Juliana Areias who is also known as the “Bossa Nova Baby” is a well traveled artist who has made a name for herself in her native Brazil , Europe and Australia where she is now based. Juliana was kind enough to spare some time to answer a couple of our questions. She speaks about her meeting with Ruy Castro, switching from acting to music , her fans and more.
BN: How would you compare the musical culture in Europe , Brazil and Australia having lived in such varied environments?
JA: Music in an essential part of Brazilian Culture. We can tell the whole History of Brazil through it’s musical movements. In Brazil music is everywhere… and everything inspires music. I was born during carnaval, close by the “Avenida Paulista”. My father always says that from the maternity he could hear the drummers on the street and then he composed a samba to celebrate my birth.
Europeans in general also have the culture of music appreciation. For example I always found fascinating Street Artists around Europe and how European kids are educated since very little to appreciate them. When I arrived in Switzerland on 1996, I felt very welcomed as a Brazilian singer and also felt that my European fans already had a good understanding about Brazilian Music, specially Bossa Nova – as they have already been exposed to it for decades.
In New Zealand and Australia, the culture is more focused on sports then arts in general. For example the majority of cafes and restaurants don’t have live music like in Brazil or more or less like in Europe. Around here, only few venues provide it, so it shows that it’s not part of their culture – yet – as we are transforming it. I also feel that apart from Jazz musicians or Jazz music appreciators, the general public doesn’t know much about Bossa Nova and Brazilian Music is still something very new to them. Most of people can’t tell the difference between samba and salsa. That said, they are getting very interested and enthusiastic about discovering it. So it feels like being a pioneer. What fascinates me is that although music is not a fundamental part of their culture, the quality of musicians I’ve found here is just spectacular. Perth’s jazz scene has a world class level and I feel very lucky and honored to be here and able to share and create music with such amazing musicians. Perth is the city of talent.
I truly cherish and appreciate people’s presence in my life and music ..every single second of attention, word , gesture, signal, smile, clap and “like”… makes a difference to me and motivates me to keep in my path – working very hard with love, passion, enthusiasm, respect, courage and determination to excel and keep it true to myself at the same time.
BN: Who is your music for? and what effects would you like your music to have on those it reaches?
JA: My music is for anyone who connects with it anywhere. My ultimate goal is to awaken feeling, dreams and ideas that make us feel connected. It’s an act of so much love and truth…That’s is interesting, although I have a selection of songs that I like singing in English, French, Italian and Spanish, most of the time I’m singing in my first language Portuguese – and most of my audience cannot understand what I’m saying, but they can feel it.. through the sounds, pulsation, performance, interpretation, movements.. Also during my shows I usually like talking a little about some songs, their meaning or why they are meaningful to me or any particularity or story about them , just to put it into a brief context … the magic is that by doing it and performing the show, people are transported and immersed into deep reflections, memories, emotions… beauty in all forms – happiness, melancholy, love, truth, courage, fragility, passion – and I love it! Every show is a kind of auto confession. I love this very intimate connection that happens. It makes each concert an unique and surprising experience for everyone including myself.
BN: What pushed the switch from acting to becoming a musician?
JA: In the acting world I’ve learned to respect the stage as a sacred place. A lot of discipline and self emotional resources is required to “give life” to characters. But a time came that this was no longer enough. I needed to be just myself on stage. There inside of me was always the music pulsating. Music reveals my state of spirit. For example I always know what I’m feeling by the songs I’ve got in my mind. “They” dialogue directly with me non stop. Music is the way I speak to myself , to “God” and to the world. But actually it took me many years to “officially” switch because sometimes we are just too afraid of the things we most desire. Until it became a need so strong that I could no longer deny it. Singing and connecting to people through what I sing is a necessity and it was this necessity that literally pushed the switch.
BN: Is there anything special you do before a performance?
JA: Wow. Every concert feels like being pregnant since the moment of the “conception” of the concert idea until the moment we “deliver” it on stage. For the concert itself, the ritual usually starts at the night before, no matter if the weather is cold or hot, I sleep with a scarf around my neck to keep my vocal cords warm and protected. It’s a touch of care. Then the whole day since I wake up I prepare myself externally dealing with the production aspects of it and internally too, like a pregnant woman in a labor process. Before going on stage, I like seeping some water and resonating some sounds gently and most of all I concentrate on my breathing few minutes with my eyes closed if I can – the same I would do when I was acting to “incorporate the character” , but in this case, to “incorporate the best of me” in that moment just before ” stepping into the sacred” to “give birth” to a show.
BN: Tell us about your first public singing performance?
JA: Well, there were three crucial moments actually. Literally , my first singing public performance I can recall, was in my city Sao Paulo, when I was 5 years old. I used to take public transport with my mom and to stand up beside the bus driver to sing ” Lanca Perfume” by Rita Lee to everybody inside the bus.
The second significant yet not planned moment was when I was 16 years old during the “Chega de Saudade ” show produced after Ruy launched his “Chega de Saudade” – Bossa Nova Best Seller Book. The great Wanda Sa and Pery Ribeiro where singing “Corcovado” when Miele decided to give me his mic to sing with them the most difficult part of the song - the highest note of it (” I who was lost and lonely” ). I thought it was a disaster, and since then I have a traumatic relation with this note! Tragic and comic at the same time, isn’t it?
