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Judith OwenBluntly Speaking | Judith Owen
an emily blunt interview

Judith Owen Album Review

 

 

 

Judith Owen, musician, lyricist, and super vivacious human, is a superstar in the making. It's not often I rant and rave about today's musicians, but, having been given a copy of her cd Judith Owen/Limited Edition, I said, "This is indeed a rare talent!" Loving you all the way I do, I figured I'd share. I wanted to know more about her and her music - this was too rich to be her first work. So, Judith and I got together for an interview at her lovely abode, complete with loving dog and wicker furnishings, for a spot of tea and some girl talk. Enjoy...

Emily: Judith I'd like to start by talking about your family. I understand you come from a musical family. While I sit in the "little girl" chair you've provided... I won't break it with my girth, will I? [ It's an SNL skit - this antique wicker seat is about 1/2 a foot wide and 4 inches off the ground... hilarious]

Judith: Oh, no.[laughter] My father's an opera singer , I'm Welsh and my grandparents were miners, and steelworkers in South Wales. All Welsh speaking and music is really, really strong down there. My father was hugely musical as a young boy and eventually became a
professional opera singer and sang for 35 years. He only just retired...

Emily: What's his name?

Judith: Handel Owen. That's his real name - not his stage name. Let me tell you, his mother christened him Handel because Welsh people either name you after the Bible like me, Judith, or after a composers, musicians.

Emily: Oh, interesting tidbit! [Blunterettes you always learn here at Blunt Review no?]

Judith: Yes! Absolutely - that's what the Welsh do. They're hugely into music. And he was at...uh..The Opera House in Covent Garden for 35 years and that's basically where I grew up. So, I was an opera brat since I was five years old. Since we moved to London and I got to stare personally at young Carreras and Domingo and Pavarotti and...uh...Grace Bumbry and Kathleen Bathel and truly all the great opera stars of the world and that's who as a child and I was there every week of my life. Every single week, and I'd be sitting alone with my sister in the auditorium listening to the
most astounding music I've ever heard in my life and that was...that was my boiler plate. You know that was the bar to which I then compared all other music which was very high indeed.

Emily: Now, your music isn't operatic for people who haven't heard you.

Judith: Nononono. I think that's because of my father. My mother was in to big band music and was a huge Frank Sinatra fan and loved big stars and uh my father, amazingly enough for a practical minded person, was a huge fan of jazz and gospel music.

Emily: Which is very strange for Mr. Opera no?.

Judith: Yes, completely diversified. And he had this incredible collection of music which was just incredible jazz pianists, you know, amazing singers, performers, very big into piano and of course I'm now obsessed with it! I had this clash of incredibly beautiful classical music. You know the song "Car Crash"is a head-on collision with gospel, jazz, R&B, and that's because of what I heard.

Emily: Yeah. I had the pleasure of catching your show! You give great piano.

Judith: I am obsessed with the piano. Obsessed.

Emily: You are wonderful. [I said in full schmoozing mode in hopes of snagging another crumpet from the tea tray...]

Judith: Well, thank you. I just, I love it so much and I think that's also from as there was a piano in the house - there was a grand piano and we practiced every single day and in our house you...it was strange not to hear...not to hear music. It was just music and...and sound all day.

Emily: But you weren't classically trained, right?

Judith: They tried to because they realized my sister's a really fine pianist and she's brilliant and she is extremely gifted. She would be playing Debussy - wonderful pieces on the piano, and I, around about 4 I think, would go up to the piano and copy what she did. It was note perfect, and so my family thought I was going to turn into some... well my mother did anyway...some fantastic concert pianist. But of course what it was was is that I have a perfect ear and I can hear everything. I can't read or write as I am symbol dyslexic and I can't see anything.

Emily: Really?

Judith: Yes, and so my ear was so strong that it a.) I wasn't interested in reading anything and, b.) I couldn't. It'd take me half an hour to read one line and I could just play it perfectly after one hearing, and so I've been grateful for that talent as that's how I remember all my music. That's how I know. The only reason I write what I write is because it's in my ear.

