Interview: Julieta Venegas

Gozamos: Hi, Julieta. First off, I was talking to Nelly Furtado last year and she described you as her favorite Latin artist. I thought that was a great compliment!
JV: Oh, that is great.

Last time I saw your show you were very pregnant. Was that hard to perform like that?
JV: Actually it was a lot better than expected or a lot better than people think. It is a great state to make shows in.

How is your daughter?
JV: She’s great, thanks.

It has to be a difficult experience touring with a baby this time.
JV: It is going to be different. I am not sure how it is going to be yet. I hope it is not difficult.

You started off your set last time with your song “Amores Platonicos.”
JV: Yes, it opens the album. I usually like to open shows with the songs that I open albums with. It is a thing I have, one of my tricks.

Do you consider yourself a shy person?
JV: Yeah, definitely.

It comes off like that in your music but it works. Are you releasing a third single from Otra Cosa?
JV: Yes, we are going to release it in the next few months, I guess. I think it will be “Debajo de Mi Lengua.”

Thank you for the inside scoop. Congratulations on your Latin Grammy win last year.
JV: Thank you.

You have won a few of those, five in fact, even tying Ricardo Arjona, which never happens.
JV: That’s true, a tied one. That was two years ago already.

You won the Lunas 2010 award for Best Live Performance in Mexico City. People really need to come see you live. There is a sense that the crowd just loves you.
JV: Definitely. I like [playing in] Chicago. The first time I went was in 1998. Since then we have always gone back. It is always a great crowd and they always treat me so well. They make us feel welcome. I really enjoy it a lot and it’s a great city, too.

You have a mixed crowd of fans. I always hear gay guys screaming, “Julieta!”
JV: I love that!

How many instruments do you play?
JV: My main instrument is the piano. I do everything from there. From there I started playing guitar and I love playing bass and programming. When I am working on songs and arrangements I sort of go and play a little bit of everything or whatever I have around. It is a thing I do out of curiosity. I wonder what would happen if I do this or combine a certain sound with another sound. I like to play around a lot, but I am not so disciplined to say that I can really play so many instruments. I can get away with it because I enjoy it but I don’t say, “[Speaks with a proper English accent] This week I am going to play the cello.” I studied the cello but I don’t really play it anymore. I just have it around. I hope to play it again one day. It is pretty fun.

You started playing piano when you were about 10 years old, correct?
JV: Since I was eight. I started playing because our parents wanted us to do extracurricular activities, something outside of school. The piano was a part of a list of classes that they put us into. We had piano lesson, ballet lessons, cooking lessons, painting, anything they could think of they put us into it. I guess I sort of connected to music from the beginning. It was instantly that I fell in love with the piano as an instrument. It was being a part of something. Since I was a kid it became so important to me. It has been around my life, for so long that it has changed in many ways. It gave me an identity, I was a twin, there was a lot of chaos going on there. It was good to have something that was mine. Music was something that I connected with instantly.

Your twin sister, Yvonne, is a photographer. Has she shot any of the album covers?
JV: No, she has done some pictures for my artwork but we have never done a cover together.

Growing up, did your family play a lot of norteño music?
JV: Yes, we had an interesting combination around the house from norteño to whatever my brother was listening to. He was always very Anglo-influenced. He listened to The Cure or Madness and whatever was happening. Music was such an important part of our daily life. My dad would play his music. He liked awful pop stuff. Mom was into Tom Jones. One day she would listen to something totally Anglo then the next day something totally ranchera. There was such a big mix of stuff going on in my house. It was pretty cool. That is part of growing up in a border city. You listen to things from all over the place and have no problem with that.

Why have you never made an English album? I didn’t know you could speak it until this interview!
JV: Well, even though I could speak it and grew up around English, I spoke to my mom in Spanish. My emotional life was in Spanish. I have always read books, watched films and listened to music in English. When I try to write music in English it sounds fake. For some reason it doesn’t sound like me. It’s weird.

Is purple your favorite color? It’s on your album covers for Otra Cosa, Limon y Sal and MTV Unplugged.
JV: Yeah, I like purple a lot, definitely. I think it’s around a lot. I also like blue-green. I guess I like strong colors.

You are going to New York and California so this is a big tour for you.
JV: We are going all over, so it is cool. In the middle we are going to Argentina to do a show there. We will be filming a documentary with other musicians from Spain. We are going to sit around in beautiful parts of the country and play songs. I hope something interesting comes out of that.

You are doing the FIB festival of music, which is in Spain, correct?
JV: Yes, it is in Benicassim. I have been there once as the public but this time I am going to be playing, which is a big thing for me. It caused a lot of controversy but I actually enjoy that.

Oh, really?
JV: Yeah, some of the people don’t want me going. They think I am too pop.

I wouldn’t think so.
JV: Well, it’s fine. I am going anyway so…

Good for you. This tour is sponsored by Jack Daniels. Are you a big drinker?
JV: I am not much of a drinker, definitely not now because I was pregnant and had a baby. Even before that I wasn’t. I do have a little tequila sometimes before a show, but not this tour or the one before because the baby is coming with me. I have never been much of a partier, more like a wine with dinner person.

We are from the same generation. We both turned 40 this last year.
JV: It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. It has been a nice experience. I am enjoying it.

I was just talking to the singer Debbie Gibson and she said the same thing.
JV: Well, if Debbie Gibson says that then we are all cool! [both laugh]

Fans can keep up with your tour on the website?
JV: We are putting all of the dates up and news on the website ( I am usually a mess with my website but this time I am working with someone really good. We are keeping the web updated. As we confirm more dates, they will be on the page.

Julieta arrives back at V Live, 2047 N Milwaukee Ave, on Feb 23 at 10:00pm. Tickets are at or 773-701-4111.

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