Then finally only 4 years later , when I was already living in Salvador – Bahia, I overcame my singing fear and I did my first deliberate performance as a singer , interpreting “Homenagem ao Malandro” by Chico Buarque at the Itapua Beach. A magic moment and place for me, looking at the sea and feeling the music, the sun, the sand and the breeze of Itapua… No wonder why the beach is still one of my favorite “stages”. I also have an interesting connection with the beach sand because my surname “Areias” means “sands” .
BN: Your meeting with Ruy Castro must have been fated, how did you two meet and how much do you owe to him , looking at where you are now ? Also as a writer yourself has he had any influence on your style / content?
JA :Ruy means a lot to me by all means… We first met more then 20 years ago, in an event celebrating 30 years of bossa nova. Ruy was there to give autographs and promote his at the time new bestseller book “Chega de Saudade” about Bossa Nova . Because I was a unusual precocious teenager passionate about bossa nova, the production of the event wanted Ruy to meet me. So the producer Apollo, called me and said to Ruy ” This is the girl I told you about”. I looked at Ruy and instead of saying something nice like ” Hi, I enjoyed your book” I just told him politely but firmly: ” You have stolen my idea, I was the one suppose to write this book”. ( And I was not joking, I was obsessed with Bossa Nova and I used to spend all my time after school inside the great library of the “Centro Cultural de Sao Paulo” researching and listening to Bossa Nova recordings – remember no internet access at the time). Ruy looked at me so surprised for two seconds and then he immediately opened his ” Alice’s cat smile” and said, “Ok, when I finish here, let’s have an ice cream?” So we did…Et voilà ! It’s how it all started. l love his personality, his style, his sense of humour. There are many unforgettable sentences he have told me that have influenced my life forever… Once, when I announced that I was in love and leaving Sao Paulo to live with my boyfriend in Bahia, he just looked at me and alerted me emphatically: ” Juliana, very few love stories can resist to a marriage”. It’s just Ruy. His presence and influence in my life is pivotal. He showed me and gave me a lot of rare recordings and thanks to him I could meet and learn and watch rehearsals and concerts and spend some precious time with some of the creator of bossa nova…my original inspiration to become a singer. We haven’t seen each other since I moved from Sao Paulo, but we still keep in touch by email – very short ones… Ruy knows how to say a lot in a single sentence. He has his own unique writing style and he is an amazing journalist and human being … someone I love and admire always and I great inspiration for sure. No doubt I am always learning from him as a writer too, but I am not a journalist and I don’t have his witty sense of humor. I just love words and I love writing. I love writing about my passions. So does he. And we are both fascinated about some same subjects – Music-People-Places-Culture – although his approach is more biographical (it’s his specialty) and I usually come from a historical perspective – as history is one of my greatest passions as well. But there is no comparison between the level of what he does and what I do. I’m just an amateur.. Ok, fine, he did a good job stealing my book idea, haha. Bossa Nova Kisses, Ruy amado. Saudade.
BN: Which artist or producer across the ages would you want to work with the most ? and if you have already who was it ?
JA :Oh, My! I still feel like a crawling “Bossa Nova Baby”! I just hope to honour this path and that my life span is long enough to do so. There are so many musical projects and people I want to work with! I’ve felt a deep “emptiness” since Jobim and recently Emilio Santiago – the most beautiful male Brazilian voice in my opinion – have passed away and I know I won’t be able to do anything personally with them anymore…not in this life at least! One of my many dreams for sure it to share the stage and record with the 4 singers whom have influenced my singing persona the most: Leny Andrade, Rosa Passos, Leila Pinheiro and Rita Lee. Since I arrived in Australia, one of my dreams was to perform with the Australian virtuoso guitarist Doug De Vries ( Yamandu Costa has recorded one of his songs few years ago). This dream started to become true last new year’s Eve period in Adelaide, our first jam together along with some incredible musicians from there and from the Cirque du Soleil – OVO which is touring Australia this year. Now Doug is coming to Perth to perform with me featuring his Choro Sexteto and his Bossa Trio for 2 presentation on Abril 30th at Kulcha and on May 1s at the Ellington Jazz Club respectively. I am happy as a child and so looking forward to it! I’m very grateful and lucky for always having amazing musicians and music partner around me all the time and everywhere… one of my dreams is also to be able to produce an album uniting all people I have worked with at once. As my dreams tend to come true, the right time is just about to come.
BN: What do your fans mean to you ?
JA: My fans give me the opportunity to share with them the best of me and to receive from them, the best of them… this magical connection …How special can it be? The beauty that happens when a lonely dream, becomes a collective dream and this collective dream can unfold into infinity possibilities… I truly cherish and appreciate people’s presence in my life and music ..every single second of attention, word , gesture, signal, smile, clap and “like”… makes a difference to me and motivates me to keep in my path – working very hard with love, passion, enthusiasm, respect, courage and determination to excel and keep it true to myself at the same time. The internet helps a lot nowadays to keep a direct dialogue with fans and I love it and feel very fortunate and grateful when people around the world feels identified with my work and care to drop me a line to let me know so! It makes my day! It gives purpose to my work. It makes life worth living and interesting. Thank you very much for giving me this privilege.. as we say in Portuguese Obrigadao! Much love, music and bosssa! Ju : )