Writing and recording all her songs at home on her own, Juliet Guterres aka Jugu is a bit of a musical hermit, working alone and relying on no other opinions than her own to shape her musical direction. Her music is a playful mixture of pop and electro with most of the songs on her Getting Closer EP gravitating around the theme of love, although this is something Jugu points out is unintentional, and a theme she is already moving past as she progresses as a songwriter.
Set to play Mum at World Bar this Friday April 29th, we caught up with her to discuss her music, past present and future.
MF: So you write and produce all the music yourself in your home studio, do you find you have to motivate yourself much considering the freedom and lack of pressure, or is it almost involuntary?
Juliet Guterres: I usually don’t need much motivation to start writing. Once I have an idea I get so excited that I tend to disappear for a few hours until I have the basic structure, chords, beats and melody down. The hard work is in refining the music and completing the lyrics. It’s hard to let go and say that a song is finished because the possibilities are endless. Some of the songs on my E.P. started out years ago and have a lot of demo versions. It really took the idea of releasing something to force me to finish them.
MF: Working on it all by yourself provides a lot of control and freedom but at the same time must be somewhat daunting in that you don’t have anyone to bounce off or work ideas through with. Would you ever consider working with someone else or is the way of solitary songwriter the only path for you?
JG: I find making music pretty relaxing, it’s a form of personal expression for me and I don’t rely on the opinion of others at all. From a practical point of view you have to be more organised when you are collaborating to set up meeting times, etc. whereas when I’m at home I can switch on the computer whenever inspiration strikes and get to work straight away.
On the other hand, I am very open to working with other people because you always end up with something that you could never achieve on your own. I am in the beginning stages of collaborating with a few people and it’s been really fun so far though I am forcing myself out of my comfort zone.
MF: Your music has a very playful quality to it, is that an aesthetic choice or just the way the music comes out? Would you ever consider taking it into darker territory? Why?
JG: I just go with whatever ideas pop into my head, and those ideas depend a lot on the mood I’m in at the time. I think some of my songs turn out in a playful way because when I’m in a restless, silly mood I will start singing happily to myself, and that’s where the ideas come from.
Two of the songs on my E.P., Stand Up and Catastrophe, are a bit darker. Stand Up was written kind of a motivational song to myself when I was feeling a bit useless and unmotivated. Catastrophe is a break up song.
A new song I’m working on at the moment has a dash of melancholy and is more atmospheric; I think it’s quite beautiful. Not surprisingly I came up with it on a rainy day.
Would you say your music has any underlying themes to it?
JG: Completely unintentionally I tend to write all my songs about love and relationships. I turned the song Infatuation from a love song into a cheeky song about cyber stalking just to do something bit different. But it’s still a type of love song in the end. Actually I have a new song called “I Told You So”, which is not about love but about rubbing your success in a naysayers face. So ironically I’ve matured as a songwriter by becoming immature.
MF: What motivates you to make music in the first place?
JG: I always get snippets of musical ideas stuck in my head, sometimes with multiple parts playing at once. So I love getting that muddled mess out of my brain and clarify it by recording it. I also get a real buzz when I hear a track starting to take shape. Have you found that over time your style has developed or changed at all?
To me it’s always changing, every song is a chance to experiment. I think the more I write, it the process gets quicker and more natural every time. I’m getting better at writing songs that suit my vocal range.
MF: With you writing all the songs at home on your own, how do you approach performance? Are you trying to recreate the recordings or offer a different perspective on the songs? Do you have a band or is it more of a laptop/backing track situation?
JG: I see myself as more of a songwriter than a performer. While I was recording I was a bit like a hermit, so I’ve really had to come out of my shell to be able to perform these songs. I like the social aspect of performing, meeting other acts and gaining a sense of community.
As a completely unknown musician, performing is really the only way to get people to listen to your music, and although I find it quite nerve-racking, I do enjoy it. I’ve had strangers approach me after the show and say they loved it, so I think it’s worth it just for that.
I started out just as a one-woman show, singing along to a backing track and playing a little synth keyboard. Now I have drummer and a bass guitarist with me on stage, they’ve really added a new dimension and add more energy to the performance.
MF: You released the Getting Closer EP last year, what was it like to finally have a record of your work recorded and out there for people to listen to after so many years of having it only in your head?
JG: I had probably taken a bit too long to get something out there, so when I finally finished the E.P. it was a great feeling. It’s only a small collection of songs but it’s great to have something to show what I’m capable of. As soon as it was finished I gave a copy to all of my friends just so that they could have a listen, I think a few were even surprised to find out that I actually wrote music.
MF: Have you started work on another release yet? If so how would you say it compares to Getting Closer?
JG: I’ve got a couple of new songs up my sleeve and when I have more I’ll release something, hopefully by the end of the year. I think it’s important to keep creating, that way you increase the odds of making something amazing. Maybe it’s too early to tell how it will compare to Getting Closer, but after performing I think I’ve become more aware of how the songs translate to the live stage.
What should we be looking out for in the coming months?
JG: I’ve shot a music video for The Deep with an amazing production company called The Creative Foundry, so watch out for that. To celebrate I’m having a video launch on the 29th of April at The World Bar. I’m decorating the stage with hundreds of LED paper boat lanterns and having a premiere screening of the video, it should be a really special night. Apart from that I’m just getting on with the job, writing more, playing more and taking opportunities as they come.
Jugu will play Mum at World Bar on Friday the 29th of April