Find out more about Juwana’s debut at the Stodola Michala Tučného, the annual tribute to the Czech King of Country! Here’s an excerpt from an interview Juwana did for countryworld.cz about the songs she’s performed, singing in Czech and her relationship to country music.
Your main band is the All-Star Mojo Band, but you’re going to perform at the Stodola Michala Tučného with a blues formation St. Johnny. How did this co-operation come about?
When I met Charlie Slavik, he was performing with Jan “St. Johnny” Stehlik as St. Johnny and The Sinners so I was often invited as a guest at events where the band was playing. St. Johnny has a distinctly, authentic blues style as a guitarist so he actually played on half the songs on the Blues Keeps You Alive album and was a featured soloist in such songs as “Please Don’t Make Me Late” and “Yeah, Daddy” Besides the blues, St. Johnny also does delightful covers of country music gems, like “Folsom Prison Blues”, so it was only natural that for my first appearance at SMT that I would again play with St. Johnny.
You are going to sing country-blues classic You Win Again by Hank Williams or a Czech version of a big hit Together Again (Až přijde ten den) by Buck Owens; why did you choose these songs?
Out of the entire catalog of Michal Tučný, I was searching for music that I could relate to and sing from the heart. “You Win Again” may be a country song, but the story and tone is as blues as it gets! That melancholy, helpless, frustration is so very powerful and so very heartbreaking to interpret that I knew I had to sing it. In contrast, as the catalog began with “A”, “Až přijde ten den” was the first that really caught my heart. It’s so very simple, so defiant, so resolute that I could imagine honestly singing those words and expressing that sentiment.
Is it difficult for you to sing in Czech?
Czech is a difficult but a wonderful language. I speak it on a daily basis and am very much looking forward to singing in it. I must confess that this year’s Stodola Michala Tučného is going to be my Czech singing debut. To learn the words and sing my heart out for such a sincere song as “Až přijde ten den” is a genuine thrill for me.
What’s your relationship to country music?
Because country and gospel were at one time all played by the same people, country music is actually quite dear to me. As a child, I distinctly remember my mother playing country music in the kitchen while preparing the Sunday breakfast before we all went to church to sing gospel. I grew up watching Minnie Pearl on “Hee-Haw”, a popular weekend television show. As an adult, I moved abroad and quickly learned to “two-step” with “friends in low places” who loved to “boot-skootin‘-boogie” and line dance to “Cotton-Eyed Joe” in Seoul, South Korea! As a singer, I’m inspired by the powerful sincerity of Johnny Cash, the fragile strength of Dolly Parton and the warm, sultriness of Patsy Cline. The famous blues singer Etta James said that when she was a little girl she wanted to grow up to be a country singing star. That’s because country is so much a part of American life.
Have some of your feelings you harbor to the blues flowed over into country music?
Country music and its various styles have been around me ever since I was little until now, when I am celebrating my 15th anniversary as a frontwoman. You can notice country music elements in the songs “Never Say I Love You” and “Cookin’ out Doors”. You’ll also be able to hear more of this connection between the blues and country in new songs I am preparing this year with my band.
Who are your favorite country singers?