This interview first appeared in VH Issue #19. Read it, here.
The life of a musician is not all tour buses and million dollar contracts, in fact it is usually far from that – even the most talented of artists can sometimes have it hard. Former frontwoman of Automatic Loveletter and runner-up of the American series of The Voice, Juliet Simms, has been met with her fair share of obstacles but this inspirational woman is still standing. Following on from the release of her full legnth EP From the Grave in 2016 and after a rollercoaster of a year she is healthy, she is sober, she is motivated, and best of all, she is happy and she isn’t going to let anyone bring her down.
VH’s Rai and Kitty were super excited to chat to Juliet about clean living, the brutal nature of social media, Harry Potter, and fangirling over Andy Biersack.
VH: So for anyone who might not know, could you give us a little introduction to who you are and your background?
My name is Juliet Simms and I’ve been a musician and writing music and singing pretty much my entire life. I got my first record deal when I was a teenager and started my band, Automatic Loveletter, made a bunch of records and music videos, toured for years, and then – you know, the music industry is very much a right time, right place, right song, right team kind of thing – all the stars have to align to really break out. It was more difficult for me than it seemed to be for other people, and that’s okay, it doesn’t mean that you’re less talented or anything, it’s just a one-in-a-million thing sometimes. With my band I ended up getting dropped, it was after my fourth or fifth record deal, because I had signed with Sony Japan and then the whole disaster happened there in 2010, the earthquake and all of that. Everything got pushed back and just ended up falling through the cracks, so I left Sony Japan and decided to record an acoustic record which was an accumulation of songs I had written over the course of the three or four years of Automatic Loveletter on its way out.
I toured in 2011 off of that acoustic record The Kids Will Take Their Monsters On and after that tour I was kind of like ‘okay, where am I? Where am I going? What am I doing?’ At that point I was solo. My “band” wasn’t really a band, they were hired guns from the record label. The songs throughout the history of Automatic Loveletter had been written by me, recorded by me, essentially it was Juliet Simms, I just had a different name to it. At the end of summer 2011 I got approached by The Voice and was asked to be on the show. I was [unsure], I’d always said that I hated singing competition shows and that it was not authentic and if you’re going to be a musician you have to grind it and earn your stripes and tour not just be handed a record deal, and I thought it was so cheap. But I had done all of that, I had done it the hard way and been that band in a garage practicing and sucking, and living in a van, I had done that so I thought well for me to do it is a little different, you know? So I did the show, I sang for the producers before the live audition and they loved me and I went right on to the live auditions round and I made the show.
It was really fun, it was totally different than anything I’d ever done before. It was, at the time, re-validating and vindicating and I got recognition that I hadn’t ever received before and it all felt very like ‘oh my god this is it, I’m finally going to break through and I’m going to make it, this is really, really going to happen.’ And when it didn’t it kind of really sucked. The fall from that high of a pyramid is pretty hard. I started drinking a lot and kind of went a little crazy. I spent two years trying to find myself again and find out who I was as an artist. But I finally broke free of that and climbed myself out of that rabbit hole. I spent so much time being so serious and so depressed and dark that it was no way to live. Life is a game and you can’t be your own opponent. I think that is the demise of a lot people and a lot of really great artists, they let themselves be their own worst enemy. And I was really experiencing that for quite a while. Over the last couple of years I was just like ‘this is so not a way to live, this is going to ruin me’.
So I changed everything about my life, Andy (Biersack, Juliet’s husband and Black Veil Brides frontman) and I are completely drug and alcohol free, we started exercising, changed our diets, started really focusing on making ourselves happy and being people who just had positive things going on in our lives and it’s changed a lot for us and it’s changed a lot on how I view things. That’s what I wanted to do with this music video (‘Say Hello’) that just got released, I wanted people to see how I was in real life, not just my dark songs that I write and the moody videos that I put out, that’s not just who I am. Really, at heart, who I am is a sarcastic fucking goofball and in the last two or three years that life has changed for us, that’s really who I’ve become, just somebody that is happy. I’m a happier person and somebody who doesn’t care what people think about them anymore. That’s how I live life now, just completely carefree, but in a responsible way, not carefree in like an ‘I don’t care what happens to everybody, I’m just gonna drive my car into a building’ kind of way, but just not worrying about the little stuff.
It’s really nice to see that people can be in the rock industry and have that clean life, everyone thinks you have to drink and be into drugs, so it’s really nice. It’s refreshing.
Thank you, I appreciate that. It’s completely a façade, that’s what destroys artists, that’s what kills artists, that’s what makes them go insane and that’s what makes them unhappy. Name one artist, I mean I would love to be proved wrong, but name one artist that kept drinking and going down the drug road that either didn’t die or end up quitting all of that and telling other people ‘don’t do it’. Like who succeeded at the end of that and was like ‘I am so much better that I partied my ass off’?
Agreed. Now, we all know that people on social media can be pretty brutal and sometimes downright cruel, how do you manage to stay strong in the face of adversity?