Emily: You've been given a strong gift and your voice is beautiful as well.

Judith: Thank you, and I again think that that is definitely a mixture of hearing the incredible risk taking opera singers do. I couldn't be an opera singer, but I take risks in the way that I sing and I really do throw my voice around and have a wide range and that is mixed with what I heard again gospel singers do and jazz singers do, just like Ella Fitzgerald and, and following that my biggest idol my first person I fell in love with at the time at the time was kind of weird, but when I think about it now, because I kind of came about when the Beatles had ended. [giggling] It's just kind of like I didn't know anything about the Beatles. I am now obsessed with them, but I just had no bloody idea at that time! But who I thought was phenomenal and who was my idol, was Stevie Wonder, and I just thought keyboard-wise and vocally there was no in his place.

Emily: I'm surprised you didn't say Elton John.

Judith: Elton John was next. Those were the two. Songs from the "Key of Life" and "Inhibitions" and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" would probably be on top of the list ....and those were the two.

Emily: So far for those who don't know you...it sounds like you're a hoity-toity musician, but you're, you're...it's funny because your songs are very much humorous and visceral and just all over the place not pompous at all. What inspires you?

Judith: Well, you know, I might have started on a hoity-toity end as it were as in a high level of musicality, but...um...my belief is that if it moves you it is great...uh...I sing from entirely experience. I want to be a big ham on stage, but, but I couldn't bear getting up and singing alone. I would just dissolve into a red-faced, blushing...you know...

Emily: Yeah, yeah.

Judith: To me that's just ...I mean it's so typical. It's like I can't do things for fun, but if I'm on stage I want to do things and want the fans to enJudithy a performance!

Emily: I've seen some feathered boas. Are they...

Judith: Ah, you've seen some feathered boas! Those particular ones are from my Christmas party, but I am a woman who overdresses all the time. This is my daytime gear (she's in leather pants and a frilly rock-star shirt). Um...I overdress all the time, but I write about what moves me and it's always through my own experience and...

Emily: "Car Crash" is a good one.

Judith: "Car Crash", crash the car. Crash the car. Every bit a woman therein. I am...I have had an emotionally, you know, challenging life so far, as everybody does, I think. Everybody's got their baggage, and I've had my own personal battles and I think that I'm singing from the other side, and that's what I sing about and every song from that record is about that.
"Let's Hear it for Love," or any of the songs that you can pick up they all have humor in them and wit and light and I think tremendous compassion as well because I am fascinated by human conditions because I like the flaws in human beings.

Emily: Wonderful.

Judith: Yes, and one of the most wonderful things about the music.

Emily: You can't pinpoint you, which I just love.

Judith: No, and it's a huge plus! Ah, and it's also really harder within the music industry because I think, I think people want to be able to put you into a pigeonhole ...or put you into a bracket because that's how the industry is. I am not pigeonholeable!

Emily: No you're not.

Judith: I'm not.

Emily: Well, I believe your time has come.

Judith: The time is here.

Emily: As with independent films! And you know you may bring on your own genre. When people actually go, "Well you know it's got kind of a Judith Owen style."

Judith: Well, it's starting to happen down at the Judithint. It happened last night when this agent, came up to me and was just emoting like a lunatic - so excited, and he just said, "I'm more excited than anything about the fact that I can't bracket you. That you are your own." Exactly what you've just said. That made him excited because, you know, one day some poor soul is going to be compared to me. Well, you know...

Emily: But that'd be a good thing.

Judith: It would be a wonderful thing...

Judith: I've, you know, had to really look at that's what I do and think, am I doing something wrong here? [giggling] It's like why...why do I feel like I'm outside of where *it's* all happening. The truth is I do what I do. It is what I am built to do. No one else does it.

Emily: Well never, never apologize for it.

Judith: Never.

Emily: And it's a good thing that you have that special style, because if you were sitting up there trying to be Britney Spears or something like that...

