While many Americans watched the rising floodwaters in Houston, Texas, with a detachment that comes from television, for one aspiring country artist and songwriter, the tragedy struck literally close to home. Julia Cole, who was born and raised in the city before moving to Nashville to pursue music, was receiving images and videos of the devastation directly from friends and family, many of who lost vehicles and houses after torrential rains turned residential streets into canals. Amid the tragedy, the 24-year-old kept thinking back to a famous piece of street art in the city, a mural that said, simply, “Be Someone.”
“The media was focusing on the relief efforts and how amazing people were being when they came together,” Cole tells Whiskey Riff. “Every time I started thinking about that sign, I was like, this is the time that everybody is taking that sign and putting it into action.”
Cole, a songwriter for BMI, wrote the song “Be Someone;” in the first few days and, less than a week after the waters flooded her hometown, released a video for it. “I felt far away and I had to do something to help,” she says. “How can I utilize things I’m good at it?”
Assisted by Lamont “Logic” Coleman, a multi-Platinum producer in Nashville, and Austin Peckham of Create Nash, the song’s message is both a call to action to help the city and a celebration of the unity that has resulted. “Be someone who helps someone / And lifts ’em up, to feeling / Whole again, one tender hand / Can help the heartbreak healing,” Cole sings.
But Cole has done much more than just record a song and video. During that first week, she also organized a writer’s round, the proceeds of which went to flood victims, and then played the Houston Strong benefit, both in Nashville. The latter event, put on by Kings of Leon’s Jared Followill and Taylor Lewan of the Tennessee Titans and headlined by Chase Rice, raised more than $80,000 through a silent auction and ticket sales. Cole continues to sell T-shirts through her website themed around her song, the proceeds of which go to Houston Texans’ J.J. Watts’ charity.
“Houston kick-started my career,” she says. “It will always be very close to my heart.”
Through her efforts, Cole has emerged as a tireless advocate for Houston in Nashville, and, by extent, within country music. While the rebuilding in the city is already underway, her efforts continue, even as she continues to pursue her dream as a country artist.
“This song will forever be for Houston,” she says, “and that song’s not going anywhere.”
photo via Julia Cole