JANITA TALKS NEW MUSIC, SOCIAL MEDIA & ADVICE FOR ASPIRING ARTISTS 7

Originally from Finland, Janita – pronounced YA-nee-tuh – is a Brooklyn based singer-songwriter who over the past few years has had the music industry buzzing. Having performed scores of sold-out shows and played many sold out festivals, she’s earned herself a reputation as one of the hardest working artists today and 2017 looks set to be the year where more music fans around the world discover this great talent. While in New York back in November, I was fortunate enough to meet her in a little café in the city and, as the world moved at it’s fast pace around us, we chatted in depth about social media, musical inspirations and advice for other artists. It’s taken a few months for me to solve the technical issues that affected my ability to transcribe our chat, but I’ve finally fixed them, so read on to find out more.

TITL: Okay so firstly, tell me a little about yourself. How would you sum yourself up in a few words?

Janita: As a musician, I’m a guitar playing singer-songwriter, who also plays piano for whom music has been a calling all my life. I started very young, I was thirteen years old and it’s just been a wonderful journey of doing what I love. My new album Didn’t You, My Dear? is the one I’m most proud of. I just feel like, ideally, as an artist you try to evolve and get better and I feel like I’ve really been able to do that. This album is something honest and real, and it’s been really well received which has been really nice.

TITL: So did you have any other career ambitions prior becoming a musician or has it always been set in your mind that you’d be creative in this way?

J: My career plans have always been connected to the arts in some way or another. Music is something that spoke to me since I was little, since I was around two years old and it was something that I connected to immediately. I’ve always loved dance and visual art, and felt connected to them as well, but for me, music was the one thing I’ve always felt really strongly about. I’m interested in a lot of things but somehow they all come together, like writing and literature, and all my interests in that way have certainly helped me when it comes to creating music.

TITL: In terms of the instruments you play, are you classically trained or did you have lessons as a kid?

J: Originally I was classically trained on piano and I played for about ten years when I was younger, but everything else I’ve pretty much learned on my own. I’ve taken some classes for the technicality of vocals and singing, but I think in order for a singer to create their own style, it has to really be about their own development and journey of discovery, and I don’t particularly think that works so well if you’ve got a tutor or a teacher guiding you. It’s important, as an artist, that you give yourself a chance to explore exactly what it is that you want to do, how you want to sound, that kind of thing.

TITL: Is there one instrument you favour over another or are you just proud of the fact that you’re a gifted multi-instrumentalist?

J: Well I appreciate you calling me gifted, but to be honest, it’s not really something I’ve thought about. When I first started playing here in New York, I noticed that a lot of musicians, particularly back up musicians, were able to play more than one instrument, and I always thought that was really cool. I think singing is my most natural instrument, if I can say that, and I feel like that’s something that is particularly powerful, but I do feel like I’ve been able to find a voice of my own as well thanks to being able to play both the guitar and the piano.

TITL: Hailing from Finland, have you noticed any differences in the music industry between here, in the US, Europe and back home?

J: Finland is a very small country and so there are limits as to how far you can go, especially when you’re making English speaking music – that makes the audience and market even more narrow. I felt like the smart thing for me to do was move here and pursue an international career. I’ve had a lot of great opportunities here and I feel like I’ve found a great label home here in New York with the ECR Music Group – and my career is blossoming in a way that I haven’t seen in quite a while, The US is obviously a huge market and it can he really hard to come into but I feel like I’m making good progress, plus it’s given me the opportunity to tour in places like Germany and play in London, which has been great. Every market has its own quirks and everything, but I think, ideally, my career would be one that would allow me to travel to different places around the world.

TITL: What would you say makes you stand out from all your musical counterparts?

J: I probably, at one point in my career, thought about being in this industry as some kind of competition, but that’s not how I approach my music these days. I feel like, for me it’s important to be able to create art that’s compelling and lyrics and melodies and music that means something to me. It’s been really liberating to stop looking around and seeing what other people are doing; I can get very inspired by other people don’t get me wrong, but I’ve come to the very healthy realisation that what comes most naturally to me and what is unique about me won’t be helped by looking around and seeing who or what I’m up against, so to speak. I’m not trying to do what’s current out there right now, I’m just creating something that speaks to me, and if that speaks to other people, then that’s fantastic.

