"In Miami, everyone's from everywhere/Adolescents eager for the chance to say we've/Been here before, we know the ropes/There just can't be anymore, so please, excuse the rush/We got places to be," 18-year-old singer-songwriter Julia Bhatt sings on her latest track, "Miami," a soulful ode to the 305.
Although Bhatt was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, it was the Magic City that birthed a promising young star on the rise. The city has also helped nurture her sound.
"We experience so many different cultures here," Bhatt says by way of explanation. "That's one of the best things about Miami; it is a melting pot."
Having had the opportunity to live in various Miami neighborhoods and experience different cultures, she says, was influential to her music.
"Because I was young when I moved here, I soaked all of that in," she says. "So I happen to have a little bit of everything in me, which I think reflects in my music. Whenever someone is like, 'What genre are you?' It's a hard question to answer. It's the same thing as asking, 'Who lives in Miami?'"
Watching Bhatt perform on her balcony on Instagram, you see the influence from the moment you press play. The singer-songwriter exudes an energy that refuses to go unnoticed. But she was apprehensive about performing live at first.
"Everyone was like, 'OK, Julia, if you want to follow this dream and if you're going to take it this far, you gotta do something. You gotta make some sacrifices,'" she says.
Her first gig was at a local restaurant where she performed two nights a week for three-and-a-half hours in exchange for comped meals for about a month or two.
"No one clapped, no one did anything. No one paid attention to me," she remembers. "That was a really good foundation for me just to ignore everyone else and just kind of figure out what you're doing on stage."
But eventually, people came around.
While Bhatt now fully embraces life in the subtropics, she admits that her love for Miami wasn't always there. It was through introspection that she found appreciation for her city.
"I hated Miami. You could've asked anyone," she admits. "I wanted to get out of there. I think I was also kind of in a bad spot at the time. You kinda hate everything if you're in a bad spot, but once you figure things out you're like, 'Ah, this isn't that bad.'"
Bhatt's new retrospective track, "Miami," produced and recorded by Elliot Jacobson in New York, is here to clear up any misconceived notions about her hometown.
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"I think that Miami's got a lot of stories within it," Bhatt says. "I think people tell one specific story, and it's kinda like the nightlife and Pitbull and Florida Man breaks through a window with an alligator and that kind of stuff, which I love that stuff, and it means a lot to me. But I feel like there's more to Miami than just the partying and the fancy rich people with their big cars and their big boats."
The song's goal, she says, was to set the scene of golden hour in Miami. To fully appreciate all of the city's quirks at its core that make Miami what it is, you have to look behind the curtain and explore.
Bhatt says she struggles with depression and anxiety and admits that at times she grapples with self-doubt when it comes to her music. She credits her fans for pushing her to continue creating.
"What really helps are the people," she says. "I've been getting really nice feedback. Of course, I get a couple of comments that are like, 'You suck.' But I've gotten primarily really nice things sent to me, which really pushes me further. To have other people be like, 'No, what you're doing is good, you should keep doing that. Don't worry about it.' It means more than it should."