Interview: Juliet Simms on how ‘The Voice’ has changed her life
To AP readers, Juliet Simms is the frontwoman of Automatic Loveletter, a band who spent much of the last half-decade on the road. But to faithful viewers of the hit NBC singing competition The Voice, the 26-year-old is a powerful, bluesy singer—and one of the front-runners to win the entire shebang. Tonight, Simms will find out if she’s one of the four contestants advancing to next week’s finale. But this past weekend, she took some time off in between rehearsals to discuss her time on the show, working with mentor/judge Cee Lo Green and how her life has changed.
You have so much experience already. What have you learned from being on The Voice? What has it taught you about performing and singing?
Oh, man. Just so much. It’s funny, because I came into this whole thing [thinking] I’m going to have a leg up, because of how much I’ve toured and [because] I basically grew up on the stage. But there is nothing like this pressure, and this kind of professionalism. What I really learned was that I still had a lot to learn. The amount of chaos that’s going on, and the pressure, the stress, the butterflies and the “Holy shit, what the hell did I get myself into?”—just harnessing that and being able to walk out on the biggest stage I’ve ever been on in my life, with the best equipment in front of the entire world… Even now, as I speak about it, it feels unreal. Like, it hasn’t really happened.
It’s so unreal still for me to even be talking about, “Wow, I’ve done that.” That’s crazy to me. It’s made me become a more professional performer and singer. This is all you do. You don’t party anymore; you don’t hang out with friends. In your free time, you study exactly the right notes you’re going to be singing. You eat, drink, breathe and bleed everything people see on Monday night.
I don’t think people realize how all-encompassing the TV show is.
[Laughs.] It’s crazy. I have to hand it to anybody who’s ever done [American] Idol or The Voice or any type of show like this. It’s brutal—and I’ve done Warped Tour in a van! [Laughs.]
People in and familiar with the Warped Tour scene know who you are, but many people in the general public don’t. Has that been strange? Has that been invigorating?
It’s been kind of refreshing. I get to come out as myself and with my name—kind of with a fresh slate. It’s been pretty cool to take myself as I am now, as the artist I am now, and show a bigger part of the world than I was showing before. That’s not something anybody can get, so I really cherish that a lot.
What is Cee Lo Green teaching you?
He’s just as amazing as he seems on camera. He’s got one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever come by. And he’s so intelligent and wise. He’s really taken my strengths and is nurturing them, bringing them out and letting them take over. That was a big part of me that, before, labels were kind of trying to suppress a little bit. He’s like, “No—no, no. That’s who you are. That’s what makes you who you are, you need to let that take over you.” Which is what I’ve been doing, and it’s worked in my favor. That’s definitely something he’s taught me.
He’s also taught me—as an entertainer and as a performer, to do it unselfishly. Don’t do it because you love it, but do it because you’re doing it for other people. Let the listener get something from you when you’re onstage, something they can only get from watching you perform.
That’s really wise.
It’s so wise. I love him so much—we’ve become really close, and I couldn’t have picked a better person to take me under their wing.
In the music industry, he’s basically said, “I do what I do, and you can like it—or not.” I can see how he’d be a really good coach for you, just in terms of helping you play to your strengths.
And he gets it, too. There’s a big affinity there for me and him, because we understand each other so much.
What’s been the biggest change in your life as the show’s been ramping up?
I’ve gone a solid 45 days now without doing anything normal. [Laughs.] There’s not a minute to take a break. Your breaks consist of the van ride over to the next place. If I do manage to get away for a minute, anywhere I go now, I get recognized. That’s pretty crazy. It’s different on Warped Tour; it’s a given thing. But this is weird: I’ll go to yoga or I’ll go to Coffee Bean or wherever it is, and I’ll have someone be, like, “Oh my God!” and grab me, and be like, “I love you!” I always start sweating—like, my elbows start sweating. I get nervous, because it’s so strange to me. It’s so strange.
Warped Tour is pretty low-key—and this is Radar Online and People.com type of exposure.
It’s absolutely insane. Even waking up on Tuesday morning after I did [The Police’s] ‘Roxanne,’ for instance, and seeing reviews from all of the blogs that I’ve been dreaming I would be on one day, praising me. That drove me into a crying ball. [Laughs.] It’s been absolutely the most emotional ride of my life.
What else is going on for the rest of the year? Do you know yet?
We’ll know Tuesday who the final four are, and then next Monday is the finale. It’s not far off. I do plan on making a record this year—I do think The Voice is planning a tour, for the top eight, I believe. That’s not official, but that’s the word, that’s what I’m hearing. If all goes to plan, I’m going to win next week [Laughs] and I’ll finally get to put out an actual record.
Without stress and strain.
Yeah, exactly—and getting to do what I want to do.
Is Automatic Loveletter on hold for the moment? What’s the status of the band?
Obviously, I won’t be doing anything with it for a little bit, because I’ll be so wrapped up in this. But it by no means is over. It had its fun and had its time for a little bit, and then this happened, and it just feels like this is what I’m going to be doing for a little while. When I get a break, I would absolutely love to write and do some more music with the band and possibly tour. Just like Cee Lo—Cee Lo’s got, what, five different projects that he does. I never want to just have one thing I’m doing. alt