Well, what is greatness? Greatness is to love your fellowman and to love others despite all the wrongdoing, the cruelty, and that is what is key here. You know, I see something written about me, whether it’s tearing apart my voice or my music, or the way that I look, and you just have to look at it like okay, this person is not happy because happy people don’t run around creating hate profiles and happy people don’t talk shit about people and happy people don’t go to somebody’s Instagram profile and try to make them feel like shit. So that’s how you to have to look at it, you’re looking at an ugly communication coming from somebody who is probably not a bad person but they’re just miserable. You have to just brush it off, that’s them doing that. They’re living in that state of mind where they have to put others down. Think about how that person feels inside their own body and head. They’re just saying words at me, okay cool, you don’t like me, don’t listen to my music then? Don’t follow me on Instagram? If I am pissing you off so badly your life would be so much better if I wasn’t in it every day, you know? Unfollow me.
It’s funny because it’s so different than when I was teenager, you know? I would get picked on in school but then I would go home and that was it, it didn’t follow me home. The kids these days, what they’re dealing with is that they get picked on in school and bullied in school and then they go home and it continues. It continues online and it never stops. I guarantee you, nine out of ten of the people who troll me are picked on and bullied for sure. No doubt about it. And so when you’re somebody who is constantly being picked on and you’re introverted and devalued, that person can really be an upset person. That person is constantly upset and when people are upset or angry, when they start yelling and saying shit, they usually don’t mean half of the stuff they’re saying, it’s not true. That’s how I look at it. It sucks for them and I wish that we could all just be nice to each other and the internet was a safe place but it’s not so you just have to kind of adapt your own shield against it or viewpoint of it.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
I’ve been given some pretty good advice. You know who is really good at giving advice, my dad, he’s like Dumbledore. He’s totally Dumbledore. You know what’s really good advice that he’s given me, when I was going through my darkness he said to me that everything is not as terrible and as bad as you think it is. So when my dad told me, one day, a few years back, it’s not that bad, you’re going to be looking back at this and laughing one day, that was the best advice I was given because it made me be able to find the strength to overcome it and overpower the voice telling me how terrible I was and sure enough I look back at that and I laugh at it now.
That’s really good advice. So, if you could go back in time, what advice would you give to young Juliet?
Oh my god, if I could go back in time? Okay. Don’t drink. Don’t drink and don’t give your integrity up. Drinking never makes anything better and even if you don’t have a problem with it you are certainly going to feel like shit the next day, it’s full of calories, it is a depressant and it doesn’t matter if you have a problem with it or not it will make you a little depressed the following day, it’s called The Sads, after you drink. It makes you fall asleep, it makes you make mistakes, nothing good comes from it ever. It might be fun in that moment but it never leads to anything good or productive.
Speaking of productive, what keeps you busy when you’re not working on music?
Lots of things! I have my company Never Take It Off which is a jewellery company but it’s not just a jewellery company it’s a message-based company based around helping people, getting fans closer to their favourite artists, wearing pieces that symbolize meanings to them and strength and hope and all of that, so I am constantly working on that, I work on that every single day.
I have my fashion blog / Depop store. Next to music is fashion for me and always has been, so it’s really nice for me to be able to work on that kind of stuff everyday including Andy’s new clothing line, Westtower Warrior. I’m so excited to be able to start designing new collections and all of that, we just wanted to release something really simple and classic. What I love about it is that it’s unisex, like Andy and I for instance, we constantly look like we’re twins, on a normal day we’ll both be wearing the exact same outfit but I will be wearing the ‘girl version’ and he’s wearing the ‘guy version’ so I love that about the clothing line but it’s definitely going to be upping it’s game in collections to come.
I’ve been exercising and getting into a little bit of acting. I’ve been asked a few times to audition for a few various things. Me and my sister were thinking of possibly starting a YouTube show because when we get together…Angie and I are sisters and our banter and our rapport when we get together, I don’t have that with anybody else, so we’re thinking of that.
We’ve watched you and Angie on Instagram and Snapchat and you guys are hilarious! We also saw you on the Andy Show recently, that was funny, you got angry at it him during the game of ‘Heads Up’.
Oh no, no, no. I was at like a four. When I play board games I am vicious, like at one point I am just expecting Andy to tell me ‘I want a divorce’ because I remember two years ago we were in Cincinnati for Christmas and we were going to have games night for the first time and the Biersack’s had never been privy to the Simm’s during games and what happens to us. I mean, horns spring from my forehead and fire comes out of my nostrils and I say every cuss word in the book. Andy’s grandma looked at me at one point and looked frightened by me. At one point I was screaming at Amy, Andy’s mum, and I was like you are all going to divorce me, you are going to kick me out of the family, you’re all not going to ever speak to me again, you’re not ever going to text me again, I am never going to be invited to Cincinnati again, holy shit, I should not have let this happen! So what you saw on The Andy Show, I didn’t want to scare the public and for everyone to think I was a psychotic person so I toned it down and I was still a fucking asshole so I’m really sorry. I can’t help it. I’m like Monica from Friends.
