Watch Me Fly ~Then & Now

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When I first realized that I had the ability to transform my life, my emotions, and my perspective into songs, I was filled to the brim with joy.  I remember how free I felt.  Free and vulnerable.  Exposed.  It was like everything inside of my soul had finally found a way out and there was nothing weighing me down.

I wanted everyone to feel this joy I was feeling.  I had created lyrics and melody to some instrumental tracks a co-worker at the time had shared with me.  Taking what I had written into the studio and recording it took this joy to a new level.  Like a child showing you their artwork so full of pride and assurance that you will love it, I played these tracks I had recorded for everyone who would listen.  Most people had positive feedback, some were less enthusiastic than I was but still I felt encouraged to continue.  However there was one critique that stuck with me.  When I heard the following two sentences regarding my music everything shut down for a moment:

“Who are you going to market this music to?  White folks won’t get it and black folks will never accept you.”

Wow.  It caught me completely off guard.  I had never put a race or color to what was spilling out onto the paper.  It had never crossed my mind that what I was recording would be disregarded because it wasn’t “white enough” or “black enough”.  Marketing my emotions to a specific audience was foreign to me.   I was confused.  I was hurt.  And then I was mad and motivated to get above it.  So I did what I had learned would set this free and allow me to take back my power.  I put it on paper.  I sat down on my deck and wrote from start to finish, the piece that would eventually become “Watch Me Fly”.

That was the summer of 2003.

It stayed in my journal for several years.  It stayed there through my 5 years in the band Intuition which I co-founded.  It was still there when the band ended in 2008.  It didn’t come to life until after I started working with Maurice Carroll of Stinkiface Music that same year.  Even then I wasn’t sure I wanted to record it, but toward the end of a session with Maurice he asked me what song was next.  Reluctantly I sang my idea for the song to him.  I told him how it was supposed to feel and the emotion behind it.  He immediately started putting keys down, lengthening the original hook and adding sitar and a marching drum.  It fit.  It was dreamy and strange.  It was late and I was raspy when I recorded it but I remember it all clearly.

But now, Watch Me Fly was finally a real song and I was free from the sting of the words that inspired it years prior.  I took those words, let them hurt me, released that hurt on paper, and then set it free in the music.  It was mine now and instead of pain, I transformed it into something that would again bring me immense joy.

The song was released in the summer of 2009 as a single and then in September of that same year it was the title track of my EP when I signed as the first singer/songwriter with Stinkiface Music.

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Over the last 5 years this song has become my “title track”.  It’s my personal mantra and applies to many situations I encounter in life.  More importantly it has connected me with so many people who have reached out to me via email, social media, and in person to let me know that this is their song too…that they listen to it every day, it tells their story, it helped them rise above, and that I have written what they couldn’t express on their own.

Eleven years after being told that no one would get my music and I wouldn’t be accepted I received the best compliment of all.  Someone told me, “I listen to your music and I know that I’m not alone.”

This year I wanted to take “Watch Me Fly” to another level and possibly reach a new audience.

I handed this idea over to Baltimore house music producer/DJ N’Dinga Gaba.  After we had some success in the house music world with our song “Feeling Fine” in 2013, I knew he would be able to give it new life.  N’Dinga suggested we do a “Watch Me Fly” EP.

My connections to South Africa had grown immensely with the word of “Feeling Fine” getting around and my collaboration with N’Dinga who is originally from Central African Republic.  There is a distinct sound and style that is coming out of this part of the world.

Over a year ago, my Facebook friends from AudioArque Records, Troy & Trevor in South Africa had already remixed the song with a unique tribal approach in their “Jungle Soul Remix”.  They had truthfully remixed this for me “just because” and we weren’t sure how it would be released.  But once an EP was decided upon I knew this would be a part of the package and I had held on to their version until the time was right.

Deep Sentiments, also from South Africa, came along a little later when I had started talking on Facebook with Tshiamo from the group of producers.  They put a broken, laid back, sexy spin on their remix, “Deep Sentiments OPZ Vocal View Remix”.

Both the AudioArque and Deep Sentiments versions have the original vocal from the 2009 song.

I went back in the studio with my “Watch Me Fly” co-creator Maurice aka MoRece to put down a different vocal for his new version, a haunting remix with a different hook adding Iris Craig’s gorgeous voice on the harmonies.  Yet another vocal track was recorded for N’Dinga’s remix and he also brought in UK DJ/Producer D-Malice for his version of the song.

So here we are!!

