'Effervescence Found, Nothing Lost!'
Judith Owen is an exclamation point. Gifted, witty and Welsh, her artistry is fueled by a fiercely independent character that is balanced by an effervescent personality. The NY Press advises, “Think of Owen as a brutally sardonic, keenly observational, jazzier, chanteused-out version of Tori Amos without the suicidal tendencies.”
Owen’s live performances brim with elements of humor and theatre, distinguishing her from other female singer/songwriters. She regales audiences with stories of growing up Welsh (“We’re a melancholy people, happily depressed most of the time”) and being the daughter of an acclaimed British opera singer (“I literally spent my childhood waiting in the wings.”) It was through her parents that Judith discovered her own passion for music.
Upon the untimely death of her mother, a teenaged Judith began writing songs as a way to assuage her grief. Audiences were moved by her deeply personal work, and she quickly developed a loyal following, ultimately leading to a chance encounter with the yin to her yang and a lifelong match for her sharp sense of humor and remarkable talent, in actor/satirist Harry Shearer.
Her new album Lost & Found features award-winning artists Cassandra Wilson, Keb Mo, Tom Scott and Richard Thompson. The 14-song collection smolders with poignant originals alongside Owen's unique interpretations of such unexpected numbers as Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water”, and The Police’s “Walking On The Moon”.
Chatting recently with Judith, I first noted that she seemed to have some wonderful musical aid on this new album in the form of people such as both Cassandra Wilson and Keb' Mo'. But what was it about these artists that had her asking them for their musical attributes? "Firstly, admiration for their work and talent. I'd seen Cassandra many times at Jazz Fest and loved her swampy sexiness, when I found out that she was a fan of my work, I simply had to meet her and 'bond'. This led to me writing a bluesy song for us..'Enough' Of course the best part of it all was becoming friends and really loving the woman behind the voice."
"Keb Mo, was also one of my favourite artists and he happened to be in the same studio when I was doing a demo for 'Train Out of Hollywood'
He popped his head round the studio door, loved what he heard and I really couldn't let him get away after that! Again he's a great person and the friendship blossomed. Richard Thompson, is an amazing artist who I'm lucky enough to collaborate with on a regular basis and 'Night and Day' is a song we do in his extraordinary show '1000 Years of Popular Music' ..it was just too special not to include. Tom Scott's been a good friend for some time now, one of the first people I met when I came to the US and I'd dreamed of the man who graced the music of Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan, playing on my songs. Basically I yearn to work with artists who are wonderful people and musicians ... it just shows in everything they do.
And once I set my mind on something, well ........"
Your album title suggests a collection of songs that you have dug deep to bring 'back to life.' But, why choose such known classics as 'Smoke On The Water' and 'Walking On The Moon' (a truly breathtaking rendition, by the way!) to include in this musical revitalization process? "Thank you so much, I'm glad you like them. Well I think that what appeals to my particular sense of humor, is to take highly testosterone songs (in the case of 'Smoke') and turn them into sexy, jazzy beauties! The more 'male' the better I like changing them."
"The good news is that the members of Deep Purple loved it and put me up on their site! In the case of 'Walking on the Moon' and 'These Foolish Things', I take songs that I adore and make them my own ... bringing a bitter-sweet slant to everything I touch. Really it's about the love of songs, songwriting, arranging and personal interpretation. I mean, who needs to hear another artist covering a song exactly like the original?"
It's been said that your live shows are equal parts Joni Mitchell and Eddie Izzard! I love Izzard, so please explain what 'part' of him you are channeling these days?! "Definitely his love of clothes! Actually I think the Eddie reference is more to do with who I am between songs ... I have to laugh when I'm not singing ... it's all too bloody precious otherwise and I and the audience need some comic relief between these highly emotional songs. My monologes are very 'seat of the pants' ... I say whatever comes to my mind and it can get very British and surreal.
I guess I just love making people laugh and cry of course!"
Tell us more about how you have begun to filter your work onto the big screen within such films as 'Mrs. Harris,' 'P.S.,' and 'These Foolish Things.' "Over time, I've been very fortunate with the fans I have in the industry and how they've wanted to feature me in their work.
It's funny, people often say," I'm going to use your songs one of these days" and you tell yourself it's a lovely gesture, but don't hold your breath. I've been very fortunate to have supporters who have done exactly what they said they'd do ... amazing isn't it!"
"Again it's the people and the passion and the music and being very, very patient. Luckily, my music is very cinematic, so it's all about getting to those passionate people who make the movies and love the music."
Out of the 13 songs on this new album which one truly stands out to be your go-to favorite when recommending it to first time listeners ... and why? "'Dreaming' ... it's very much the bitter-sweet me. Also, this song makes me think of New Orleans, a place I love, live and record in and the hideous damage that has been done to it in the wake of Katrina. It's a song about taking something for granted, until it's no longer there ... heart breaking really."
For fun, and taking the titles of a few of your album tracks, please let us know:
'Sky High' - Are you a good flyer or someone that has to take a pill before take off?! "I am now! I used to be terrible until I nearly died in a small plane that got caught in a typhoon, whilst flying to an island in Fiji. It really was like the scene from 'Almost Famous' ... everyone saying goodbye and crying and waiting for the end! Ever since then, I've been the best flyer ever ... turbulence seems like a bump in the road after that!"
'These Foolish Things' - What's one of the most recent foolish things that you have caught yourself doing?! "Oh God, there are so many! I'm really very confident and powerful on stage and I feel quite poised and articulate ... then I get off and I'm a clumsy, Welsh girl, who keeps calling my husband by my dog's name! We tend to like pets more than people in Britain!"
'Famous Friends' - Who would be one of your most famous personal friends that we would find stored in your cell phone?! "I try NOT to keep famous friend info in my cell phone. Call it paranoia, or maybe that fact that I keep losing the damn things!"
What '80s (and possibly cheesy!) song would you love to cover today if asked ... and why?! "What a perfect question. I've already covered two for future CD's ... 'Cold As Ice' (soulful, sexy, smooching version) and 'Eye of the Tiger' (Brubeck styling!)"
Lastly, I like Penguins ... do you?! "Who doesn't after that amazing film? All I could think whilst watching it was ... 'And I think the music business's tough'!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Judith's brand new CD, just answer this easy question: Actor/satirist Harry Shearer is better known for being a member of which infamous rock "band"?
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these great new and AUTOGRAPHED CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before May 15th with your answer and the subject title 'JUDITH OWEN SIGNED CDs' to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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