Why a photo of Jenny Owen Youngs and Julia Nunes blew my mind


Adam gets a shock from an Instagram photo, and it sends his mind on a trip down the rabbithole into the surreality of reality.

Jenny Owen Youngs and Julia Nunes on a yellow couch.
Jenny Owen Youngs (left) and Julia Nunes (right) posted this photo to Instagram. Julia’s original caption: Little known fact, @jennyowenyoungs is 8 ft. tall. Jenny’s original caption: Kitchen tip – always keep your ratio of Jenny Owen Youngs to @julianunesmusic at 2:1.

I never thought an Instagram photo would rock my world so much.

On April 13, 2014, musicians Jenny Owen Youngs and Julia Nunes posted the above photo of themselves, together, to their respective Instagram accounts. This photo is such a head trip for me. I tend to, without always realizing it, compartmentalize different aspects of my life. And when crossover occurs, I find myself thinking, “This is totally normal and makes perfect sense but WOAH, WHAT THE CRAP IS GOING ON HERE? MY MIND IS EXPLODING AND IMPLODING AT THE SAME TIME!”

In this case, we have two musicians I compartmentalized into different circles in my brain. One is part of the YouTube/Vidcon/Nerdfighteria section of my life. The other is part of the general “live indie music that I discover in person at some venue” part of my life. And both have been in those separate circles for almost the same amount of time.

Jenny Owen Youngs performing at Portland's Mississippi Studios in 2007.
Jenny Owen Youngs performing at Portland’s Mississippi Studios in 2007. Photo by Adam J. Manley.

I first discovered, photographed, and briefly met Jenny Owen Youngs when she opened for Vienna Teng (on her Green Caravan Tour, at the time) at Mississippi Studios in Portland, Oregon way back in 2007. I was instantly hooked. I bought her album, and she doodled my hat on the CD cover. Not long after, I would write a review for my college paper and go see her again at Portland’s Doug Fir Lounge. I’ve not been able to see her live since, but I’ve followed her music and continue to love it. I was relatively active on her old website forum until it died. That first album I got my hands on is still constantly played…to the point that I had to buy a digital copy some time later, because the CD got too scratched up and I neglected to rip a backup.

Adam and friends posing with Julia Nunes at her January 2010 concert in Seattle.
Adam and friends posing with Julia Nunes at her January 2010 concert in Seattle. Photo courtesy Alyssa Villablanca.

I can’t remember exactly when I discovered Julia Nunes, but I’m fairly certain it was later on in 2007…possibly 2008. It was mid-2007, after the JOY concerts, that I stopped dinking around with YouTube and really got invested in the community, thanks to the discovery of the Vlogbrothers. I subscribed to Julia both for her fantastic musical skill, her engaging personality, and the interesting things she did with video in those early, low-quality, 4:3 ratio days. I’ve seen her perform live a number of times; mostly at Vidcon, but I made sure to see her (with friends I’d made at YouTube gatherings) the first time she played in Seattle, at the Vera Project in Seattle’s City Center. Converse to my experience with JOY, I’ve met her a number of times (though I doubt she remembers), but I’ve only bought each of her albums once (I learned my lesson and backed the physical ones up, even before I finally stopped using my clunky, half-broken old portable CD player).

"Trifecta" on Instagram.
“Trifecta” on Instagram.

It makes perfect sense that two excellent musicians, both solo female singer-songwriter acts originating from the same general region, should meet and hang out. Their paths crossing is, really, kind of inevitable. But it still blows my mind, anyway, despite how much sense it makes. They’re from two different worlds, to me. Two different parts of my life, of my inner compartmentalization. One is from the world of live concerts, the world of Joan Baez, Dar Williams, Vienna Teng, Girlyman, Sarah Watkins, Libbie Schrader, and others I’ve discovered through that particular scene. The other comes from the world of, as Nicole Dieker of Hello, The Future puts it, “a tiny little window on a tiny little screen”; the world of the Vlogbrothers, Vidcon, vloggers, and YouTube musicians both big and small, from the niche and nerdy to the broad and bountiful.

Youngs in 2007, posing with her album.
Youngs in 2007, posing with her album. Photo by Adam J. Manley.

As much as I seem to automatically separate sections of my life like this, though, I’m constantly reminded that reality isn’t like that. It really is a small world after all, and the amount of crazy connections we all have to each other is positively insane. I sometimes forget how easily I could connect myself to Kevin Bacon in six degrees or less. It’s nice, then, to get these little reminders that the world is incredibly interconnected, because it’s a reminder that every tiny little thing we do sends ripples out, into the world. We affect people we’ve never met, and we’ve met people we’ll never remember…though that meeting may have meant the world to them.

That’s why seeing a photo of Julia Nunes with Jenny Owen Youngs blows my mind: it reminds me of my own place in a crazily interconnected world. And that’s something amazing. That’s something both awe-inspiring and indescribably humbling. It’s something we all need, now and then.

So thanks, JOY and JuNu. Thank you for giving me that. On top of everything your music and your presence in the world has already given me (which is no small thing), thank you for reminding me what the world is really like.

Adam films Nunes after her concert at The Vera Project in Seattle. Photo by Alyssa Villablanca.
Adam films Nunes after her concert at The Vera Project in Seattle. Photo by Alyssa Villablanca.

This article was originally published on Tumblr, and has received only minor modification.


Writer. Actor. Director. Chalk artist. YouTuber. Nerdfighter. Traveler. Pansexual. Genderfluid. Millennial. Socialist. Living a complex life beyond those words.

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