City Superhero: Julia Massey, musician, mom

By Jake Uitti
Crosscut archive image.

City Superhero Julia Massey (for the full version of the drawing, scroll to the bottom of the story).

By Jake Uitti

Our biweekly City Superheroes column highlights the powerful figures walking among us — with the help of a (usually local) illustrator. This week’s pairing: musician Julia Massey (with special guests Dom and Jared Cortese) and visual artist David Feaman.

Moniker: Cardinal

Given Name: Julia Massey

Other Aliases: JMass, Yaya, Jules, Junior High School

Superpowers: Flight, the ability to turn sound into light

First Appearance: Balanza Bar in Brooklyn in 2007 (her CD release for her first record, Moons and Stars Convene) 

Local Haunts: The Pub at Third Place, Golden Gardens, Big Bowl Pho

Archenemies: Julia Stiles (“When I was in college I saw a movie where she cheated on Freddie Prinze’s character and I said, ‘Fuck Julia Stiles!’”), Pessimists

Even Heroes Have Heroes: Eleanor Roosevelt, Joni Mitchell, Darla Benson, Dom Cortese

What Small Object Holds Great Meaning: “I know the answer immediately because I don’t keep many things. But recently I came into the possession of a bottle opener my dad brought back from Segovia, Spain. He always said if we couldn’t find him he’d be in Segovia. He loves beer and I love beer and now whenever I use it, I think of him.”

Origin Story: Born at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore and raised in Catonsville, Maryland, Julia grew up swimming at the community pool, playing piano (her first lesson was in second grade) and playing lacrosse and soccer. She attended C.U. Bolder as an undergraduate (later getting her masters at Pace University in teaching as part of Teach for America).

It was her college roommates who implored Julia to relocate to Seattle, urging her to check out the local music landscape. “I came out, it was supposed to be for a month, but now it’s been six years,” she says happily.

Julia started her band, Julia Massey and the Five Finger Discount, after playing a show with her friend Andy, a bass player. The members of his other band, Jared and Dom Cortese, came to see Julia play that night at West Seattle’s Skylark Café in 2008. Dom introduced himself and said, “If you ever need a drummer, here is my contact information” and the two have been playing together ever since. With Dom, Julia has released six albums.

It was the following May when Julia began a relationship with Jared, who she married in July 2013. Their son, Baby Carl, was born Jan. 13, 2015 and the three live with Dominic and a third Cortese brother, Tobias (an avid local music fan), in Ballard in a home they call The Pool House.

Julia’s powers of flight and the ability to turn sound into light began at a later age. Much of her energy had previously been spent learning and absorbing the lessons of the world, but when she found a home and deep love in Seattle, her essence flourished fully. Coincidentally, brother-in-law Dom is a gifted conjurer of paralyzing iced lightning and Julia’s superhero husband, Jared, is the only one capable of wielding the mythical Emerald Sword.

Her Philosophy: “If you can balance working hard with having fun, then you’re going to succeed no matter what.”

“If you align yourself with that vibration that you had as a child, like, ‘What am I going to do today? What can I find and soak up? I’m going to have fun here!’ then whatever comes out of you, creatively, is going to be awesome.”

What’s Next: Julia Massey is playing the Conor Byrne on Aug. 28 for a farewell party for former booker and bartender, Alana.

About the Illustrator: David Feaman is an artist/writer living on Capitol Hill in wonderfully rainy Seattle. Though his artistic pursuits range from painting to writing fiction to creating traditional poetry, David drops everything for comic work. Having spent his adolescence with Marvel and DC, his young adulthood with vintage genre comics (i.e., Creepy and Eerie), and his antiquation with Fantagraphics, he believes that no other art form is as shocking, as moving, and as utterly human.

Crosscut archive image.
City Superhero Julia Massey

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About the Authors & Contributors

Jake Uitti

Jake Uitti

Jake Uitti is the co-founder and Managing Editor of The Monarch Review. He plays in the band, The Great Um, and works at The Pub at Third Place.