"I don’t assume that I have another job to go back to. I operate on the level that this is the only thing
in my life."


An Exclusive Interview With Jared Leto From
30 Seconds to Mars by Ivana B. Adored

The frontman of Immortal/Virgin hard-rock band 30 Seconds to Mars may be better known for his acting, but Jared Leto is just as serious about his musical career. In fact, he’s been pursuing for years—about the same amount of time he’s been pursued by HITS’ own Ivana, who’s long been caught up in the delusion that she’s Claire Danes in My So Called Life.

After I saw your band in Atlanta at 99X’s Big Day Out, Steve Leeds [new head of Rock formats at Virgin Records] told me he’d had this phenomenal conversation with you, and he was taken by how committed you are to this band. First of all, is this the sort of scenario you expected when you were first recording the album?
All the success that we’re having right now is honestly more than I ever expected.

What was your expectation when this record came out?
Not to sound like the Dali Lama or something, but I really kind of left my expectations at the door. I’m really acutely aware of the challenges that are in front of us, and this has always been something that we, as a band, have always been driven to do because we are driven to be creative. We really didn’t do this, in all honesty, with the results in mind. We’ve been sitting in that garage and in the rehearsal spaces and writing this record for so many years now.

How many?
The recording of the album took three years. And before that, we spent every second we had for six years in the studio working on material and developing what this latest thing was about. My brother is the drummer, and we’ve been playing together since we were kids. I started on the piano, and he was a jazz drummer. He started playing drums when he was 4—he was a prodigy. And then he stopped playing for many, many years because he had gotten into some trouble and he had to sell his drum set when he was a kid to pay a court fine, actually. I’m just compelled to do what I do with music. It more borders on obsessive-compulsive territory, something I’m just driven to do.

So little of what you get to do at this point is actually playing music, and there are other aspects of being in a band, having a record out and promoting it that I don’t think artists are ever given a primer on. For instance, an actor would have a publicist walk them through things, here’s how to be in interviews, etc. But for a musician when this is your baby, suddenly you’re hanging out in a conference room at a radio station with a bunch of disinterested people.
You know, what keeps me going through that is that they don’t make you aware of the work, and we never actually thought about that until it was thrust upon us. But what really keeps me driven to continue doing all that stuff—and actually be excited about it—is the fact that people are experiencing the music and it’s becoming part of people’s lives. That’s what keeps us excited every night. Every time we play a show and people are introduced to the music, or we go to a radio station and we know that it’s an opportunity for 30 Seconds to Mars to be heard, that’s huge for us. We put our lives into this. We put our hearts and our souls into this. This is something that we’ve been so dedicated to, committed to and passionate about for so long that we’re going to do whatever we have to do to make it work. To make it heard.

Do you want to know how record sales are? Do you care about radio airplay? Or do you just leave that to the people that you’ve entrusted to deal with it?
I let the people that are the experts focus on that stuff. If there’s anything that I can do or they need us to do as a band, we’re always ready to do that. We try to focus as much on the creative opportunities as much as possible.

The thing about this record, more so than others, is whenever you’re in a market, the record sales go crazy. You were just in Atlanta, now it’s ranked there. But some of these places are not exactly glamorous. You have the #4 record in Altoona, PA, right now.
Yeah, I think we just played a show there.

You have a #14 record in West Virginia, which means you’re going to have to go back there.
Oh, we will. I think from the outset we’re doing something that really hasn’t been done before. And I don’t mean to say that and pat myself on the back at all. I just mean that someone in my position or some other position who might have been known or semi-known as an actor, really hasn’t gone through any of the motions that we’ve gone through. So we feel like we’re kind of breaking new ground, really.

Is there any musician whose career path you’ve particularly admired?
Definitely. I think U2 is a great example of staying relevant and musical and growing and just having a certain amount of dignity as well while they’re doing it.

But, how do you avoid the temptation to proselytize when you’re being interviewed—to give those sort of statements because you have this forum?
You’ve got to remember that you don’t know shit, and that just because you’re being asked all of the questions doesn’t mean that you know any of the answers. Because you get in that position all of the time: "So what do you think of this?" And the camera’s rolling and you’re supposed to have some sort of clever answer or something. You can give your opinion, which is likely to change in a year and embarrass you horribly, or you can try to skirt around the answer or something.

You’re now in beautiful Manitoba, and I know that you have some other glamorous stops through Canada through this week and next. Let’s say your manager calls and says, "I have this unbelievable script for you. Steven Spielberg has a part that only you can play, and filming starts in a month. What do you do?
Um, I say, "Thank you, appreciate it, good luck with your movie." That’s already happened over the course of the past couple years or whatever’s it’s been, although not with Spielberg. I’ve made two movies in the past four years. Now that the record’s out, this is something that I’m 100% committed to and passionate about, and we’re going to make it work if we have to do it from club to club in the back of a van. We’re going to make it work for us.

Do you have a vision of where you’re going to be in a year?
If I start thinking of turning my back on everything I’ve worked for as an actor right now—and for good reason, for amazing opportunities—but at the same time I’m giving up what I worked my ass for, you know? Let me tell you something, I showed up in LA with $500 and a backpack and I stayed at a shelter, so nobody handed me anything. I worked for every single thing that I have. I approached the music the same way. I don’t assume that I have another job to go back to. I operate on the level that this is the only thing in my life. Because you know what, my brother works as a laborer on construction sites when we’re not on tour. The others do similar things, so we’re all on the same [mission] to make this our lives. To be able to do this for as long as we continue to be inspired to do it.

Is there anything that you can never imagine happening, where you say to yourself, this could be the biggest kick in the world.
But they’ve already happened. Playing in front of tens of thousands of people, opening up for Incubus, playing sold-out shows with bands all year long, and then playing small club shows across the states in between those shows that are selling out or packed with kids. Even if it’s 100 kids in a club in the middle of South Dakota or something, in a one off show in between the Incubus dates, that there are that many people that were coming there and participating in that experience with 30 Seconds to Mars. That right there is a huge milestone for us. For so long we never thought the music would ever get out of the garage, really.

Do you feel let down at all?
No, I don’t think so. I think you’ve got to just let the music take you to where it takes you. There is a consistency with our intentions. We’re not going to be onstage pretending to be The Strokes and Iron Maiden the next. We’re 30 Seconds to Mars, and there’s an intention that’s consistent. We get immersed in what we’re doing and how we feel about the music when we perform. We try to let it direct us.

What was the most flattering sort of fan response on this tour?
I think when people make an emotional connection to the music and have their own interpretation. Like when we see people show up that are participating with the band in a visual, creative way, like making up shirts or artwork. Participating in a visual way is really a huge compliment, because we think of ourselves as not just musicians but as visual artists expressing ourselves in a lot of different ways. That’s why I think 30 Seconds to Mars is unique as far as our approach to what we do.

And it’s not just girls that are doing this. I saw a lot of boys at your show, rock kids, singing along, with their little homemade shirts and stuff. This is isn’t just girls who are drawn to Jared the movie star, these are genuine music fans.
Yeah, that’s nice to see, and I think there’s going to be interest from people who might know me from some of my other work and that’s fine. And if they like the music, that’s great. But what we’ve found being on the road all year long since January, besides three weeks to make a video, is that the music is making a real connection. I mean, if it wasn’t we wouldn’t have the opportunities that we have right now.

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