Juliet Simms on How One Viral Video Rerouted Her Whole Life (INTERVIEW)
Juliet Simms has never been one to hold back.
The first time she shot into the national spotlight, it was on the second season of The Voice, where she delivered a snarling, no-holds-barred rendition of The Beatles' "Oh Darling" so raw it sometimes felt as if her throat might rip in half. "You don’t need no smoke, no mirrors, nothing. All you need is that voice," said Cee Lo Green, her TV coach, who'd later lead her to the runner-up slot.
In the six years since, Simms has built her career around raucous, unflinching rock, but it's that same take-what-you-get attitude that left her at the mercy of the internet in 2016, when a video of her drunk and incoherent on an airplane made the rounds online. Looking back, Simms says it's not a moment she feels represents who she is, but it is, certainly, one that's made her stronger.
"I went, fuck that day. That's not who I am, and that's what I'm going to keep telling everybody for the rest of my life by example, by action, by not drinking," she tells PopCrush. "[My husband and I] even quit smoking. We became vegan. We changed our entire life around because of this incident."
And now, on the heels of "Take Me," her first single since 2016 EP From the Grave, she's ready to push herself even further, opening up about her longtime marriage to Black Veil Brides' Andy Biersack.
Below, Simms details her new, love-centric music, reflects on how The Voice both helped and hindered her career, and, yes, addresses the video she calls "the most embarrassing moment" of her life.
The Voice has gone through several iterations since you were on in 2012. Have you been keeping up with it?
No. I watched a little of season three. Cassadee Pope was a girlfriend of mine. She actually reached out to me the day after the finale and she said, "I have an opportunity to try out for The Voice. Would you recommend it?" I said, ‘Only if you win do I recommend it.’
You felt it wasn’t fruitful because you got runner-up?
In the long-run, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Once you win those shows, not only is that your title pretty much forever unless you can break out of it — which is not easy to do — but you don't have a lot of creative control, and you're contractually obligated to do [whatever] you're told and [make] a certain amount of records. After the show, I did get a deal, but the direction they wanted me to go in was not what I wanted to do, and if I had won I would have been obligated to [do it anyway].
What direction did they want you to go in?
They wanted me to do something that was entirely different than what I did on the show— no live instruments, very bubblegum pop. Not cool pop, like the Beatles or David Bowie, but very mainstream, and I knew that wasn't going to work; that's not the kind of artist I am. That's not the kind of music I write. I've carried along a fan base with me through these years that have been loyal and faithful and stuck with me because of the music that I put out and it's going to upset the shit out of them. It was a battle, to say the least.
Looking back, are you happy that you went on?
Yeah. I don't like to regret the past because regretting things is a sure way to go insane. You can't change the past, you can only learn from it and grow from it and have it help you with future decisions. I look back on The Voice and I see a lot of good that came from it. It helped me break out of my shell as a solo artist and as a performer onstage alone, not with a band. It put me through the ringer, vocally. I think I really, really found my voice, no pun intended. It helped me establish my sound and reiterated to me what I wanted to do in music. So I definitely have a thank you, in that regard, to The Voice. It's not everything it portrays itself to be on television.
Christina Aguilera recently called out the show for being much more about making good TV than the music itself. Do you think there’s truth to that?
Oh, 100 percent. Good, so she fuckin' said it. Yeah. It's about good television, entertainment, the coaches, the glitz, the glam, the fabulousness. Anybody with any sort of intelligence or IQ can see that the show hasn't generated a star. Where's our Kelly Clarkson or our Carrie Underwood or our Adam Lambert, you know?
So looking at where you’re at now, “Take Me” is your first new song in two years. How did it come about?
I wrote it last year. I always write about real experiences and true love and heartbreak, but the one thing I haven't really gotten to write about is that really, really, really deep connection you build when you've been in a relationship for as long as I have been with my husband. So “Take Me” is about the trials you’re put through as a couple, and how that can either result in a breakup or a stronger bond and lifting each other up. I am lucky that I found somebody that never lets go of my hand and that means so much to me that the thought of losing that is like taking all of the air out of the room. The song isn’t meant to be saying, ‘Oh, come over to my house and rip my clothes off and jump on top of me,’ although that would be very nice. It's saying, essentially, save me.
Does this mean you’re working toward a longer project?
Yeah, I want to do a record. It's almost embarrassing to say that I haven't had a full-length [album] since The Voice. I want to get it done in the next few months.
Can you tease anything about the music?
I've been in the studio with [Goldfinger frontman] John Feldmann (Blink 182, Good Charlotte), which is huge for me because I've always looked up to him. The records he made were childhood essentials for me, so that's been a dream, and we have three songs done.
Without giving too much away, we wrote a song that I think is going to be called “Twilight” about how life is so fucking evil. You fall in love and you create this beautiful life for yourself and you make this whole world and then in 90 years, it's gone. That's it and it's all over. It's like, what the fuck? This is so rude. So I wrote about getting older and wondering if my husband is still going to love me when my youth has faded, and being insecure and being vulnerable because, really, that's who I am. It’s like, ‘Would you follow me to the end?
Speaking of being vulnerable, there was a video of you intoxicated on an airplane that went viral a few years ago. Can you walk me through what happened there?
The most embarrassing moment of my life? That one? That was a hard time. I was going through something kind of personal. Not to make any excuses, but I'm fairly small, and I hadn't drank in about a year, hadn't eaten that day, and I got so wasted. I can't remember at all what happened except what videos were online and what my husband was telling me. I was super ashamed and embarrassed. That's not who I am at all. That's not the example I want to set for my audience and my fans. I learned a big lesson from it, and I haven't drank a drop of alcohol since.
Thank you. You know, I feel this deep sense of responsibility to set a good example for people, and that experience was not at all a portrayal of who I am and what I want to represent. I can't tell you what happened on the plane because I don't remember, but what I'm taking from it is how I could make that become something that ultimately makes me a stronger person. It's not how you fall down. It's how you stand back up.
Were you surprised by the response? Were people meaner than you thought they would be? Were they nicer?
Actually, I was shocked to see how many people were behind me and how many people understood and were there for me. I read some pretty atrocious things, which always hurts, especially for somebody like me who has so many feelings. So that was hard, but I saw more overwhelming support than people tearing me down.
I do think, in general, that you've positioned yourself as kind of a fearless, take no bullshit musician. Is there anything that still scares you about your work?
I think when it's all said and done, I want people to love my music. I fear what any normal person would fear and that's to not succeed, to not do well. That's all I want is to live life and survive and put out music. The thing I fear the most is one day not being able to do that, but ultimately that's also what drives me to keep going.
You also speak frequently about being honest and upfront in your work. Why is it important to you to be so transparent?
Oh, I can't bullshit. I don't know how to lie. I don't know how to pretend. I only know how to be myself. That's where my voice comes from.