California-born, Tijuana-raised Julieta Venegas is a multifaceted singer-songwriter whose sound has clearly matured over the years. And that is especially noticeable on her 2012 release Los Momentos, which she is currently promoting with an extended U.S. tour that makes a Miami stop this week.
We here at Crossfade recently caught up with Venegas. She spoke of her newfound musical maturity, the making of Los Momentos, and becoming a mother, as well as her undying love for Brazilian music.
Fully embracing being a mom also meant that her daughter Simona was part of the interview -- the little Venegas' voice could be heard in the background the whole time.
See also: Julieta Venegas on Los Momentos, "Not Just Stories About Falling Into and Out of Love"
Crossfade: I'm guessing that is your daughter Simona in the background, yes?
How is the tour going so far?
The tour is going very good, we are very excited about touring this part of the U.S. now. We have already been in Brazil, in Argentina. We have been doing a lot of shows here in Mexico, also in Colombia and Peru. We've had a lot of dates during this year and we are very much looking forward for touring the United States now.
You are a multi-instrumentalist. And you play the accordion, the ukulele, the piano...
Well, I like arranging songs and I like producing them. I'm not a virtuoso on any of them. I just like to phrase ideas that I'd like to work on for the songs. But I'm mostly a piano player, that is the instrument that I started playing, and that is the one I always go back to.
One of Los Momentos' songs, "Vuelve," features Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux and Café Tacvba's Ruben Albarrán, how did that collaboration come together?
When I was writing the song, I was thinking about Ana. I thought that she would figure out something for that song, like create a rhythm to it, and then I thought that inviting Ruben would be great, so we figured out the constraints to feature Ana, so Ruben and I did it together, and Ana sent it in later.
How was the recording process?
Ana recorded in Chile and then sent it to me, and Ruben did record here with me in the studio.
So there was an experience together, not just putting it together from separate recordings. Tony Bennett once said that he prefers it that way instead of having people do it in different studios.
You know, this time around I did a few things on the album that were long-distance, and they're actually kind of nice. In Ana's case, we got the song, the lyrics, the demo through Skype, and I did the same thing with [Brazilian cellist and producer] Jaques Morelenbaum, who did arranging for two tracks -- he was in Brazil, so he did it on his own, and when we heard it, we couldn't believe what he'd done, it was amazing. Working separately sort of gives people the chance to interpret the music that I am sending to them without me producing it. I like to be in the room when I'm collaborating, but in this situation, I thought it was really cool to do it like this.
Incidentally, are you influenced by Brazilian music in any way?
Well, yes. I have always loved many Brazilian artists, such as Marisa Monte, Caetano Veloso. Right now in Brazil, there are many amazing names coming out. I like Bonde do Role a lot. There are always great new artists coming out of Brazil.
Some reports say you were born in Tijuana, while others say you were born in the United States. Care to clarify that one for us?
I was born in Long Beach, but I grew up in Tijuana.
Living on the border like that, between two cultures, did that inform your songwriting?
It did. I grew up speaking both languages, even though I was more inclined to the Mexican side because of my family. I went to school in Tijuana, but I crossed the border constantly to do everything -- watch shows, get books, whatever. It is very common in in Tijuana to be crossing the border, so you kind of live on both sides, and that influenced me a lot.
I also read that you speak Portuguese...
No, I speak Portuñol. [Laughs] It is very basic way of communicating with people when I am in Brazil.
Apart from the tour, do you have anything else in the works?
I'm writing music for a play that will start here in Mexico in the middle of October, and also I am participating in an animated film.
What is the play about?
It's actually based on a book by Mark Hadden, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, it's about a teenage boy who has Asperger's and so it's a story that he goes through. It's a beautiful book, I'm really enjoying doing this.
And the animated film?
The film is called El Niño de Piedra, about a boy who gets so mad at the world that he gets turned into a rock, I basically did songs about the different worlds of every sense because some kids are taken into the world of the senses -- "El Olfato"(smell), "La Vista"(sight) and so on -- and I did a song for each one.
Do you think that the fact that you became a mom drew you to do projects for children?
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Well, I was invited to do this. I don't know if fact that I am a mom influenced me to accept it, but I really liked the idea of doing it, because I liked the story of the film and I was intrigued by what I could do with it.
-- Ernest Barteldes
Julieta Venegas. Friday, October 4. Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $33.50 to $55.50 plus fees via livenation.com. Call 305-673-7300 or visit fillmoremb.com.