TITL: Who or what most influences your song-writing?

J: I think one of the best way to get inspired is to just be present. If you’re not connected to the world around you in some way or another, then inspiration is always going to be hard to come by. It’s also important to give yourself the time to think about what drives and inspires you; to think about the art that you love and from that, inspiration can come pretty easily.

One of the most influential performances I’ve seen recently was one by Daniel Lanois – he’s a producer who has worked with U2 and Neil Young and so many other amazing artists – and he’s an unbelievable pedal steel player. He was playing a gig at Rockwood Music Hall and together, he and his fantastic group of backing musicians, had me bawling my way through the entire show because I’d never heard music played like that before. It was soaring and emotive and transported me away to a different universe. I’ve experienced that before, but that was by far the most powerful experience I’ve had and it was incredibly inspiring.

TITL: What would you say makes a great song and with that in mind, which would you say is the greatest ever written and why?

J: I don’t know if I’ll be able to answer that question. It’s one of those classic questions that you kind of want to know how to be able to answer, and I’ve never been asked that before. I think there is a different kind of magic to each song. Power can be and come from different places in songs; sometimes the most powerful music you hear in a moment is just instrumental – as was the case for me when I saw Daniel Lanois – other times you get struck by a particular lyric.

One band that I really, really love are the Punch Brothers and they have a song called “Julep”, which is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s in the music, it’s in the lyrics – when I’ve heard them play it, which is a couple of times live now, I just start to cry. There’s something about it that’s just so beautiful – it’s the perfect marriage of melody, music and lyrics. I’ve mentioned one song, but there are so many others that have had such a huge impact on me. I really love those old, classic tunes that everybody knows – they touch me as well – but there are also a huge number of immensely powerful songs which the vast majority of people have never heard. I’ve performed many powerful songs over the course of my career, including Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, and it’s certainly one of those heart-stopping songs, but there are many others out there as well.

TITL: When it comes to touring, have you noticed any similarities or differences between audiences in different countries?

J: I noticed an interesting quirk in Germany. I was over there for a month and I played about twenty shows and noticed that the audiences would wait until the very last note had been played and gone away before they started clapping. That was really weird for me because here in New York, when they hear a note that sounds like the last one, even if it’s not, that’s when they start clapping and over there, in Germany, they really waited it out. I was weirded out by that to begin with, but at the same time, it was great to see people really immersed in the music and wanting to hear every last note of it.

TITL: If you could play any venue in the world, which would it be and which four bands or artists, who can be living or dead, would you most like to share the stage with?

J: These are great questions! I love London, for me it’s one of those magical places and I was fortunate enough to play three shows there a while back and outside of New York City, it’s the one place I’d want to live in this world. But, I don’t really know the music venues of the world outside of the areas where I’ve lived and already played. I think, as an artist, you’re always wanting to grow and move up to the next level, and one of the places I really enjoy here in New York City is Bowery Ballroom. It’s a nice venue because it’s big but not too big and allows for an intimate setting, but it also feels a lot bigger than that too.

As for who I’d play with….I really love this band called Blonde Redhead, they’re a shoe-gazery kind of rock band. They’re just awesome on so many levels and I feel like I have a personal connection with them. Elliott Smith, who is sadly no longer with us, is somebody whose music is incredibly moving to me, and I love Beck. Finally, I’d have to go with Punch Brothers who I mentioned earlier. Those four of them would make an interesting mix I think. Maybe I could add Daniel Lanois and he could create the whole vision of the night too…

TITL: To what extent has social media impacted your career and do you see it as a positive thing or more of a double-edged sword that can be dangerous depending on how it’s used?

J: I think is quite essential to me as an artist and I find myself using a couple of different platforms. It’s a really important way for me to engage with my followers and my listeners and sometimes when it’s hard to find publicity in other ways, I think it’s great in the fact that it allows you to be pro-active in other ways. I find it really important, but at the same time, there are issues with social media such as the way it often derogatizes fact and how truth is ‘up for grabs’ like never before. In order to be part of social media, you have to take the good with the bad – like you often do with most things. It can be a great tool, but it can also be used for unhealthy things like bullying – I think we’re all still figuring out what the whole deal with it is if I’m honest.

