Soundtrack vocalist Julie Elven (Horizon Forbidden West, League of Legends) not only provided us with stunning vocals in the Cinematic Trailer for Conqueror’s Blade: Helheim alongside Colm McGuinness, but was kind enough to sit down with us to talk all things music.
When did you realise you were such a talented vocalist?
Oh, thank you so much; that's such a nice compliment. I didn't have parents who were musicians or artists; I just grew up with a mom who loved to sing, so in our household, there would always be singing. There was no judgment about the way me and my sisters would sing. I think that it really helps to just keep on practising without having this initial judgment from childhood. Then I developed all of that further and started composing and playing the violin and the piano.
Do you still remember the first time you sang on stage?
As a kid, I felt it was really easy for me to be on stage, For example, with piano recitals and stuff like that, because, again, I didn't have any judgment about what the music should sound like. But then, after some time and becoming an adult, I became more cautious about how I was perceived on stage, so I had a bit more stage fright. For many, many years, I thought I was more of a studio vocalist, and I didn't see myself as a performer. But then, with time, and singing with different orchestras, and with Hollywood composer James Newton Howard in 2017, you just gain the experience. At one point, I just felt more comfortable performing on stage, but that didn't come naturally. Now I absolutely love it, it's so beautiful to connect with an audience in person.
You performed at The Game Awards last year. How did you feel on that world stage compared to other live performances?
It was such an honour, honestly, it was such a dream come true. This was also my first performance ever in the US. Previously, I've always performed around Europe, in different countries with different orchestras or ensembles, but this was my first performance in the US, and also I needed an artist visa to perform there, so it was an intense, stressful process to get there. Just knowing that it was broadcast to so many people worldwide during a pandemic makes me feel so honoured and grateful that it worked out. It was a very special moment I will never forget.
We’re familiar with your work on many different video games, are you a gamer yourself? If so, what do you like to play?
At first, I wasn't a gamer myself, at least not a console gamer. Back in the day, I would play the Sims lot, and I played Tony Hawk, but now I've really fallen in love with being a gamer myself, at least a part-time gamer. At the moment, I really love playing Horizon Forbidden West, because I've been a part of it, but also I've been a huge fan of Destiny too, because my partner is a huge fan, so he showed me how to play it, and it's wonderful to dive into these worlds.
You contributed vocals to the Cinematic Trailer for Conqueror’s Blade: Helheim, a Viking-inspired season. Are you a fan of Vikings?
I love Viking music. I love this kind of ancient Norse style of music, for example, Wardruna the band and Einar Selvik. In the trailer, there was a part of the song that Colm McGuinness performed that was very warrior-sounding, and it was amazing.
Your voice, along with that of Colm McGuinness, helps us set the story and atmosphere of the Cinematic Trailer. What do you hope players feel when they listen to that music?
For this specific trailer, we just wanted to feel the power of revenge, because, as I understood it, the attack was like a revenge attack in the cinematic. I think the raw energy of the fight and the warriors was really important, and Colm brought that so beautifully and so presently. I think my part in the trailer was the voice of the revenge, similar to Nemesis, the Greek goddess of revenge. It’s a reminder of what the motive is of the warriors.
Was this your first time singing with Colm, or have you worked together before?
We've actually worked together before. I just can't say the project yet, because it's still secret, but I met Colm while I was searching for a voice for a certain project I was working on. The composer I worked with said that he wanted to have a male voice in there as well, so I asked around on social media if anyone knew of a very good, Viking-type or Celtic voice, and Colm messaged me. I am so glad that I have found him because he has such unique vocal qualities. It's just insane. His timbre, his technique, and the emotion he brings to the music are incredible. It was really interesting when we both found out that we were both in the Conqueror’s Blade trailer. It was such a beautiful moment.
You and Colm have a knack for bringing strong emotions out in music. How do you use your voice to tell stories, sometimes even without lyrics?
For example, such as with Conquerors Blade, I was not singing the old Norse lyrics, I was vocalising. These vocalisations—I do them a lot on the Horizon soundtracks and for League of Legends. I think it's so interesting because you actually have to convey the emotion solely through the voice itself because you don't have the lyrics or words, so the voice kind of becomes an instrument, and that always feels very special. I love also singing lyrics, but for the most part, I really love to bring the emotion across with just the voice itself.
Do you think music is important in shaping stories in video games?
I think the music is a messenger that brings across maybe the emotions of a character or the atmosphere of the situation of the scene. I think it helps to communicate the emotion to the audience.
What kind of music do you enjoy listening to?
I have to be honest. I do love to listen to soundtrack music, but also, there are a lot of other influences in there. I'm a huge metal head, so a lot of metal is on my playlist, but also, I am a bachata and salsa dancer, so there is also a lot of that music in there. When it comes to cinematic music, I love listening to John Williams and all the different composers. James Horner is my favourite film composer.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans and players of Conqueror’s Blade?
I hope you guys enjoy the season! I think there's been a lot of effort, energy and creativity being put into it, and I think it shows. I'm very excited for the Helheim season.