Julieta Venegas is widely recognized by her distinctive Mexican-American sound. She is a multi-instrumentalist focusing mainly on the piano, the guitar and her signature instrument: the accordion. She has made multiple collaborations with Latin artists, composed for theater and created many film soundtracks.
The 42-year-old singer/songwriter’s latest album, “Los Momentos Julieta Venegas” released earlier this year, perhaps best demonstrates she has come full circle as a woman and artist.
“Having a child kind of gives you like a good — ack! It totally shook me up and just took all my fears away creatively. It just made me fearless, somehow,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “I don’t know if it has to do with being a mom or it just has to do with growing up…”
Since the beginning of her career, Venegas’ music has been introspective and full of personal messages — qualities which have women identifying with and relating to her music.
“I have a pending date with my solitude to see who I am when nobody is watching,” writes Venegas in her song “A Donde Sea.”
Venegas, born on November 24, 1970 in Long Beach, Calif. to Mexican parents, grew up in Tijuana. At the age of eight, she began playing the piano and studying music theory. She has four more siblings and a twin sister, but none of them chose music as their careers. It was through a friend in high school that Venegas was invited to play with “Chantaje” — the original “Tijuana No” — a band whose musical style was ska and reggae.
But it wasn’t until she moved to Mexico City, where she continues to live, that Venegas was discovered by BMG records in 1996. She began to seriously pursue her own songwriting, which led to her first album, “Aquí,” produced in Los Angeles by Argentine Gustavo Santaolalla. From then on, Venegas helped invent modern Mexican rock music, with all its special charisma and traditional instruments.
Venegas, along with bands like Café Tacuba, created a Mexican alternative rock. Mexican rock had been, until then, an Anglo-American simple copy, with no local flavor. But then came Venegas, introducing a world of sensitivity and traditional instrumental sounds; thus inventing this new Mexican rock.
“Behind her sweet voice she hides lyrics strong enough to make male chauvinists run away in fear,” wrote Ciao.
Her most popular singles are “Eres Para Mi” and “Me Voy,” released by Gold Records in Mexico. She has also won one Grammy and Five Latino Grammys.
Venegas splits her time with various humanitarian organizations like the foundation ALAS and the Red Cross. She was named a Goodwill Ambassador by UNICEF in 2009, and in 2011, the Cabinet of the Women of Central America (COMMCA) named her Goodwill Cultural Ambassador — two titles she holds dearly.
“It’s a big honor to be named as Ambassador by UNICEF and be part of such a valuable work. I believe UNICEF’s achievements are very important and I am thrilled to help to this cause anyway I can do it,” said Venegas when named Goodwill Ambassador by UNICEF in 2009.
It’s said that Julieta Venegas has musicianship to spare. Her worldwide record sales are estimated to be greater than 10 million. She, however, seems unconcerned with such fuss and chatter as she is simply busy and focused on her new projects that include contributing four or five songs to a Mexican animated children’s film and working on music for another feature film, which she’s not yet at liberty to name, as she said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
But after much success and a career that spans about 10 years and eight albums, Venegas finds herself in a legal battle with her ex, Argentine musician Rodrigo Garcia Prieto, who demands the shared custody of Simona, their three-year-old daughter. In addition to custody, Prieto wants the baby to have his last name, since Julieta registered Simona with only the child’s maternal last name.
Venegas has taken Mexican rock to a whole new level, but further than that, she is able to sing from her soul and stroke one’s heart with her lyrics and music.
Listen to Julieta Venegas’ song “Te Vi” above. You can also listen to a preview of her new album “Los Momentos Julieta Venegas” here.
Originally published on VOXXI as Julieta Venegas, the jewel of Mexican rock music