TITL: Do you pay much attention to what critics think or are you just happy to do what you do and create the music you’re proud of?

J: Critics are always going to have an opinion, need it be good or bad, and that’s fine and they, like anyone else, can of course share those thoughts with others, largely thanks to the boom in social media. However because I have my own pages on several platforms, I don’t feel obligated to keep people’s negative comments on there. If I see one, it’s highly likely that I’ll delete it – it’s my page and I don’t have to support that kind of negativity on or in my own little world.

In terms of compliments, there was one recently, I can’t quite remember what the words were but they said something along the lines of my being an artist that can transcend and send you to another place with their music, and they named me alongside musicians like Jeff Buckley, which I think is about the most beautiful compliment I could ever get. Ultimately though, I love what I do, I put my all into it and I think my music is a true representation of who I am as an artist, and that’s what really matters to me. If other people connect with what I do, then fantastic and if they don’t, that’s okay too.

TITL: What does the future – the next twelve months or so – have in store for you?

J: I plan on touring more, both in the UK and the US and I’m very excited about that. I also plan on getting back in the studio as I’ve been writing quite a bit recently as well, so 2017 is looking good…busy but very good.

TITL: Finally then, what would you most like to achieve as an artist and do you have any advice for upcoming artists looking to make their own way in this ever competitive industry?

J: I feel like I’m moving in the direction of my dreams. I want to be able to tour and play my music to different audiences; I want to be able to create albums that are meaningful and honest, not just for me but others as well and I feel like I’m doing those things. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future – none of us do – but I really admire the careers of artists like Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith and Leonard Cohen; people who have made art their whole lives and been able to push the envelope and create something authentic over and over again. Those kinds of artists and their careers are the ones that inspire me the most – to see the longevity and that not every artist is or has been a flash in the pan. That’s what I’m aiming for – a career that spans a lifetime.

For the advice…I think for any artist who plays an instrument, it’s important that they find the right one. I truly believe that make all the difference, as, when I first started playing guitar and picked one up, I didn’t feel 100% comfortable to begin with but over time, as I began experimenting with different ones, I finally found one that ‘fit’, with me and my music, and since then, I’ve been more creative and felt more positive about what I do than ever.

More generally, I think the music industry as it is right now is such a tough place that you really, really want to have to do it in order to succeed in it. The music industry chews bands and artists up and spits them out so often, it can be really hard to just even get your foot on the first step of the industry ladder. You have to want to do it for the right reasons as well; not for the potential fame or whatever, but because you’re passionate and want to share that passion with others. The way bands and artists aren’t getting paid for their work can be very demoralising and it’s a real issue, but for me, my love of music and love of the arts is what keeps me motivated and pushing forwards with my career. You also have to really know yourself – what you want, what you like and what you don’t, and be prepared to stand up for those things even when people around you disagree. Know yourself as both an artist and a human being – it’s crucial to creating honest, emotive music that touches not just you but listeners and fans as well. If you want to work on your art, work on your life.

For more information on Janita, visit her website, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. Her album Didn’t You, My Dear? is available now on iTunes.

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LIVE: THE SCRIPT @ BLACKPOOL EMPRESS BALLROOM – AUGUST 30TH 2017 9

Up and coming Mancunian JP Cooper warms up the packed out floor and quickly filling seating area with a set lasting around half an hour, armed simply with a guitar. “I’ve played a few empty rooms here in Blackpool so it’s awesome to see so many of you have come out early” he says, prior to performing ”She’s On My Mind”, which is currently receiving huge airplay and support from radio stations across the country so needless to say, the song goes down a treat. He rounds off his time on stage with a short heartfelt speech about “Passport Home” claiming it to be: “…a celebration of anyone who’s done something good or who has been there for you. Thank you to all of you for coming out and to The Script for this amazing opportunity.” By the time he walks off stage to warm applause, he’s certainly earned himself a considerable number of new fans.

