I was still coming up with some questions in my notebook, when Julieta Venegas appeared, as if by magic, inside the entrance of the Dream Hotel, ready for what would be her last interview of the day in New York.
In a few seconds, her tiny figure moved fluidly through the lounge to get to the couch I was sitting on. With her hair in a ponytail, a pink scarf from H & M tied to her neck, zero makeup, and smile from cheek to cheek, Venegas looked radiant. She greeted me earnestly, like someone who’s happy to see a familiar face.
Venegas says she’s come to New York many times before but has never actually seen it. “New York makes me very strong, speaking as someone who’s an outsider. I want to buy things, feel the street, watch the street markets–to view the city like a local,” she says. “It’s too late to go shopping, right?” she asks while looking out the window.
I could read between the lines. In less than an hour, the shops would close, so without thinking twice, we took a taxi together towards SoHo. That’s how I ended up as a tourist guide on this adventure, confident that no other writer would be faced with the challenge or privilege of taking notes amidst shirts, jeans and discs.
On this particular trip to New York, Venegas, 37, is in town promoting her new album, MTV Unplugged along with an up-coming tour that spans the United States, Europe and Latin America that she’s extremely excited about. “The idea was mine, I was the one who started to entice MTV, and I came up with the concept at home,” she says.
¡Click here and enjoy Julieta unplugged!
“I returned to some of my songs after altering them a bit, because making them new and different is important,” said Venegas. Being the first album she produced with the help of her record company, Venegas was armed with the best musicians and collaborators who she could find from all corners of the planet.
From Brazil, Marisa Monte; from Spain, La Mala Rodriguez; representing Mexico, Natalia Lafourcade, and directly from Argentina, Gustavo Santaolalla –they were all responsible for arming “the party of the people” (as Venegas refers to it), in which 15 songs, four of which are new, made up the final product.
You’d never guess she was self-titled “antisocial” one in her family, because she’s never wont of friends or fans. On various occasions her fans approached her to sign an autograph. Although it’s not always the most convenient time for her, it pains her to say no, even if she’s in her underwear trying on a jumper at Urban Outfitters.
Outside of her career, Venegas is shy and very reserved. Fortunately for her, her work does not hinge on what goes on in her private life. A few photos with fans later, and she reflects: “Sometimes I feel a little invaded, I know that there are people who say that one must be up for this, but why not just say hello, or have a conversation, or tell me what you’re doing.” But she says this without bitterness, because no doubt, she’s also requested a photo or two in her lifetime.
And, although it’s clear that her career has given her a lot, when asked if it’s also taken away something from her, she’s quick to reply: “You lose your everyday life, you don’t see your friends very often, and you have an irregular rhythm that makes you feel like you’re manic depressive, she confesses.
After an hour of chatting with her, I discovered things I never would have imagined when I was sitting in that room at the Dream Hotel: Venegas is a woman who loves deeply. She speaks Portuguese, doesn’t tolerate dairy products, doesn’t have a stylist, prefers to stay at home reading rather than partying, has a twin sister–who incidentally just gave her a niece–prefers the record store “Other Music” over Virgin Megastore, and loves her silk vintage 1970 Dior neckerchief probably more than anything else she’s bought all day.
“I was told in London that silk is best to heat the throat,” she says, (as if she needed my approval to buy it), to which I retort, “If you don’t take it, I will.”