Today, December 15, 2014,  N’Dinga’s newly launched label Global Diplomacy Productions is releasing my very first house EP “Janice B. Watch Me Fly ~ The Remixes” with contributions from N’Dinga and UK’s D-Malice, South Africa’s AudioArque Records and Deep Sentiments, and the original producer of the song, Maurice Carroll.  Check it out on Traxsource!

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No matter what version you prefer my wish is that the the song will continue to send a message of hope and empowerment to everyone it reaches.  No matter how well it does on the house music charts I can tell you that the amazing love and positive feedback I have received because of this song keeps my spirit at the top of the charts.  Every time I hear it in any version I am reminded that I can transcend anything that life throws my way.   With a song I have the power to keep rising.

Watch me…..

Janice B.

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Mercy, Mercy Me!!

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Mercy, Mercy Me….

Wow it’s February 2013 and I just realized that I haven’t blogged since July of last year.  Damn is that right??  I’ve meant well y’all…I started a whole lot of blogs about a whole lot of important topics.  But I just didn’t like the way they sounded and never hit that “publish” button.  I would rather not say anything at all than to just keep yapping about the same old stuff everyone else is yapping about.  I know that’s not how “artists” are supposed to do…we are supposed to keep our yapping out there so people will stay interested.  Yawnnn…lol.  But you know I gotta be me and it just wasn’t working for me. 

Seriously though…up through the end of December I was overwhelmed.  My musical endeavors kept me spinning along with my impending day job layoff, sick relatives, and the usual mommy stuff we all have to deal with rendered me blogless.  LOL   But here I am now so let’s go…

I feel it’s important as an artist (and human being in general) to give something back to your community and the world.  While I do frequently give what I can I really wanted to be able to do something with my music as well.  I know there are a lot of important music charities out there but I really wanted something I could be a part of and experience on my own right in my hometown.  I’ve spent quite a long time looking for a LOCAL organization that strives to make a difference while using music as the means to help others.  And as it so happens with all things I’m looking for, the perfect organization crossed my path at just the right time… 

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Through the magic that is Facebook I bumped into Robin Fay Massie-Pighee, the director of Musicians of Mercy.  I’m not even sure what the first event was that she posted…maybe Patterson Park or the Jubilee Arts benefit.  But it was an open call for musicians to donate their time/talents for a show to raise money.  Something drew me in.  Maybe it was the fact that once I emailed her to inquire about being a part of the show she responded in all caps and exclamation points!!  “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!”  I would soon learn that this is no act or internet persona…she really is THAT exuberant in real life!  🙂

So Musicians of Mercy, (MOM for short) seemed to be the organization that was a good fit for me.  They don’t give to just one cause, they respond to whatever needs are out there at the moment both local and worldwide.  MOM raises funds for humanitarian causes through the production of benefit concerts. All performers volunteer their time and talents in concerts that are open to the public at little to no cost. MOM showcases a variety of artists…solo performing artists, chamber ensembles, jazz combos, spoken word, and a full orchestra.  It all started when Robin learned of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and wanted to do something to help.  Maybe that’s what I connect with the most.  So many times I’ve wanted to do something but didn’t know where to begin.  She just grabbed her viola and jumped in!!  I admire that!  I know this is a labor of love for Robin and all the musicians involved and quite frequently she has to pay for some of the expenses associated with doing these events herself.    

I’ve performed for a few Musicians of Mercy benefit concerts and I always walk away feeling blessed to be a part of such a great group of artists coming together for a common cause.  Truthfully I always wished I could do more.  And my wish was heard with an opportunity that presented itself in an unlikely situation. 

QueenEarth asked me to accompany her for her set as a part of the World AIDS Day event at Creative Alliance.  After the show we were approached and asked if we would like to have a concert in the spring.  We were told we could have a few acts together and select a charitable organization to donate part of the proceeds to.  After some late night brainstorming at the Double T Diner, meetings over chicken wings and whiskey, and gmail conversations, we had a show and a charity!! 

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So with that being said, on Thursday, March 28th  8-10pm at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore, instead of Musicians of Mercy having a concert to benefit another charity…WE are having a benefit concert FOR Musicians of Mercy!  Brooks Long and The Mad Dog No Good, QueenEarth, and me, Janice B. together on one stage!  It won’t be 3 feature acts…we are performing together!!  It’s gonna be a blast!  Proceeds from the ticket sales and 20% of CD sales that night will go to Musicians of Mercy to help them continue with their humanitarian efforts. 