After more than two years away, Irish trio The Script are currently preparing to release their fifth album Freedom Child on Friday and have been touring the UK and Ireland in support of it for the past couple of weeks. Tonight, on the second to last night of this intimate run of dates, and four years to the day the band were due to perform in town as part of the Illuminations switch-on event, they walk on stage to a heroes’ welcome, kicking their set off with  “Rock The World”, one of the songs from the new album. It gets the show off to an up-tempo start with those on the floor, particularly at the barrier (which one girl I spoke to said she’d queued from 5am to get a spot at) and in the first few rows clapping, jumping and, having followed the previous few shows and quickly learned the lyrics, singing along.

“Superheroes” keeps the mood of the night upbeat, as does “Paint The Town Green” which sees front-man Danny O’Donoghue practically jig his way from one side of the stage to the other before the song slides straight into part of “Good Ol’ Days.”

Fan-favourite “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” is next up and as the crowd all but take over vocal duties to close out the song, Glen turns to his left slightly and proudly applauds while Danny bows down to them, grateful and somewhat overwhelmed by the strength and passion of the masses before him. Having been made aware of some venues not allowing gig-goers to photograph or film parts of shows, Mark, calling out a member of their tour crew, then proceeds to make the following statement: “Tell security to let people film and take photographs if they fucking want to. Venues might have a policy against it but we don’t give a fuck.”

With Freedom Child just two days away from release, the trio then introduce what Danny has called the only “ballad” on the album, “Arms Open”, which, under atmospheric lighting, sees a hand-clap slowly spread around the venue. Addressing the fact they were due in the town 4 years ago but had to cancel their appearance due to a family health emergency, they then call out: “Turn the fucking lights on!” and as every corner of the venue becomes illuminated, while the band stand watching and listening to the crowd roar to life once again, all they can remark is: “Amazing.”

Carrying on what has become a long-standing tour tradition, Danny then says they’re going to create a Mexican Wave and share it using Boomerang, explaining for the older members in the audience – “like me” he jokes – that Boomerang is a social media tool that takes a little clip and puts it on repeat. “It’s gonna look fucking awesome” he insists, and after a practice run, sure enough, the sight of thousands of arms rising and falling together is quite a sight to behold.

Getting back to the music, “Nothing” and “If You Ever Come Back” are next up before, after a brief interlude during which Danny announces: “This tour keeps getting better and better…you guys are amazing, thank you so much”, they introduce another new song; the rather reggae sounding “No Man Is An Island” at the end of which Glen looks out at everyone and declares: “You guys are an amazing crowd”, then all but (politely) demands: “Give yourselves a round of applause” which everyone duly does.

As three criss-cross white lights shine down on the band, “Never Seen Anything Quite Like You” begins with Danny standing centre-stage with his keyboard, while “For The First Time” ends with huge, seemingly never-ending cheers and rapturous applause as Danny stands almost perfectly still for a moment and looks speechless, gazing out at the sight and sound around him. “Science And Faith” and “If You Could See Me Now” follow soon after, before Danny then proceeds to delight those on the balcony towards the back of the venue when he appears on the walkway in front of them to perform “The Energy Never Dies”, with one fan getting an extra added surprise when he sings straight into her phone. Returning to the stage, he then instigates a venue wide sing-along of “Breakeven.”

From the second the band move to walk off stage, the venue echoes with the sound of thousands of people whistling, cheering and stamping their feet non-stop until the trio return for an encore which begins with “No Good In Goodbye.” Half way through, Danny says “Let’s hear you sing this” and holds out the mic to the crowd who duly oblige, albeit a little quietly at first, but they soon find their full voices again.

