"It's a false colored world...now where do you fit in?" wonders Juliette Lewis on the song, Suicide Dive Bombers, from her recently released album, Terra Incognita. Given the opportunity to sit and chat with this dynamo, lends an abundance of answers to thoughts and wonderings on everything from her music to her independent spirit, on and off the stage.

With a charismatic propensity for adventure and passion, Juliette Lewis enters the green room with an addicting presence, a large smile, and an even bigger set of red feathered shoulderwings.

SB: Let me just start by saying I'm beyond excited to be sitting down with you so some "superfan" tendencies will come out and you might have to ignore any involuntary outbursts or freak outs.

JL: [laughs] That's ok, I'm a little that way too.

SB: Oh good, so we can spaz out together! In lieu of that notion, I'll start with a most random question first. Who was the last person you high-fived?

JL: Oh...hmm. Actually it was today, and it was Shirley. We sometimes high-five each other, well, A LOT in my band.

SB: It's such a simple gesture but it's like a universal "Hell yeah, you're accepted!" maneuver.

JL: And it's a giving of energy. It's like this quick thing but it takes you this special energy to do it and that's why I love it.

SB: Rad! So if a high-five is a favorable action, on the flipside, what would be something, say like "the most embarrassing thing that's happened while you were on stage"?

JL: Well, here's one of my perverse pleas...I guess it's BECOME my perverse pleasure. I wonder if I coined that phrase? But um, what's the word, um, the more uncomfortable something is, I relish in it, no matter how odd it is. So I don't think it becomes embarrassing for me. But one time, only one time, and knock on wood, I fell. So I tripped, cause I usually wobble on my feet, like look at these boots. They're taped! I need to buy some new ones. And you know, I cannot have heels bigger than this. So yeah, I tripped before. OH! You know, sometimes I just make up stuff when I'm talking. Especially when I'm jetlagged. Like my mind and my words can't catch up with my thoughts. And...

...I'll be mid-song and say,
"YEAH! You came out here and...rock, let's go do, and what!"
Then I blank and stutter...

SB: I know what you mean! I'm the self-described "champion of making up my own words and phrases." Even the way I compose reviews, etc...people have become accustomed to my own slang and lingo.

JL: I love that! I make up my own words too...all the time!

SB: So what's the best word you've made up then?

JL: I think I made up "romanticist", but you know, no, I think it actually came from a Sam Shepherd play. He said "romanticist", but wait, then that is a real word, right?

SB: I think it might be legit, BUT, it's also the first time I think I've ever heard it used.

JL: We'll let that one slide then. Well wait...so what's your word then?

SB: [laughs] I don't know that it's the best, but I used the word "plethoricality" in a piece I wrote last week, to describe how someone had this essence of always giving more than is necessary.

JL: Oooh...I LIKE that!

SB: You know, sometimes it just makes sense given the context, and if people can follow along with that sentiment, then great!

JL: It's like an "over abundance of plethora". I really like that. Plethoricality. Yeah!

SB: I'm glad we're on the same page with that one! Now that we've discussed linguistics, I guess we can talk about the new album now...

JL: Oh no wait! I HAVE to tell you my one word, that's real, but that I've been using a lot. I tell people that I'm an "emotionalist". Cause they're like "Are you an actor, are you a singer..." and I just say, "I am an emotionalist". One that plays and deals with emotions, and molds it, and expresses it. That's the through line. Rather than being one way or the other...you're always going to have to deal with emotions.

"I am an emotionalist. One that plays and deals with emotions, and molds it, and expresses it."

SB: Speaking of emotions then, with this new album, there's a very different tone to it, in relation to your early material. Was this a result of working with Omar [Rodriguez-Lopez], from The Mars Volta? If you could just talk about how that relationship came about...

JL: We met in Japan, at a festival called Fuji Rock. And naturally, I was totally intimidated by him, cause he's a virtuoso guitar player, and, as I've come to learn, a great composer. He sees and hears music in a kind of "connected to the gods" way. And so my tour manager says, "Why don't you ask him to produce your record?" And I knew I needed a producer who could help translate "me" and all of my facets. Not someone who would just go "Yeah, you're a rock chick, we'll do rock with you!" That's not what it is. So for like 2 months, I didn't call him, cause I thought "oh, he's going think he's too good for me"...but when we talked on the phone, it was like 2 kindred spirits. We bonded over Fellini movies. We actually see music in a similar way; where he sometimes sees music he makes as characters, in a real visual sense. And people have been telling me, that this record is the most cinematic. Like you listen to a song called Romeo, and for me, the guitars make me think of being underwater, and these sounds ricocheting, and it supports the lyric in the song, "Across the sea...where the night dances...you follow me", and he created music that surrounds that story.

SB: It's definitely a noticeable feature with this album. From my perspective, the Licks' albums were more associated with that "rock'n'roll party all the time" mentality, and not to say there's a disconnect to this point, but there's an obvious maturation in every aspect of it. There's so much of this living, breathing, dark and brooding soul to it [Terra Incognita].

