Julie Christensen’s new band Stone Cupid, a kindred spirit to her post-punk powerhouse Divine Horsemen, was invited to be one of the final acts at East Nashville landmark The Family Wash before its relocation in February. The honor was eagerly accepted; it was at the Wash that the band first played together less than a year before, and felt something truly special.
“This lineup fell together almost fatefully, and the songs seemed to play themselves,” says Christensen. “It was so natural, so simpatico, like some concurrent extra-spiritual thing.” Stone Cupid will be heading to the studio with producer Jeff Turmes in mid-March to capture that vibe in an album to be released in the fall.
Christensen, who’s authored five independent albums and sung with everyone from Leonard Cohen to Lou Reed, has surrounded herself with a team of team players. In guitarists Sergio Webb and Chris Tench, the “absence of ego” Christensen lauds, is on full display. As Tench creates the ideal sonic landscape, Webb populates it with one stunning surprise after another. Propelling the enterprise are drummer Steve Latanation and bassist Bones Hillman, who combine taste and telepathy into something so unified they seem a single entity.
The crew’s résumés feature stage or studio credits for a wide swath of top-shelf acts, including Midnight Oil, Sheryl Crow, Agent Orange, David Olney, Amelia White, Matthew Ryan, Gail Davies and Pinto Bennett.
Christensen’s own musical odyssey is as varied as the kinds of songs she can deliver. Born and raised in Iowa, she headed to Austin in the late 70s, then L.A. in 1981. There she met and married Chris Desjardins and together they formed Divine Horsemen, a band whose sound she likens to “Beggars Banquet-era Stones.” Three whirlwind years later, they had amassed two full albums, two EPs, three cross-country tours, three songs on the Border Radio soundtrack, and one blown-apart band, marriage included.
From 1988-1993 Christensen toured with Leonard Cohen as a featured backup singer. In 1991 she signed with Polygram, but the Todd Rundgren-produced album fell victim to label politics and went unreleased. 2005 saw her paying tribute to Cohen in the Came So Far for Beauty concert series, and spotlighted in the feature documentary I’m Your Man.
An East Nashville resident since 2013, Christensen is beguiled by its concentration of musicians and their camaraderie. The move from California, meant to nurture opportunities in the acoustic/roots community, now finds her heading for the studio with a rock band, envisioning big-stage concert and festival gigs, and she couldn’t be happier. “I really come alive with a band,” she says, “I’m very theatrical, and people respond to it.”
Producer Turmes, who’s played with such luminaries as Mavis Staples, Tom Waits and Richard Thompson, will again be at the helm, as he was for Christensen’s previous album, 2013’s “Weeds Like Us,” a project that garnered some Top Ten attention in end-of-year honors.
The new album will include a soul cover of Cohen’s “Anthem,” plus artful tunes from Dan Navarro, Kevin Gordon, Chuck Prophet and others, and a healthy helping of Christensen originals. “I’m so fired up with what we’re doing,” she says, noting similarities to her 80s roots with the Horsemen. “There was all this grand stuff then -- the Reagan Era, Dynasty, Miami Vice -- and bubbling under was all this heartbreak and dysfunction and despair. It bred a lot of wonderful art.”
She’s also optimistic that albums are not the dinosaurs some predict. “An album is an arc. It unfolds, piece by piece. I see young people buying albums. They’re listening, they’re getting it. I love that.”
And a new Stone Cupid album will be well worth the listen. “We’ve all done the big stages,” says Christensen. “This won’t be our first rodeo.”