The Voice's Juliet Simms on Arranging 'Roxanne,' Living in a 'Man's World' and Avoiding Drama
It may be a man’s man’s man’s world when it comes to winning reality singing competitions these days, but Juliet Simms — runner-up on Season 2 of The Voice — takes it in stride. “You have to toughen up your skin and just prove you can rock,” she says. TVLine caught up with the gravelly voiced songbird to discuss the highs (“Roxanne”) and lows (“Cryin’”) of her Voice trajectory, the misinterpreted adjective that almost cost her fans during the Battle Rounds, and her feelings on the battle between coaches Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine.
TVLINE | Before we talk about your run on The Voice, let’s dive into what you were doing before you auditioned. I know you said on air that you’d had five previous record deals fall apart. What is that like psychologically? Did you ever think about giving up and saying, “I’ve got to get a day job”?
It’s funny, because The Voice came right at the breaking point. I had just gotten off of the Vans Warped Tour, my fourth time doing it, and I’d just put out a new album. I really thought that this record would take off and do really well, but I wasn’t getting the support from the label I was with at the time. And I was starting to really not know what my future would look l like. I didn’t see me in music forever anymore. It was getting to be way too hard, and then this opportunity popped up, and it was kind of like, “let’s give this one more shot.”
TVLINE | With so much experience under your belt, was it weird to think about going on a reality show and singing for votes?
I never thought that I would do anything like this. My manager brought me the opportunity because someone had approached her, and at first I was like, “No, I’m not going to do that.” Then I watched Season 1, and it was just so cool. It really seemed like they were picking singers that had worked hard for [a music career] and had been doing this for a long time. I never looked at myself as an American Idol singer, you know, like with the crazy runs. But after watching The Voice, it was catering to something entirely different, and that’s what really made me want to try out for it.
TVLINE | I recap The Voice for TV Line, and after your Battle Round with Sarah Golden, there were a lot of comments along the lines of, “I don’t like Juliet’s attitude.” A number of people thought that you had said that you were louder and prettier than Sarah, but I think you might have said that you were louder and grittier.
I watched the episode, and all of the sudden I was reading Tweets and people were saying, “Oh my God, I can’t believe she said she was prettier,” and I’m laughing that they think I said that. It would be so out of character for me to ever say that. The whole thing was just funny to me at first. Then it was kind of like, “Great, now America thinks I’m this cocky person, and I’m not,” and so I did what I could. I Tweeted. I did a little blog about it, and made it very clear. I said grittier.
TVLINE | Is it strange to turn a duet into a competitive sport?
Sarah and I talked about it a lot because she is the same as me. She’s a singer-songwriter and has done all these original songs. We’re friends, and it just felt very uncomfortable and very unnatural [to compete in that format]. At the end of the day, though, you had to deal with it. You’re the one who signed up for this, so you can’t really get up there and complain too much.
TVLINE | To me, your first live solo performance, “Roxanne,” was the best moment of the season, hands down. I’m curious, had you ever performed that song prior to The Voice? How did you come up with that arrangement? And what happened on the stage to make it so magical?
Oh, thank you. I received that song from Cee Lo a week or two prior, and I’m not going to lie, it was not my favorite Police song in the entire world. Whatever song I’m singing, I have to feel passionate about it. That is part of my art form, it’s the way that I sing songs. So I had to take the song and break it down. I picked up my acoustic and I started fitting it to the way that I sing. I thought about dynamics, and I thought about it musically and arrangement-wise and production-wise. I thought about what would give this song the best impact, thought about what I wanted to get across. I just came up with it one night sitting on my floor in my living room.
TVLINE | Did you start to get a feel for it emotionally as you were deconstructing it?
Yeah, well first of all, we know what the song is about, and that is something to feel passionate about. [Prostitution] is a sad thing. I thought about women who actually subject themselves to this life — let’s just say hooking — and I know that’s a dark, bad thing. That is a dark part of this world which would be better if it didn’t exist, and that’s how I communicated it, and that’s how I connected to it and what I tried to convey.
