May 30, 2013 at 3:21 PM ET
He's a movie star and a rock musician today, but in his childhood, Jared Leto was "food-stamp poor," he tells style catalog and publication Mr. Porter.
Leto and his brother Shannon were raised by a single mom who moved often, but infused her sons with a sense of creativity and the arts.
"It was the 1970s, the age of the artist and the hippy, and my exposure to that shaped me in a really deep way," he said. "I had no concept of the word 'fame'; or a notion of success or money. We grew up very poor, so our world wasn't anywhere near that kind of stuff. You have to do what is important to you and protect that."
Leto is known to many as Angela Chase's crush Jordan Catalano in the 1994-1995 cult TV favorite "My So-Called Life." He's also starred in such films as "American Psycho," "Requiem for a Dream," and "Urban Legend," but his second love is music. Leto and his brother perform together as part of the rock group 30 Seconds to Mars.
The band's latest album, "Love Lust Faith and Dreams," features a song that harks back to Leto's childhood, as "Depuis Le Début," the final song on the album, closes by featuring a music box playing the theme from "Swan Lake."
"My mother used to put my little brother and me to sleep by playing that exact music box," he said. "And we wanted to put a little bit of our life on there. The whole record is very personal and I hope it is an album that can be transformative."