Isolation can often be devastating. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 41% of Americans believed that their isolation during the initial COVID-19 surge was very unpleasant, leaving them unproductive. However, in that same interview, 33% of Americans claimed the isolation actually allowed them to tap into creativity they had not used before. Julian Atehortua considers himself one part of that 33%.
Atehortua is a sophomore International Business student at Southern Miss. On Saturday, Sept. 25, Atehortua visited College Hall to record three original songs for HUB City Sessions, a student-run production by Digital Nest Media.
Following his performance, Atehortua met with Digital Nest Media Manager Skye Bortz for a brief interview. He discussed his songwriting process and how he realized his dream of going to college in America.
Atehortua said that he began writing at 18 years old, a hobby he picked up due to quarantine stay-at-home orders. He channeled his main influences — Brad Paisley, Chris Cornell and classic rockers — to start creating music.
Atehortua admitted that he is still developing his identity as a songwriter. Currently, one of his main muses is a friend/crush he met while attending Gulfport High.
“[My songs] are pretty much about things that happen around me, or feelings I have attached [to them]. Most of my songs are for a girl I like down in Gulfport. Most of my songs I wrote for her,” Atehortua said.
Though he does tend to write about love, not all of Atehortua’s work is happy and light.
“Sometimes things happen that affect me, that cut me more deeply,” Atehortua said. “I had two friends who had an unfortunate thing happen to them, so I wrote a song for them about the road of life, how it goes, knowing where it takes us.”
Atehortua believes his identity is a key part of his music, as he pulls a lot from the two different countries he’s lived in.
“I was born in Colombia. I grew up in a…in a middle[-sized], like a tiny town? Not even the city,” Atehortua said. “Since I was five years old I had that desire to, you know, that wish to go to the United States to go study.”
For years, Atehortua’s dreams seemed too distant, and he wondered if he would ever get the chance to achieve them. Luckily, that did not turn out to be the case.
“[Sometimes] you get realistic, you say, like, ‘I probably wouldn’t make it [until] 11th or 10th grade,’” Atehortua said. “But an opportunity came to me, thank God. And I just decided to take the shot and come here, finish high school and apply for college.”
Though Atehortua is still a very new artist, he has a great base to build off of, and will hopefully only grow as he develops a community of listeners and supporters.
Currently, Atehortua is recording his first EP in the College Hall recording studio. You can find it on all platforms, including YouTube, Spotify and Bandcamp, in Spring 2022. If you can’t wait that long, follow Digital Nest Media on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok for a link to Atehortua’s episode of HUB City Sessions.