IN CONVERSATION WITH JARED LETO
Interview by Jana Letonja
American actor and musician JARED LETO is known for his acting in a variety of roles. In a career spanning three decades, he has received numerous accolades, including an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award. Additionally, he is recognized as a musician and for his eccentric stage persona as a member of the rock band THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS, which just released their new album IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD BUT IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY this September.
Jared, THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS started back in 1998, as a collaboration between you and your brother. How was the idea to form a rock band born? Tell us more about the band’s beginnings.
My brother and I were always around music growing up, which we owe a huge thank you to our mother for. We started playing instruments and making music when we were kids and we never really stopped. It’s evolved a lot over time, but it happened organically.
How did you become passionate about music in the first place?
Again, it’s really all thanks to our mother. She fostered this incredibly creative and open environment for us really early on, which allowed us the space to investigate what it means to be artists. We were surrounded by so many different types of artists in our childhood and I actually thought I would be some sort of visual arts artist, like a painter or a sculptor or a photographer. I still do design work, photography and art in general. It all ultimately comes from the same place.
You’re writing your own music. What inspires you the most as a songwriter?
Creating an album is really encapsulation of the experiences you’ve had as an individual. This record was born in a period of extreme isolation and serves as a reflection of that. It’s also an appreciation of the fragility and beauty of life.
This September, the band released its sixth studio album IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD BUT IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY. How would you describe this album? How is it different from the previous ones?
We were able to explore new territory with this album sonically and really push our own boundaries as artists. One thing that contributed to that in a big way was that my brother really flourished as a producer on the album. Having him and I share in that really pushed the album to new places that we hadn’t gone previously. We tried new production techniques, included new sonic influences and I was also able to experiment with new vocal ranges as well. It all resulted in an album that is at its core a THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS album, but one that also takes some unexpected risks.
Over the last few years, you wrote hundreds of new songs. How did you choose these ten for this new album?
We have written hundreds of songs over the past few years, but the collection that made it on to this project were really all centered on what served the core motif of the album. These ten songs really fit together well and seem to embody what we were trying to convey. It all comes back to the title of the album, IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD BUT IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY.
Which song from the album holds the biggest significance to you and why?
That’s incredibly hard to answer. They all hold meaning to me in different ways, so it’s impossible to compare them really. What we love about the album is there is such a wide variety of songs on it, both sonically and lyrically. We hope that everyone who listens can find something that speaks directly to them, that they can connect to, in some way as a result.
What does being in a band with your brother mean in your life and for the relationship between the two of you?
THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS only exists because of the bond we share as brothers and conversely, we wouldn’t have the relationship we have as brothers if we didn’t have the band. Sharing this project with my brother is a beautiful thing. We’re so lucky to get to pursue our art together. It’s shaped who we are as people and we strive to have a good relationship with each other, and we work hard at it. It’s crazy to think we’ve just released our sixth album. Not many people get such a unique opportunity and we’re extremely grateful for the chance to continue making music together.
How does the process of THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS’ music-making look like, both in general and for this latest album?
Our newest album, IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD BUT IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY, was actually born in the early days of Covid, so it was a much different experience making this album than past projects. It was such an incredibly difficult time for so many people, but it also allowed us the physical space to take pause from everything, come off the road and work on music in an uninterrupted way for the first time, which was a really beautiful thing. You can hear a lot of optimism in the record as well because of its origins during such a dark time. We wanted to convey that sense of hope amidst it all, through the lyrics themselves, but also the production. That isolation was something obviously none of us had experienced before and it really impacted the creation of the album in every way.
The band is committed to getting out of its comfort zone. What does getting out of your comfort zone mean for the band, and also for you as an individual?
It’s really liberating to get out of your comfort zone and to be without constraints. We really tried to embrace that within this album and just with how we approach life. We always want to push ourselves creatively, whether that be in the music we are writing and making or the live show we are building. It would be easy to continue to do the same thing over and over again, but it’s so much more exciting to challenge yourself on a creative level and do something that might be uncomfortable in the moment, but is ultimately really rewarding. We try to live and create by that ethos.
What are THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS’ plans for the future? Are you guys already planning your next album?
We’ve really been enjoying getting back on the road and performing live this year and we are looking forward to doing a lot more of that soon. We’ve got a lot coming up that we can’t reveal just yet, but we are very excited for the next adventure.
talent JARED LETO @jaredleto
photography JACK WATERLOT @jackwaterlotstudio
styling CHRISTIAN STROBLE @christianstroble
photography assistance TIMOTHY KWON & RYAN WERMICH @timothy.kwon @ryanwermich
stylist assistance JACK WILSON & GAIA KHATCHADOURIAN @jach_w @gaiakhat
grooming JAMIE TAYLOR @jamie_grooming @thewallgroup
executive production JOHNNY PASCUCCI @johnny_pascucci
senior production SARA BIELECKI @me.smb
project management VICENTE LUNA @vicenteluna
key production OMAR QUIROGA @omarquiroga
animal training BENAYS BIRD AND ANIMALS @benaysbirdandanimals
editor TIMI LETONJA @timiletonja
interview JANA LETONJA @janaletonja
cover design ARTHUR ROELOFFZEN @arthurroeloffzen