Most people know Juliette Lewis as a successful actress who has starred in such films as Cape Fear, Natural Born Killers, From Dusk To Dawn, Kalifornia and Strange Days, to name but a few. What many of these people don't realize is that she is a successful, hard-working, hard-touring and hard-rocking musician. Lewis is currently touring with her latest release, Terra Incognita, and is bringing her highly acclaimed live show to Calgary next week. The Gauntlet had the opportunity to talk to Lewis as she was cruising the freeways of her home town Los Angeles.
Gauntlet: How's the tour going?
Juliette Lewis: I'm in Los Angeles right now. I've been here for three days, after touring all over Europe for a month. I'm so excited on this tour to be playing many parts of Canada because I've done some shows in Canada, but not enough. It's why I named the new record Terra Incognita, because of this great pleasure I've developed of going into uncharted territory both metaphorically and physically.
G: It's great exposure for you as well.
JL: Yeah! Well, I'm six years in now with an EP and three records, but my first objective when making music is all about the live show. It's this beautiful, wild animal that's the untouchable medium. I relish it. In the beginning my first focus was to go with a ferocious live show. It's what has brought me beautiful audiences all over the world.
G: Audiences who keep coming back.
JL: That's the thing. It's alright to be the bearded lady for a second, or the resident freak. But if you don't have anything to give them they're not going to come back, so that's exactly right. I'm very cocky about my live show (laughs).
G: How much do you draw upon your theatrical background when performing live?
JL: I think it's innate, it's in me. For me it's an unleashing. I've always used music to get into character. The thing with music is that it's visceral, instantaneous and less cerebral than creating a character.
G: Your latest record, Terra Incognita is a real departure from what you were doing previously. It's more diverse, textural and experimental. Was this your intention from the start or did it just evolve that way?
JL: I wanted to create music that represented duality and conflict. It's a more complicated record. I was ready to challenge myself.
G: How much freedom do you have in the studio? Is there much label pressure to go a certain way?
JL: No! I make all the records myself and the label puts them out. I don't really have anyone to answer to except my own complexities and the audience I want to take on live. There's a lot of freedom and lot of pressure because it's so wide open.
G: Do you ever feel like it's too wide open, like being intimidated by a blank canvas?
JL: In the beginning. I love The Cars, Blondie, The Stooges and Nina Simone. Then I just thought about the bare-bones, rock-and-roll animal. Now I've discovered intimacy and I'm beginning to let that out.
G: What made you decide to branch out from movies into music? Was it a long time coming or was it spur of the moment?
JL: It's funny you should ask that. It was so not spur of the moment. I got successful in this one medium and I became a little complacent and didn't quite know how to go about music. Since then I've been making up for lost time.
G: How difficult is it to balance the musical and theatrical sides of your career?
JL: Well in the beginning there was no balance. I made a clear choice. I deliberately did not do anything that was offered to me for four years. After that it kind of worked out that when I'm not touring I can make a movie.
G: That must keep you hopping.
JL: Oh yes it does. I've got three movies coming out so that will be very exciting.
G: When you first started out as a rock musician, did you find that having previous fame was like a double-edged sword or did it actually help?
JL: That's so funny. Yes, it's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I could get interviewed. They're not going to play my music on the radio, but they'll talk to me. The negative is that I'll be judged ten times harder than a new, unknown act.
G: Does it matter to you that more people know you through your acting as opposed to your music?
JL: No, that's fine. I've played so many festivals just off the strength of my live shows and word of mouth.