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Juliette Lewis: Frenetic & Kinetic

27 December 2016

Juliette Lewis has returned to music after a lengthy absence with Future Deep, her newest record bearing her trademark raw emotion and uncompromising love for rock & roll. The Academy Award nominee drew criticism during her initial transition from the screen to the stage with The Licks but her fiery persona was the perfect compliment to the music she felt destined to pen. Lewis stretches notes with the pain and sexuality of Janis Joplin while supporting her lyricism with frenetic performances reminiscent of Iggy Pop.

“I always felt rock & roll should be raw and dangerous. Playing live is an exorcism and really just a celebration of life; Owning pain, joy and emotion,” affirmed Lewis.

Despite her extended time off from music Future Deep remains the perfect segue from Terra Incognita, Lewis’ debut solo record. Preserving and capitalizing on her interpretation of the Blues, Lewis appears to have pushed her vocal boundaries, relying less on the bombastic guitars and tempos of her former group.

“Terra Incognita was a record I felt I just had to make. I got tired of the verse chorus structures of The Licks but I felt I found more of myself with that record and this one. I learned that the space between notes is just as important as the actual notes played. I found my blues and within those themes it’s really hard to hide from your true self, ” stated Lewis.

She agreed The Licks got off to a hot start back in 2004 with Like A Bolt Of Lightning. Boasting Hole’s Patty Schemel on drums and H20 guitarist Todd Morse, whom ventured out of his hardcore comfort zone to contribute songwriting duties, the debut featured hook-laden melodies with punk’s energy. The Licks were playing European festivals and releasing albums in quick succession. Two years later Lewis recruited Dave Grohl to handle drumming duties on Four On The Floor. It appeared she was successfully embracing a new medium despite that initial criticism of casting her aside as another celebrity merely dabbling in music.

“I consider myself a Hollywood outsider and I don’t believe or give in to any of that pedestal culture, which is what I call people believing they’re better than others,” laughed Lewis, espousing the same youthful energy she radiates onstage.

For Lewis, The Licks was what she refers to as her ‘idealized introduction’ to what it meant to be in a band. Despite the strong start, she disbanded the group after touring for Four On The Floor. She recalled how venues initially expected her to arrive in a limo and bark demands but feels she combated judgment with her honest performances.

“With acting, I saw the runway critics wanted me to run. I have never been the overly popular, pretty girl despite being grateful for all the interesting roles. I approached venue owners with humor if I felt they were going to treat me differently just because of my acting. I feel a lot of empathy with people and share similar things, just the details are different,” reflected Lewis.

Lewis believes Future Deep continues the artistic growth she initially experienced while writing for Terra Incognita. The record failed to earn any commercial accolades but she still reserves a special place for it.

“Of course that record did nothing, but I don’t care. I wrote that record on piano, something a lot of people didn’t know I played. It was challenging to write haunting lyrics and as a singer, I was totally vulnerable. Hard Lovin’ Woman turned out well but it was difficult knowing I had to put extra pressure on singing,” reflected Lewis.

Pressure is undeniably something Lewis has always faced. She gained notoriety for her portrayal of Mallory Knox in Natural Born Killers, Oliver Stone’s controversial yet ultimately successful 1994 film. At only 19, Lewis became involved in a media firestorm calling for censorship and more artist accountability. Based on the premise of society glorifying violence while paying lip service to condemning it, Natural Born Killers earned immense backlash and widespread boycotts. Lewis reflected on the film and how it continues to creatively impact her.

“Oliver Stone knew how to make brilliant yet incendiary films. Ode To Hollywood, off Future Deep actually confronts the guttural, violent and sexualized images Hollywood wanted to portray. I was 19 when I took that role and I knew it was a risk because people would either see it as glorifying killers or shining a light on a culture that glorifies them,” stated Lewis.

Natural Born Killers catapulted Lewis and co-star Woody Harrelson into the public eye and the film earned Stone a Golden Globe nomination for best director. For Lewis, she believed the role proved that the industry did believe in her growing talents even though she felt compelled to ignore the gossip and spotlight that came with being the lead actress in the year’s most-talked about film.

“I still feel that I learned so much from that experience. In time, I think it was brilliant and I love how it forced me to confront certain issues. I don’t think we should glorify killers by putting them on magazine covers or printing things like suicide notes. It’s complicated but I think we should be careful of how we can give toxic, narcissistic people any kind of voice,” stated Lewis.

For Lewis, her newly evolved voice has resulted in an artistic rebirth even after a lengthy absence from the screen and music. Her recent film work has paired her with Hilary Swank, Robert Downey Jr. and Jennifer Aniston. Resuming acting and being fortunate to work with internationally renowned actors and actresses, Lewis remains humble and sincere. Her sincerity and dedication to her craft ultimately caught the eye of longtime friend Michael Rapaport. He approached Lewis about collaborating for a documentary project, Lewis admitting she was unaware that she would be the subject.

“It was funny because at first I had no idea he was talking about doing a documentary on me,” giggled Lewis. She stated she was hesitant about the project because filming anyone during intimate moments required a trust unlike anything else.

“I would never have done that with anyone else. I have known Mike for 20 years and to allow someone into your personal space like that is a game of trust. I think he did a nice job of capturing my humor even though I experience things deeply,” said Lewis.

Hard Lovin’ Woman appeared the same year Lewis suffered the loss of her father. To some, the timing would have been off but she chose to complete the project and bravely embrace others who have shared similar losses. Lewis views this as a time for further exploration and growth, a word she uses often.

“I use that word because I feel I have experienced so much and the film captured it all; losing my father, breaking up with a love, breaking up my band. I feel the song Hard Lovin’ Woman is my declaration. I dealt with the loss by embracing others who experienced similar things. This is the life cycle and how we all manage the difficult times; Hugging it out and listening to strangers. As a community, we all feel loss but bittersweet moments can help you throughout,” confessed Lewis.