A few weeks ago I met up with Richard Julian, singer songwriter and co-owner of Bar Lunatico, in his apartment up the stairs from the bar. Walking up the spiral staircase, a home emerges. In a little room off the corner of the stairs is Richard's writing room. It hosts a little desk covered in a flurry of items (rare mezcal recently gifted, a gumbo cookbook, papers, and an old photograph of Duke Ellington, amongst other things). Richard usually works sitting on the day bed with his grandfather's 1920s guitar in hand.
Although he hasn't put out any new albums in the last few years since his son was born, he is constantly writing down ideas in his notebook. At the end of the book, when the pages have been filled, he'll go through and catalog the ideas that hold the most promise on the last page: an index of references for future songs. When I asked him if there are certain themes that he finds himself being drawn to, he thought for a moment and answered "sex" and "melancholia" ((and then jotted it down in his book because it had a nice ring to it). He expanded saying it's more of a constant pursuit of introspection, an effort to understand the significance of memories, places, and things that seem to never let him go. He is drawn to those unbridled emotions where people are most raw and uninhibited. His songs are carefully crafted portraits of people and places, draped with a coat of wittiness and observation.
Richard initially moved to NYC from his home state of Delaware in the 80s after a brief stint playing keyboards in the lounges of Las Vegas. He lived in Hells Kitchen for 20 years, and watched the neighborhood transform outside his window. Richard has long dreamed of owning a music bar, the perfect expression of his love of music and cocktails. After living in New Orleans for a few years with his wife and fellow songstress, Rosita Kess, he moved back to NYC with one stipulation, that they would finally open the bar they always dreamed of. It was not an easy journey, and finding the right location took much searching. In the end they found and built a haven for NYC musicians and patrons alike with a hint of New Orleans spice.
Having Bar Lunatico downstairs is like having a party that you're always invited to. On the days when Richard is not working, he may come downstairs, take in the atmosphere, and hang with the musicians. And on the days when he needs some downtime, he stay upstairs and listens to the music in the privacy of his home. In any case, music is always in the air on Halsey St.
When Richard showed me around the apartment, I also had the chance to see his five year old son, Floyd's, room. As a mom myself with a two year old son, it left a deep impression on me. The doors to the closets were covered in Floyd's elaborate animal drawings. Books and toys lined the corners of the bed, which had an animal duvet cover on top. I asked Richard what Floyd's impressions have been growing up with so much music around. Richard laughed and showed me that at the head of Floyd's bed are heating pipes that go directly downstairs to where the stage is at the bar. Every night Floyd falls asleep, listening to the sounds of incredible musicians playing. 'He has never once complained,' Richard said.
As a mom trying (sometimes desperately) to raise a child that is sweet, kind and curious, I often wonder which experiences in my son's life will hold the most meaning. What will shape his personality and tastes in the future? Getting a glimpse into Floyds room, I couldn't help but feel like this kid is going to grow up to be an incredibly interesting person. In building a music bar for themselves, Floyd's parents have given him a beautiful gift, a creative space of his own.
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