I’m really excited and blessed to be able to have this opportunity to perform alongside such amazing artists and great friends while giving something back with our music.  As my circle of love widens, the blessings continue to flow.  I hope you will join us on March 28thPic 3

Check the following link for details:

Facebook event page:

https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/144271515722657/?fref=ts

For more info on Musicians of Mercy:

http://musiciansofmercy.org/

Love and light,

Janice B.

www.janicebmusic.com

Sticks and Stones

He was a pimp.   Not the first one I had dealt with for sure.  He had a superior attitude, loud, rude, with several women tagging along with him.  The women were strung out, incoherent, dirty, and dressed in provocative clothing.  Obeying his every word. 

This was a million years ago yet I remember it vividly.  I clearly recall the store full of customers on that Saturday night.  I was the manager on duty at a  clothing store in Landover Mall.  People reading this probably won’t know about Landover Mall.  All I can say is it was a colorful shopping mall with all kinds of people passing through…good honest folks and then the folks who were trying to steal a whole display of leather coats all while smiling and talking to you.  Drugs, shoplifting, fights.  Never a dull moment.  You had to be on your game.  So anyway…back to the pimp.  He walked in the store and I was working behind the counter with a long line of customers.  My staff on the floor glanced at me knowing they needed to be alert.  So far so good.  He seemed harmless.  Arrogant.  He was talking loudly ordering his women around.  They picked out some things to try on and went in the fitting room.  I stood behind the elevated counter ringing up customers and keeping my side eye on the pimp. 

He stood in the middle of the sales floor talking loudly to himself and kept glancing at me.  Then he pulled out a cigarette and lit it up.  He looked straight at me while he did this because even though back then you could smoke in the mall, you couldn’t smoke in the stores.  I guess it was a test.  He was waiting to see what I was gonna do.  I excused myself to interrupt the customer I was helping and then I said out loud… “Excuse me Sir.  I’m sorry but you can’t smoke in my store.”  Everyone in line stopped talking.  LOL  I remember that clearly.  Everything stopped except for the music playing.  Of course I remember the song..I’m a scorpio..hello!  It was Doug E. Fresh’s “The Show”.  LOL! 

He looked right at me.  I knew he wasn’t expecting me to say anything to him and he definitely wasn’t happy.  Then very loudly he yelled  “BITCH!  I GOT WHITE BITCHES LIKE YOU WORKING FOR ME!!!”  It sounds silly now.  But that is what he said.  It was like a bad movie.  LOL  There was a collective gasp in the line at the counter.  Everyone looked down or anywhere besides at either of us.  I never flinched.  Me.  The only white “bitch” in the room at the moment I suppose besides a few of his women in the fitting room.  And here I am telling a pimp what he can’t do.  I never changed my expression.  I replied calmly, “Sir I’m sure that is true,  however you still cannot smoke in my store.  Would you like for me to call someone to show you out to where you can smoke?”  Silence.  He looked at me and kept smoking.  He looked at the mall security guard who just happened to walk by to give me a wave and see if we were cool…and then he mumbled something and walked out of the store.  I continued to ring folks up and act like nothing had happened, talking to people in line and keeping it moving.  It was still way too quiet.  The man next in line said, “You handled that REALLY well.  That attitude is gonna serve you well in life.  You are gonna go far.”  I remember that clearly.  That African American man with his kind round face telling me about myself and where this little incident was gonna take me.   At the time I was very young and it really didn’t seem like anything but another crazy Saturday evening.  But now I really understand…

As a songwriter and lyricist I know the power of words.  The hurtful ones thrown at someone effectively can break a spirit, shatter a dream, ostracize, demean, and do a lot of damage to a person’s self esteem.  In turn, one kind word can make a horrible day suddenly become hopeful.  A positive word can encourage, motivate, heal, and sometimes even save a life.  To me, name calling is the last weapon in someone’s arsenal and when they resort to hurling insults I know they have already lost whatever game they are trying to win.  I think this is why political advertisements always turn me off.  If you can’t effectively tell me what you need to say without bashing someone else then what you are saying isn’t worth listening to.  It is childish but some adults do this all of the time.  She/he is fat, a whore, a bitch, ugly, stupid, etc.  And with the internet allowing people to hide behind their profiles with no face to face confrontation it’s even easier to be a bully.  Even though we are hopefully above all of that..hearing a harsh word like that about you can still sting.  Even as a grown woman.    

