SHE ROCKED IT: (13:08): Like, “I’m actually in the band for real.”

JULIE SLICK: (13:09)Ex-exactly.

SHE ROCKED IT: (13:10) Yeah.

JULIE SLICK: (13:10) Well, pretty much, yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (13:12) God, I could ask you so many questions about your career, but I-I-I do wanna ask, um, you know, going back to that statistic I mentioned early about how few women actually take the road that you’ve taken-

JULIE SLICK: (13:21) Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SHE ROCKED IT: (13:22) … if you had your way and you could kind of open up the doors to more women, like what, wh-what would that like? H-how, how do you think it would be possible based on your experience in the industry for more women to, to get in the door? You know, to-

JULIE SLICK: (13:36) Yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (13:36) … to, to make that path, what do you think?

JULIE SLICK: (13:38) I think we just need to help each other out, like think about each other first, not don’t just hire like I’m, you know, yes, h-hi-hire, you can hire men, but like think about, you know, what would it be like maybe to work with, you know, more women in a project or, you know?

SHE ROCKED IT: (13:50) Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JULIE SLICK: (13:50) You know, just, just be more mindful ’cause it is so easy to just forget that kinda thing and, and we really need to support each other because it’s so easy to just, I, you know, that’s another thing I was gonna say is like, you know, uh, I grew up, you know, pretty competitive and that’s why I think I’m, you know, as good at bass as I am, but I think there’s something to be said about like the competition that we put on each other as women and like-

SHE ROCKED IT: (14:17) Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JULIE SLICK: (14:18) … you know, like, “Oh, you know, she’s flat,” or, “She doesn’t look, you know, she’s not dressed right,” or, you know? I think we can be really harsh, um-

SHE ROCKED IT: (14:26) Yeah, that’s an interesting point-

JULIE SLICK: (14:27) … with what-

SHE ROCKED IT: (14:27) … to raise. Yep.

JULIE SLICK: (14:28) … with each other. So, I think-

SHE ROCKED IT: (14:28) Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JULIE SLICK: (14:29) … we, we not only need to, uh, you know, help each other out, you know, get each other gigs and things like that, recommend each other for work, but also like think about things like that, like be more supportive of each other, you know, ’cause, ’cause then that’s-

SHE ROCKED IT: (14:41) ‘Cause then we all like, yep.

JULIE SLICK: (14:43) Exactly. Exactly.

SHE ROCKED IT: (14:45) There’s, yeah, there’s enough room for everyone. Everyone gets lifted up. Yeah. And thank you so much, Julie. I know how busy you are and I’m so, I just adore you and I’m so thrilled to get to get a window into your perspective on this as a rock star in the industry, as a woman bass player pioneering the, you know, your path and I know you’re gonna continue to rock it and I just wanna leave everyone with-

JULIE SLICK: (15:05) Thank you.

SHE ROCKED IT: (15:05) … this question and leave you th-, you’re welcome.

JULIE SLICK: (15:07) Yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (15:07) Thank you. Um, w-, if you could leave us with one tip so that we can ROCK IT in our careers and our callings like what is the one tip you would leave us to rock it in our respective-

JULIE SLICK: (15:18) Yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (15:18) … careers? Yep.

JULIE SLICK: (15:19) B-basically what I said earlier, you know, just like don’t listen to the haters and like all the naysayers and like people that try to just, you know, set up those brick walls. Like just if you really want something like just go for it. What the heck? (laughs) Why, why, why not go for it? (laughs)

SHE ROCKED IT: (15:36) Well, I’m so grateful that you’ve gone for it and you’re gonna-

JULIE SLICK: (15:39) Yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (15:39) … continue to (laughs)-

JULIE SLICK: (15:39) Yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (15:40) …ROCK IT on so many stages. And Julie, thank you so much again for joining us on SHE ROCKED IT. It’s been amazing to see you. And I-

JULIE SLICK: (15:46) Good to see you too. [crosstalk 00:15:47]

SHE ROCKED IT: (15:47) Take care.

JULIE SLICK: (15:47) Yeah.

SHE ROCKED IT: (15:48) Bye now.

JULIE SLICK: (15:49) Bye.

SHE ROCKED IT: (15:49) Thanks again. Bye. 

Thanks so much for tuning into the SHE ROCKED IT Podcast. I’m your host, Karen Gross. This episode has been produced by Tori Marchiony and Jake Segelbaum with audio engineering by Teng Chen. The SHE ROCKED IT theme song is by Karen Gross and Tim Motzer. I invite you to join us on Instagram @sherockedit and join our ROCKSTAR NETWORK at sherockedit.com. We hope you’ll add your voice to the conversation because at SHE ROCKED IT, we are dedicated to raising the volume on women’s voices.

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