TVLINE | I know you had said on air that your Quarterfinal performance of Aerosmith’s “Cryin’” was not your personal best, and I agreed it was a little bit of a letdown after “Roxanne.” Was it the song, was it the wings that were strapped to your back? If you could do it over again what you would have done?
It was a weird week. You come off this really great performance, and the very next day you realize, “Oh s***, I have to pick the next song and I have to do this all over again.” It is insane, and you want to make sure it’s the right song and there’s so much else going on, too. You tend to over think things. I think with “Cryin’,” it was too much of the obvious choice. With “Roxanne,” no one would really have thought I would ever cover that, and I think “Cryin’” was just a little bit too in the pocket. Plus, it was a weird week. People were leaving [because of instant eliminations]. I was bummed.
TVLINE | Was it tough to perform with giant wings strapped to your back? They looked really cool, but I wondered how heavy they were.
Not at all, they feel like they’re three pounds. I could barely feel that they were on my back.
TVLINE | Your other big moment this season was “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” The week prior, you needed Cee Lo to save you. Did that turn up the pressure for your Semifinal performance — “I’ve got to kill it this week!” — or is that not how you’re wired when you go on stage?
At that point, it was like, “You know, okay, cool. I made it to the Top 8. Awesome. This is my chance now to get out there and do what I want to do, sing the song the way I want to sing it. If this is going to be your last performance just go out there and be very happy with what you do before you leave.” In the same sense, having been told that I was in the Bottom 2 the week prior, it lit this fire under me. I was f****** annyoyed at myself for letting that happen to be totally honest.
TVLINE | While you were performing “Man’s World,” did you think, “Oh wow, this is going really well”?
When I’m singing, I’m not thinking about what the audience is thinking of me. I’m really just in the moment — to the point where I black out a little bit — and it’s not until after I’m done that I come to. So at that point, I rely on audience reaction and the coaches’ reactions to know if I did a good job.
TVLINE | Before you performed “Man’s World,” you talked about being a female rock singer competing in a male-dominated area of music. How hard is that struggle and how did that inform your performance?
The rock scene is saturated with nothing but men: My entire career being on tour and in bands, in the industry, and people you sign with, that’s what it was. And it was really ironic to me that week that it came down to me and one other person, who happened to be a man, and then the competition at that point, all of the men were being saved by [America's votes], and all the women were having to compete [to be saved by the judges]. The song couldn’t have come at a more perfect time, and I felt very, very passionate about what I was singing.
TVLINE | We know you were under the weather for the finale. How much did that suck to wake up before what had to be the most important performance of your career and find you had a fever?
It was just freaking awful. I got sick on the Friday before the [Monday] telecast. I woke up with 103 fever, bronchitis, walking pneumonia and asthma. It was literally hell. It was the most upsetting thing ever. I was distraught. I went and saw the doctor and to be honest, that kind of thing has happened to me on tour before, it’s happened right before I’ve done showcases for record labels, so I just had to not let it get the best of me. I decided I’d come this far, I did all this work, and I’m not going to let this destroy me. I did the very best that I could do under the circumstances.
TVLINE | Is it possible once you’re performing to block the sickness out of your mind, or is it always there like a little cloud over your head as your singing?
I manage to block it out. When I walked on stage to sing “Free Bird,” I thought, “This is my last song, this is the last time I’ll be up here, so just feel it and be there in the moment. Yeah, you sound a little weird and can’t hit all the notes, but don’t let that disturb you in the throes of doing the show of your life.
TVLINE | So what’s next for you now? There’s some talk about Cee Lo signing you to his label. I know he’s been pretty supportive with his Season 1 finalist Vicci Martinez — even dueting with her on her first album. What will be your trajectory post-Voice?
Yeah, Cee Lo and I are already talking. We’re going to be doing some songs together and making some music.
TVLINE | Were you glad that, during the finale, you were not involved in a direct way in the Christina vs. Adam drama?
Yeah, from the very, very beginning when Adam and Christina were fighting over me, I chose Cee Lo. I’m with Cee Lo in the “no drama” department. I’m Switzerland, okay. [Laughs]