Judith: And, and it's...um...it's not possible to be pigeonholed. I think, just as much because of where I come from. In as far as because I know, I really do know, what great musical movement means. I have heard the most beautiful music in the world, and I've also heard tiny folk songs that made me cry. And I've also heard a man busking in New Orleans who is
probably a better musician than anybody I've ever seen in L.A., and I know what musical
greatness is. I do. I do, because it's...it's from inside and you can't learn it, and you can't...you can't get it unless it's there already.

Emily: Yeah, well the studios can market it.

Judith: They can market it, and you can definitely package up something WONDERFUL. You know, Britney Spears...there's room for everything. That's the other thing I believe. There's room for all styles. There's room for rap, hip-hop , rock music and mood music and...and. There is room for EVERY style of individuality. Yeah! I love it! I love it that there's everything going on and you know, I listen to a Britney Spears record and I absolutely get why people like her. I do. For a 10-year-old girl. There ya go.

Emily: Yeah. I suppose it is great to exercise to.

Judith: Yeah, that's what I mean. It's just like if I was ten I'd probably be singing along.

Emily: True, my niece is walking around (she's 11), in the high tops and you know, stilettoes...That whole look.

Judith: Yeah. I get that completely and I think it's great. I just think that there is room for every....you can't forget about the quality artists as well who really have something special. What makes me giddy is that my drummer, this wonderful guy, Herman Matthews, his 20-month-old son sings "Get into it Baby." He actually sings, "Get into it Baby." He can just about mouth the words, and hey literally take the CD everywhere with them because he understands the words and sings them! Actually when he heard "Shine" he turned to his mother and said, "I think she's talking about her mummy." And she said, "Yes, I think she is," and he said, "She's very sad." Now that to me, that was fucking amazing! I just like...okay, there is something so pure about what a tiny person can pick up, that I think we lose, you know, as we develop and we think differently.

Emily: You know, people who will read this, maybe they'll buy your CDS -take my advice. Your music, to me, is impossible to categorize. There are so many different things you can do to this music. You can just relax and listen or pop it in while you have a sexy bubble bath or drive your car angry at a boyfriend, listening as a vent. Or just have a giggle.

Judith: Yes. Just have a giggle! And one thing that I do stipulate is it is necessary at all times to remember I'm a traditional songwriter. I believe in really catchy choruses and hooks and things that you will sing after this because that's what I'm thinking. And I leave singing it.

Emily: I hope to see your name on the Grammy show as"Artist of the Year."

Judith: I've been imagining being in that situation and, uh it's as hard as it ever has been! I just keep pushing that idea the whole time because I think you make a choice in life. You make a choice as to whether you're going to be...um... if you're in it just because you want to be a pop star - what it means to you, or you're in it because you want to be an artist and you want to be recognized, and I do think you make that choice. You do.

Emily: Well, you can tell by your music you're not looking for fame. You're decidedly different.

Judith: Yeah. I mean I think I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't looking for fame. I am, but truly what fame means to me is recognition and recognition on my terms, which is as a tremendous performer and, and a great musician.

Emily: You could take your voice and your talent, because your voice is very unique, and you could go to so-and-so studios and say, "You know what? Put me in a little bubblegum package and I'll make you a billion dollars."

Judith: Oh, believe me, I've tried. [giggling] It's been tried many times. But, different is the best friend I have. It's the best friend I have.


Emily: I don't think that it's a matter that you're so different that people are going to be shocked. I think they're going to embrace you and they're gonna go nuts for you. They just need to know that you're there.

Judith: Yeah, and that's why the...you know I finally got to America, which I adore. I got here and started at the music thing again. I've had an amazing time. I've been embraced by a lot of wonderful people - Jim Brooks put one of my songs in "As Good as it Gets." He...he just saw me singing at a party. It's like a Judithke, my luck. I am really fortunate actually because I think people want to support me truly.

Emily: Well again, you're also getting a different audience. You're getting the heartfelt audience that love you because they love the art of music.

Judith: They love the art and I think people love discovering something that again is unique and...and that they are connected to. They resonate where you're gonna be and they
want to be.

Emily: I always go back to a great statement...do you know Terry Gilliam? [director/actor/cartoonist]

Judith: Yes.