JL: You're dead on! I think the ultimate goal was really to express these colors of myself. I wanted to relay this duality of myself that I didn't know how to do before. I'm an incredibly joyful person to others, but that's uh, um, undercurrent. There's melancholy and longing and fucking pain that's deep...it runs really deep. So you have these contrasts. Like at the end of the year [last year], my band was breaking up and I broke up with a love. I was feeling alienated and displaced. Also, our government was changing. All of these things played a part into where I was going and I said to myself, "Do I HAVE a future?"; as an artist, you have to create your own future all the time. You have to push it, and say "What am I going to do today to generate creativity?", especially in music. This thing doesn’t run if I don't have some sort of occasion for it. And because I'm not a pop artist, and am so independent to the core, I was like "Well, I don't want to get lazy", and the truth is, the Licks, when I started, THOSE were my tastes!

SB: You can't deny what you need to communicate...if that's what needs to come through at the moment.

JL: Honestly, I actually wanted to be a keyboard band initially! [laughs] But then I found my heart, as this sort of real gritty, uh, uh, rhythm rocker, cause my partner, Todd, came from punk with this real hooky driven music. And then I started writing on piano...and it was TERRIFYING. When I was a kid, I was so critical of my voice. So a lot of these new songs have this space that allows that voice just to sing; and it's really exposing. But I wanted to do that. I wanted to feel that vulnerability, and sort of uncover that pain, and it doing that, it became my strength.

SB: I'm glad you mentioned muscialities at a young age, because as well known as you are as an actress, and having been seen in that light for so many years...it almost begs the question if there was one "aha!" moment when you knew you had to be doing music.

JL: It did come, because I was writing with my friend, Jimmy, when I was 22. We were writing songs. And then I had a drug problem that I had to really nip in the bud, if I wanted to live. [laughs] So 22, quit drugs! [laughs] I hate when a journalist gets it wrong, like "Yeah, she just quit drugs 5 years ago!", and I'm like no, that's not how it happened.

SB: Don't worry, I got it. Quit drugs when you were 22. I'll print it exactly!

JL: [laughs] Yeah yeah! It was a long time ago! It's been over a decade. Anyway, so I was just writing, and writing ALL the time. Even Suicide Dive Bombers [from the new album] stemmed from a lyric that I wrote when I was 23, that says "they were selling tickets to your funeral". Yeah, that was the lyric, and I'd always remembered it. And that's what's so funny about your mind, you'll remember, and you'll just sort of store it...so anyway long story short...I was writing songs with a bunch of different friends. I got with Linda Perry, and that was my first time having a mentor, where someone who is as wonderful as she is (a great vocalist and songwriter herself), just brought me out a little bit more. So I wrote a few songs that were on the EP, and it was right before I turned 30, I was like "Wow, I'm going to look back at 50 and go, wait WHY wasn't I writing and singing...WHY didn't I do that? Cause I didn't know how? Well, fuck that! Find out how and make it happen!"

SB: Exactly...what's the worst that could happen? You can say you tried, rather than not having thrown yourself into it at all.

JL: That's the truth. Simply put.

SB: In mentioning [Linda] Perry as a mentor, I'd love to get your reaction to being asked to open for Cat Power and The Pretenders on tour this summer. I actually caught you at SummerStage. I think it was literally [temperature-wise] the hottest day this year!

JL: [laughs] Well, let me tell you. First off, there were many stages to that, because this was my first main tour with the name change, a new sound, a new band...so when Chrissie Hynde, you know, The Pretenders took me on, I was just like...honestly, it was tears. And then secondly, to watch her, we bonded the first day. We were actually talking about our t-shirts, and we traded! She was like "I love the bull!" [on the JL t-shirts]. But I would watch her on the side of the stage, and just think, "Wow, I could have a future here", because witnessing her, someone who is so ageless, this artist who is so full of power...her songs are not dated, and they are still amazing. So that tour was just a dream. Cat Power, Chan, was just incredible and lovely, to the point where you just want to snuggle with her. She's so sweet and talks really soft.

SB: I know! There's no way anyone could ever have a bad word to say about her.

JL: No not at all! But it was a great tour. And I'm still really really inspired by it. We need to get on something like that again. Like I said, it was a dream.

SB: On that note, I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to sit and talk with me, because honestly, this has been a dream of MINE for quite some time.

JL: You're so sweet...I feel like I need to give you something.

SB: Not necessary at all. This has been my pleasure.

JL: Well, at least I can give YOU a high five to bring it full circle.


A very special thank you to Juliette for tkaing time out of her hectic schedule to grant this wish of mine. It's truly appreciated and will be a cherished and honored memory. Juliette Lewis' Terra Incognita is available now through iTunes, along with other major outlets.

mp3: Juliette Lewis - All Is For Good
mp3: Juliette and The Licks - You're Speaking My Language