Julieta Venegas: “Being in motion is a lot more fun”

Mexican singer intends to go on defying attempts to pigeonhole her

Julieta Venegas leans out of her hotel room window over Madrid’s Gran Vía.
Julieta Venegas leans out of her hotel room window over Madrid’s Gran Vía.CRISTÓBAL MANUEL

Music fans who like to follow the personal lives of musicians through their lyrics might conclude that Julieta Venegas’ new album, Los momentos, was her way to exorcize a disappointment in love. The woman who once sang “under my tongue there are hidden words that reveal everything about me” appears to grant listeners this space for interpretation. But in person she will not provide personal details even when asked.

“It’s true that there is a lot of longing, a lot of loss. There is nothing more inspirational than that which does not happen. There’s some of that in there, but it’s not like you have to know what I am going through right now in order to understand the album,” she says with a smile.

But behind the catchy tunes (which go deeper into techno pop) and her proverbially simple titles, one can almost feel what the present moment is like for the US-born Mexican artist with an indie spirit who grew big in the lap of a multinational; for the 42-year-old woman who decided to be a single mom nearly three years ago, and keeps silent about the father’s identity; for the tour junkie who has cut back on her endless gigging so as not to miss her daughter Simona growing up; and for the concerned mom who delayed this promotional trip to Spain because Simona had an ear infection, and might have canceled it altogether had she not gotten better in time.

“When you become a mother, you stop being in a hurry. Everything has changed, particularly the logistics. Traveling with my daughter comes very naturally to me. But now that she’s growing up I will have to reconsider the way I do things. I have nobody to leave her with, and I also don’t want to simply drop her off at my sister’s house (her twin, the photographer Yvonne Venegas). But instead of stressing out over these thoughts, my philosophy is ‘everything will work out.’ That and finding a partner. There is no formula for anything,” she muses out loud.

There is nothing more inspirational than that which does not happen”

There is something she does seem to have found, though: her identity as an artist. In 2011, her scheduled performance at the Benicàssim music festival demonstrated the kind of phobia she triggers in certain types of audience. She took it in her stride, and still thinks it “funny” that there were so many negative online comments ahead of the show. “I don’t even know my own place in music!” she exclaims with disarming frankness. “I too find it interesting to see that there are so many different perceptions about me. The first time I came to Spain, it was with an album that nobody had heard of. Later, with the second one, I participated in everything I could: Latin music festivals, world music festivals, women’s festivals... Anything to get up on stage and get people here to know me. Later I was on the radio, especially with Limón y sal, which became a hit, and even some village bands began playing my songs, which is the best kind of compliment. I went on a very long tour, then released a live album that nobody ever heard of and was never played any place. Not on the radio or anything. [...] Even today, I still feel I am searching for my audience, which means I don’t mind where I happen to be.” Venegas, whose tracks include Me voy and El presente, says she feels she is an independent soul on her own personal search.

“It would be very easy to say right now: ‘I’m going to make another album like Limón y sal,’ which is the one everyone liked. But I don’t feel like it, I’ve already done that. Now I’m busy with Los momentos, and I don’t know what that is, either, because I never make albums thinking ‘Hmm, who am I? What kind of an artist am I? Oh, I have to go down this road...’ Being in motion is a lot more fun.”

So the best thing we can state about her is that she is a weird artist? “Maybe. Maybe that’s a good thing.”

How would she like to be remembered in the future? “Rather than be remembered, I would like for my songs to be listened to, to be part of people’s lives. If I had to choose, really, that would be the coolest thing of all.”

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