Emily: He said something phenomenal. He did a movie called "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." It's a very famous book by Hunter S. Thompson. . It's unbelievable that movie ever got made, and especially with all the drugs it blatantly and lovingly used. Of course it flopped in the theaters. When I went to see it, I sat through it three times. My point is at a press junket Gilliam said something I just thought was phenomenal. He said, "You know, when I was approached to do this [film] I knew that it wasn't going to be a huge Hollywood movie, but I figured there's a life raft out there in the middle of the ocean. Let's see who comes to it, and let's see who gathers, and those people that gather are gonna love it. You're gonna love it or you're gonna hate it." That in weird way , to me, is kind of like you. In a sense that your music is original and people that are gonna come to it are gonna love it, and other people aren't gonna get it, but at the same time it's that individuality that's gonna draw people, and there's plenty of us out there that will paddle to your raft!


Judith: I think it's funny. It's just like my talent...uh...something about talented
really helps, but persistence is what really pays off, and I do think that that is also what it's about. It's like the person who is, you know, still standing after the tornado strikes
[giggling]. You know, it's just like if you have to be amazingly stupid to...to just stay and stand! Opening for different people, I found that people at the networks are really open to new things. They have brought me an amazing audience of rabid girls and some guys, but
very, very similar to I guess a Tori Amos rabid girl audience because they want to hear
things. They just have to know! Like The Judithint Tuesday nights...I am just blown away by because 2-½ months ago there were five drunks in the bar. I'm not Judithking. Five drunks at the bar. [laughter] No, truly, it was like...and I said to the guy at The Judithint "let me play. I will build an audience!" You know I'm gonna build it up to the time when I do the "Simpsons" and I swear by this point we will have it really being a thing, and he's a great guy and he's like, "Okay," and you know, Tuesday night and I've been there every Tuesday night, and five drunks turned into you know, some really cool kind of local people hang-out. Last night was so busy they were standing on the street outside waiting to get in. And by the way, it is so amazingly not glamorous there. That's what I love about the place.

Emily: That's wonderful! I always say it just gives you stories to tell Jay Leno.

Judith: Yes it does. Everything...and that's what I write about. Everything to me is just amazing. Everything. I just...I don't know why people...you know...it's like why anybody writes fiction I'll never understand because what...the real stuff is so profound and fun and interesting and
I think what's great about performing regularly, and to me, if it's up to me I'd be playing
every night of my life and loving it. I would be on the road every single day of my life.
I just love...uh...I just so, so, so love performing. I love...there's nothing like it in the world and there's nothing like absolutely sending out everything I have. It's all about the songs
and music. And I am always amazed at...somEmilyody described it last night, but I just
stopped singing and there's this silence that seems to cover over the audience
and you can hear a pin drop and I just stopped. I've never seen anything like
this in my life. It's just... Well, it's just love and respect...and to feel that resonating back at you is truly the privilege of life. That is the privilege.

Emily: Absolutely.

Judith: It's just like, you know, I got to do this and I...and I've been given something very fine to do with my life.

Emily: And it's good that you've discovered that when you're young. You don't want to be looking at 75 and going, "Oh yeah, I was supposed to be a singer dam I screwed up."

Judith: No! I think the biggest surprise to most people, and you've already heard it in my music, is that I have a ridiculous, sometimes surreal, but very lusty,sense of humor and so the show, in between these, has a very moving piece of music, whatever they are, but, you know, intense and deep songs. I get to have as much fun as I want and I just love an audience, male or female! I just have as much fun as possible and I think that's why people really love it is because, is because...because I, I try to be cool and hip. I'm not.

Emily: [chuckle]

Judith: I mean I don't know what hip is. It's too hard.

Emily: I tripped on the red carpet at last years Oscars.

Judith: Well, golly good for you. I love that! And that's exactly the kind of thing that I would do myself, and like last night - I forgot the first words. I just screwed up the first words to,
you know, a deep, meaningful song I just fell into laughter because it's funny. And I think if you take yourself too seriously you are going to lose on many levels. I don't think the audience wants to see somEmilyody who's too serious and I think, I have a following now because people want to see somEmilyody who has a lust for life.

