Speaking | Judith Owen
an emily blunt interview
Owen Album Review
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...
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...
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Emily: You've been given a strong gift and your voice is beautiful
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
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
"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.
Judith: Yes, and one of the most wonderful things about the
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.
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
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
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
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
[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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
dammit, he did it. You know...and again, another one of those
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.
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!