Review Fix chats with singer/songwriter Jan James, who lets us know all about her creative process, goals for the future and her recently-released 11th studio album.
Review Fix: How did you get involved in music?
Jan James: I was drawn to music from a young age. I played clarinet in the high school band. Singing became “my thing” when I picked up the guitar in college. I performed in the local coffee shops and started learning to “improv” on soul/blues songs. That’s where I discovered my ability to connect my voice with real emotion. I found nirvana there.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
James: Craig (Calvert, Jan’s songwriting partner and guitar player) and I have worked together for quite some time so our process has worked itself out over trial and error. We have found that the best way for us to work together is to actually work apart. He composes complete bed tracks which includes drums, bass, guitar and keyboards of song ideas and then sends them off to me. I will sit with them usually over coffee in the quiet time of the morning. I linger with each idea while looking through my notebooks of phrases and poetry. Sometimes the melodies will come simultaneously with the lyrics. That’s when it feels like magic … the right words come to the right melody on the right track. I love this part of songwriting the most.
\Review Fix: What makes album 11 different from the first 10?
James: That is a great question. Each album has its own space and time. This one came together rather quickly so it feels like the songs all belong together. “Good Man Down” is a comment about the immigration issues that have suddenly become a huge deal in this country. “Try” is a song written for those considering suicide which has become an epidemic in our time. I wish I could have sung it for a drummer friend of ours who tragically took his life 10 years ago. I feel it is a topic we should be talking about. We need to reach out to people who are struggling and let them know we are here and not afraid to talk about it. It might make a difference. Overall, I believe the message is one of hope. “Believe In Me,” “I’m Always Coming Back,” “Lucky U R” all have a dose of optimism.
Review Fix: What inspires you?
James: Love and compassion. You can also throw in some vulnerability for good measure. These are the parts of life that inspire me.
Review Fix: What does music mean to you?
James: Music is connection and at the same time can make me feel free. It gives me warmth and fills my soul. If I am very feeling a bit off all I have to do is turn it on and I will find my footing. I think it is everything to me.
Review Fix: How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?
Review Fix: How are your live shows different from your studio work?
James: Our live performance shows off our dynamic range. We extend parts of the songs to engage with the audience so some of the songs will be longer than they are on the recording. I get a real feeling of openness and vulnerability when I sing. It allows me to get into the real heart of the song and bring the audience with me. It is a unique experience…I hope for both of us.
Review Fix: What inspired your latest single?
James: “Justify” started as a riff track that Craig put together. I fell in love with the way the guitar floated on the groove so I wrote the melody to fall into the spaces between the licks. The break-down part seemed to be too long at first but I was able to fill-in with a lyric “list” that I feel most people can identify with. We all have to “Justify” our emotions in order to live our best lives. Those includes anger, fear, tears, loneliness, sadness, pain, broken hearts, and ultimately “our evil-ways.” I mean we all have them right? It ended up as a really cool guitar lick tune with a perfect place for my voice to ride the groove. Love performing this one.
Review Fix: What are your goals for 2020?
James: I would be very happy to follow up the release of this album with some key shows in and around the US and Europe. It would be fantastic to have the entire band along for the ride because we make good music together. Live performance is really the best medicine for anyone.
Review Fix: What’s next?
James: The official release date was March 6 and we are already starting the process to record the next album. Let the magic begin!
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
James: I do hope you will all share this music with your friends. It is meant to be heard and I am really glad you are listening. Peace out!