Emily: Oh, you definitely have a lust for life!

Judith:On every level - whether it be looking at things that make you sad. I don't
care what it is - I...I...I just love it .

Emily: I agree with you. I take life by the balls every day. I laugh and I smile and I...I have an elevator at my house that tortures me and I burst into laughter three times a day taking that elevator because you know what? I do look foolish, and I did get stuck in the
elevator and I did fall down.

Judith: Well, yeah, and you know what? It's a good smack up of a reality check watching my bum going up the ladder and getting onto stage...um...trying to get past the equipment is probably the funniest thing you've ever seen in your life, and actually I find it quite endearing because it'll keep you humble. It'll keep you humble, and guess what is going to happen next! Being a musician is the most unglamourous Judithb there is. The glamour lasts all the time you are on stage singing, and that's not that long! But the glamour is also how the audience perceives it. Back stage...but believe me there's no glamour here!


Emily: You're almost like a female Bob Dylan. Are people quoting you yet?

Judith: [giggle] Well, people quote my lyrics to me, yes. The truth is I think the Judithb of the, I hate this phrase, but you know, the singer/songwriter is a balladeer if you will. The musical sTori teller... The Judithb of the musical sToriteller is to be able to say things that most people can't vocalize, can't express, too afraid to, haven't thought about, feel, but can't...

Emily: Or won't.

Judith: Or won't vocalize. And I think that's it. I think that's it. And I think...uh...that I get remarkable e-mail messages and stuff on my website from people who have seen me live and love the music, because it means...it probably means something entirely different to them than what I had intended. My true meaning, but I know that it is a way that they can express how they truly feel, and it's very hard for them. It's very hard for those people to express themselves. I can't express myself without music. How about that? The hardest Judithb in my life has been actually being able to tell somEmilyody how I feel or that I need help or how much I love them. It's just the hardest thing in the world. It makes me cry, and I think that's why most people can't say it, because it makes people want to cry. Feeling that much - needing that much, makes you want to cry. I realize that imensely. I've been writing songs since I was a tiny child and why? Because I truly believe in what I do. It's probably my own very cheap form of...inexpensive form of...uh...therapy. That's what it was. And it was. It was therapy.

Emily: Beautiful therapy! Where can people see you?

Judith: I am gonna be in "The Judithint" for as long as I can breathe. Oh, that's a bit of an exaggeration. My aim is basically to have a place where I...where people know she's there at this day every week. This is where we go. This is where we see her. I want to get to the point where you cannot get everybody in the room. Yes. Yes.

Emily: Before we go I know people want to know about the "Simpsons" episode. How did they...how did they go about it? Do you go in and you record?

Judith: Well, I have this wonderful fan in the "Simpsons" called Mike Scully, who's an executive producer. He had, he often times [inaudible] and told me like a year and a half ago [inaudible] that he'd really...was determined to get one of my songs into [inaudible] the show and would, you know, create it because he...he would write the script, where there was going to be a cabaret singer or, you know, a night club singer, in Springfield, and,
dammit, he did it. You know...and again, another one of those amazing things.

Emily: Follow through.

Judith: Follow through and basically created a night club scene and shows the funniest, most inappropriate, which is my personality of course, and shows someone lustfully singing about. I just go to go to hell and back again! And it's just so wrong for a night club. It just makes me laugh because it's so silly. It's perfect for me. And, um...I'm just blown away because they did it. They came through. They got my personality singing and then I also was amazed they got my nose. It was very funny. They gave me a great big nose, which I have, a big wide mouth, which I have, and it just blew me away!

Emily: Well, we are done. Thank you and good luck.

Judith: Thank you so much. And again, so much thanks for your support.

Lovely, lovely human and a great talent-- trust me. Get into it! Enjoy your life!. Go on...get her cds. If you're in Los Angeles any time, see if she's still at The Judithint singing her heart out early on Tuesday nights!

Discover:Judith Owen

 

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