Latest single “Rain” has the mass of people on the floor, and Danny in particular, jumping around with the energy of someone half his age, before, as the show draws to a close, talking about the meaning behind the new album, he makes the following emphatic and passionate speech:

“We feel that freedom of expression has been under attack recently. We’re talking about the freedom to do what you wanna do, the freedom to say what it is you wanna say. The freedom to feel what is you really feel, the freedom to think what you wanna think, the freedom to pray to whoever you wanna pray to…but more importantly, the freedom to love who you wanna love…”

He goes on to ask: “Blackpool, are you in the mood for making a moment right now?!,” to which he receives a roar in response that makes him beam. “Let’s do this!” Seconds later he announces that they are live across the world right now and encourages everyone to repeat after him: “Freedom Child!”, before the band launch into final song of the night, “Hall Of Fame” which ends with Danny jumping off the edge of Glen’s drum platform. Then, gathering for their usual group bow at the front of the stage, the trio, alongside bassist Ben Sergeant and keyboardist Rodney Alejandro, take a moment to soak up the cheers and applause which thunder around the ballroom, sounds which continue to reverberate long after the group disappear from view.

KENDRICK LAMAR WINS BIG AT THE MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS 2017 11

Kendrick Lamar was the king of the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, winning six awards on a night full of emotional performances, political moments and a new, eye-popping Taylor Swift music video.

The 2017 MTV VMAs at the Forum in Inglewood, California, kicked off with lasers, fire and Kendrick Lamar. Break dancers performed amidst the light beams and fog as the rapper performed “DNA.” The song culminated with a ninja break-dancing while engulfed in flames. Then, the rapper transitioned to Humble” and Lamar’s backup performers, who were wearing martial arts uniforms, clamoured up and down a ladder that was set ablaze.

Ed Sheeran then took the stage to perform “Shape of You” against a prismatic set before Lil Uzi hopped onstage to add a few rap lines and helped Sheeran close out the song before the two launched into “XO TOUR Llif3.

The show cut to a skit featuring host Katy Perry hatching up a scheme to visit space, asking for advice from Buzz Aldrin, Peggy Whitson, Abbi Jacobson, Kathryn Hahn and Kevin Bacon who reminded Perry, “I wasn’t really on Apollo 13.” Perry then detailed her fictional trip to space before she floated down to the stage in her holographic space suit.

When she got to the stage, Perry explained to the audience that she has been missing in action because of her trip to space.

She said: “The world is doing so well right? Everything is fine? Great! Maybe not so much.”

Perry explained she wanted to change clothes. As she started to disrobe, she went through a rack of clothes. At one point, she took a “Handmaid’s Tale” uniform out and asked what it was. She said, “You guys have really been going through it, haven’t you? How the f**k are you coping right now?” before she was handed a fidget spinner as an explanation.

Paris Jackson presented best pop video award, but not before giving an impassioned statement against white supremacists.

“Let’s leave here tonight remembering we must show these Nazi, white supremacist jerks in Charlottesville and all over the country that as a nation with liberty as our slogan, we have zero tolerance for their violence, their hatred and their discrimination,” said Jackson. “We must resist.”

Fifth Harmony won best pop video for “Down and they got teary as they thanked their families and Gucci Mane, who was on the stage with them.

Hailee Steinfeld announced Julia Michaels’ performance of “Issues.”

The VMAs premiered  Taylor Swift’s video for her new single Look What You Made Me Do” while a new minutes laterYara Shahidi announced Shawn Mendes’ performance of “There’s Nothin’ Holding Me Back.”

Perry returned to the stage with a message for people affected by Hurricane Harvey and said, “We are praying for your safety … because we’re all in this together.”

Alessandra Ambrosio and Jack Antonoff, who sported a prominent Star of David necklace, announced a performance by Lorde.

Lorde opened by turning on a boom box onstage and dancing to her song “Homemade Dynamite.” Later, backup dancers joined her to lift her into the air so she could float over the stage. She ended the performance without singing a single word.

Pete Wentz and Teyana Taylor presented best dance, which went to “Stay” by Alessia Cara and Zedd.

DJ Khaled took the stage with his baby, Asahd Tuck Khaled, who Perry said would obviously win the social media baby contest. He then announced a performance by Fifth Harmony. The girl group started with “Angel” before transitioning into “Down.”

Ludacris and Olivia Munn presented best collaboration, which went to “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” by Zayn and Taylor Swift. Jack Antonoff and his “favorite new artist” Sam Dew accepted the award on the singers’ behalf.