That’s okay, Monica is the best character anyway. So we’ve been trying not to fangirl too much during this interview as we both adore you but who do you totally fangirl over?
Who do I fangirl over? I mean, who d’ya think? Who do you think? My husband! I mean, my god, at least once a day he’ll come walking around the corner, or like out of the shower with his hair all slicked back, and I’m just like ‘my god, you are soooo fine’. I definitely fangirl over him. I have pictures saved on my phone throughout all of his eras which are my favourite photos and sometimes I’ll go past them and be like ‘look at that face…that’s mine!! That’s my face on my face, that’s my face in the house, that’s my face in the bed, that’s my face in the shower, that’s my face!!!’ So yeah, I fangirl over my husband.
Can’t blame you for that!
We know you are a big fan, so which Harry Potter character would you be?
This is a question I have been waiting to answer all my life! Every single book it changes but I guess I would be Hermione only because I want to be a character that is always in the book and always in the Harry Potter world. I don’t want to be a character that came in in the last three books, I want to be there from the beginning. I want to be one of the stars.
What should every woman try at least once in her life?
A woman should at least try shaving her head once in her life because women already have to get their hair done, get their nails done, get waxed, get their eyebrows done, they have to get facials, put make up on. There is so much work that women have to do that men don’t have to do on their body. Well, why don’t you eliminate one of those just for a little while, give yourself a break, it’s very liberating. Plus your hair grows back stronger and thicker and you don’t have to deal with the hair on your head for like a year. It’s awesome, but has to be done at the right time.
What else is on your bucket list?
I want to travel a lot more, I want to go to Italy, Paris, and I want to come to the UK…holy shit, I can’t believe I still have never been there. Lots of travelling. I want to skydive, which is terrifying to think about but I really want to skydive. Definitely, we want, in the future, to have a little baby. I want to live on a boat for like a month. This is pretty crazy, in a boat I want to sail across the Bermuda Triangle. I want to know what’s down there so bad. Where did all those planes go? It’s so freakin’ fascinating. That and space, I want to go to outer space too, I’ll put that on the bucket list.
That is quite an awesome bucket list. Who would be your ultimate dinner party guest, alive or dead?
David Bowie, obviously. Elizabeth Taylor. John Lennon. Otis Reading. Janis Joplin. And let’s say Hitler, so I could kill him. We could poison him.
Nice. That could be the entertainment.
Entertainment, exactly. We could just pin him up on a wall and throw things at him the whole time and then just end him.
Speaking of dinner, we’re in the process of giving up animal products too so we have to ask, what’s your favourite vegan meal?
Me and Andy are minimalists when it comes to food, we eat almost the same exact thing every single day. It just makes it easier, so I would have to say that the dinner we make every night is our favourite vegan meal. We make tofu steak with light olive oil, cracked salt, and nutritional yeast which kind of coats the outside and makes it crispy and I have a salad with that with vegan dressing and a whole avocado and that is my dinner every night and it’s delicious. I love it. Since becoming vegan and vegetarian I’ve lost eighteen pounds. It’s nice to be able to completely fill up on food and be stuffed and still lose the weight that I wanted to lose and feel great. I have more energy, it’s crazy, I swear by it. I haven’t gotten sick. It’s so cool.
We will definitely be trying that. In a movie of your life, who would play You?
Emma Stone, I love her.
Good choice, I could definitely see that. So what is next for you?
Musically, long story short, I was supposed to make a record with a producer, it was all being worked out before Warped Tour. I was just trying to get the budget together, making records is very expensive, especially when you are an independent artist and you are funding everything yourself. I thought it was a certain number and when we went into further detail when I got back from Warped Tour he had doubled it. That’s what I was doing earlier this year when I was writing in the studio, I was writing for my record and then he came back with a number that I couldn’t possibly find, there was absolutely no way in God’s green earth. I’d have to do another crowdfunding campaign and that’s always a difficult decision to make, especially given the fact that people think Andy and I are rich. The truth is, I mean I don’t want to give away too much but we are not rich. We live very, very modestly. So that’s been put on hold, however there have been a few other people that have expressed interested in doing a record for me, that could be fun to do with them.
We did get one song done with the producer I wanted to do a record with and I am buying it. I wrote it with him and he funded the studio and funded the musicians and so I have to pay him back for all of that and then I can have the song to release, so I am working currently on raising the money to buy the song so I can release it to you guys. I wouldn’t be buying it if the song wasn’t worth it either. I mean, I say this a lot about my newest creations and my newest songs but I think it’s my favourite song I’ve ever written.
Can’t wait to hear it. Are there any plans for a UK tour?
I would love to come there. I would come there tomorrow if it wasn’t about money but putting on shows and paying band members and crew, it’s expensive and again it’s very, very expensive to be an independent artist. All these bands that come over to tour overseas are funded by essentially glorified banks and when you don’t have that foundation it is just a lot more difficult. I would love nothing more than to come to the UK and play shows, nothing more would make me happy. I know one day I will. I’m going to make that happen.