Jared Leto took the stage to pay tribute to Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington and Soundgarden front-man Chris Cornell.

Leto then urged audience members and viewers at home to stand up for a performance by Linkin Park.

A few minutes later, host Perry announced a performance by Miley Cyrus, who sang “Younger Now” after shouting, “Love you, Katy!”

Cardi B announced a spirited performance of “Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lovato.

Later, P!nk appeared onstage in a convertible to sing a medley of her songs, including “Get the Party Started” and “Raise Your Glass” before hopping onto an ATV to sing “So What” as backup singers danced nearly nude with only black bars to cover themselves.

P!nk then sang “Don’t Let Me Get Me” and “Just Give Me A Reason” against a screen playing her old music videos before she performed her newest single “What About Us.”

After Pink’s performance, Ellen DeGeneres took the stage to present the Vanguard Award to P!nk.

Stranger Things actress Millie Bobby Brown took the stage to present artist of the year and quipped, “Just last year, I was stuck in the upside down and now I’m here.” The award went to Brown’s “personal favorite” Ed Sheeran.

Vanessa Hudgens announced a performance by Alessia Cara.

Kesha announced a performance of “1-800-273-8255” by Alessia Cara and Logic, encouraging people to seek help and advice. The song title is also the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Bebe Rexha and The Chainsmokers presented best new artist, which went to Khalid, before Thirty Seconds to Mars sang “Walk on Water” with a performance that saw them appear as a heat map.

Reverend Robert Mead IV took the stage and said:

“I am a descendent of Robert E. Lee, the Civil War general whose statue was at the center of violence. We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy. As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin. Today, I call on all of us with privilege and power to answer God’s call to confront racism and white supremacy head-on. We can find inspiration in the Black Lives Matter movement, the women who marched in the Women’s March in January and especially Heather Heyer, who died fighting for her beliefs in Charlottesville.”

Mead then introduced Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, who said of her daughter:

“I miss her, but I know she’s here tonight. I have been deeply moved to see people across the world, the whole world, find inspiration in her courage.” She announced the launch of the Heather Heyer Foundation, which will provide scholarships to “help people join Heather’s fight against hatred. I want people to know that Heather never marched alone. She was always joined by people of every race and every background in this country.”

She announced that MTV decided to honor all six nominees for its category, best fight against the system, adding:

“I congratulate all these artists on their VMA tonight and I look forward to the important work that they and all of you will do together to make the world a better, kinder place. Thank you.”

Hailey Baldwin announced the performance of the “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” reboot by Rod Stewart and DNCE, who put on a colorful and flashy performance from Las Vegas.

Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot presented video of the year, which went to “Humble.” by Kendrick Lamar.

Noah Cyrus announced a performance by host Perry and Nicki Minaj who together closed out the ceremony.

Here’s the full list of winners from the 2017 VMA’s:

Video of the Year: Kendrick Lamar: “HUMBLE.”
Best New Artist: Khalid
Artist of the Year: Ed Sheeran
Best Hip Hop Video: Kendrick Lamar: “HUMBLE.”
Best Collaboration: Zayn and Taylor Swift: “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker)”
Best Pop Video: Fifth Harmony: “Down” [ft. Gucci Mane]
Best Dance Video: Zedd and Alessia Cara: “Stay”
Best Rock Video: Twenty One Pilots: “Heavydirtysoul”
Song of the Summer: Lil Uzi Vert: “XO Tour Llif3”
Best Direction: Kendrick Lamar: “HUMBLE.”
Best Cinematography: Kendrick Lamar: “HUMBLE.”
Best Visual Effects: Kendrick Lamar: “HUMBLE.”
Best Choreography: Kanye West: “Fade”
Best Editing: Young Thug: “Wyclef Jean”
Best Fight Against the System (all nominees win):Logic: “Black SpiderMan”; The Hamilton Mixtape: “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)”; Big Sean: “Light”; Alessia Cara: “Scars to Your Beautiful”; Taboo: “Stand Up / Stand N Rock #NoDAPL” [ft. Shailene Woodley]; John Legend: “Surefire”