So fast forward from the pimp incident to present time and the reason I am writing this blog.  I just recently I discovered I have a few “haters” out there in cyberland.  I’m not a fan of the term “hater” but we’ll go with it for now.  I’m not even sure it’s me they hate.  It could be someone in my creative circle.  But let me elaborate…

It started the day my husband was in the hospital for his heart procedure.  I was already stressed out and trying to stay above the chaos when I got a notification on my phone that someone had commented on a page of mine on the internet.  It was someone who had apparently looked through all of my content, photos, video etc.  They said I was old, fat, couldn’t sing, the songs were boring, I must be sleeping with my producer, etc.  Damn.  What the hell??  I’m not gonna lie.  I was shocked and it definitely hurt a little.  Who is this and why all of the sudden?  Then I realized after checking it out that this person had created a fake profile and was going around to all of my pages making comments.  Some of my content on the pages was over 4 years old.  So why was this happenening all of the sudden??  I don’t have anything new going on that would warrant such comments.  While it made me angry I just deleted it and dismissed it. 

It was quiet for a while then a few weeks later there was a sudden onslaught of fake new profiles and awful comments.  Some really bad accusing me of all types of things that I won’t list here.  They said I was fat, looked pregnant, had wrinkles, must be over 50 years old, and an awful singer.  They made comments about my race, my hair, my voice, the songs, my horrible close up shots, my chin, my body, my band members, etc.  Jeez.  Why was this happening?  I couldn’t think of anything that had happened that would cause such nastiness towards me.  I hadn’t had any bad words or hard feelings with anyone that I was aware of.  I try to send a positive message with most things that I do and I seem to be gaining a small but very cool fanbase of awesome people.  But these guys weren’t playing around.  They were clearly on a mission to try to tear me down.  And all of them were new, fake profiles created that day with no other history except for bashing me.  It may have even been the same person since they misspelled some of the same words, etc.  But now they were clearly doing name searches on me.  Pulling up anything that had my name on it and leaving nasty comments.  But why?? 

I probably won’t ever know why.  It’s amazing to me that even today, as a 40 something mom, wife, singer, songwriter, etc…there are still people out there who want to tear me down.  I am not some big popular artist.  I am not competing with anyone.  Geez, half the time I am a mommy trying to make ends meet and do this music thing and find some time to rest when I can.  So to know someone is really going out of their way to hate on me is crazy.    But I know there is a bigger picture here.  This mindset…the people who go out of their way to belittle you and try to make you feel inferior and worthless..these are the “bullies” that we teach our children to ignore.  It’s easy to say “just ignore it”….even “it gets better”.  That’s easy to say when you aren’t the one being constantly ridiculed and belittled.  It wears on you.  It is hurtful.  It is unfair.  I’ve dealt with it before.  Jealous people, bullies, people trying to keep you out of their circle, squash your dreams.  But it’s at these moments that it’s even more important to stand firm in who you KNOW you are.

“It doesn’t matter what name you call me….what matters is the name I answer to.”     

People look at you and they see what they want to see. And you look in the mirror and you see what YOU want to see. Sometimes they don’t match up.  To that pimp that night I was just another white bitch.  Someone he was going to overpower.  But see I KNEW who I was. I didn’t need to act out. I didn’t need to get angry.  This is me. And I have found that when I am confidently standing as me…who I am….there is nothing that can hold me back. There is no one who can break me down.  There is no name you can call me that I haven’t risen above before and I may have even at one time looked in the mirror and believed  some of those things about myself.  But it has never stopped me.  Even when it hurts I press on.     

I know that people who act out like this are hurt.  They have also been bullied and hurt before and have never learned how to rise above it or change it.  (Thank you Raven for that insight)  Or they feel small and need to tear someone else down to feel powerful and a part of something.  It takes a lot of effort to create several fake profiles and spend your time looking up Janice B. only to leave comments that for whatever reason you think will hurt me or stop me from going after my goals.  In a sick way I suppose it’s a compliment.  You have to care a whole lot to put that much passion into hate.  My producer MoRece said once that people only start buzzing when there is something there to buzz about.  I know that is true but like I said in a recent Facebook status, I’ve never claimed to be young, wrinkle free, skinny, or a phenomenal singer.  I’m just doing what I love and being who I am.  I don’t need to hide behind a fake profile and hurt folks to feel powerful.  I stand strong in who I am no matter how imperfect that may be to someone else.  I know it’s probably best to just be silent regarding these incidents but that’s not my style.  I don’t hide.    If these people want to keep hurling sticks and stones at me I will just catch them and add them to this big mountain that I am climbing.  I will reach the top and continue to rise.  So I thank them for the extra lift and pray they find something in their lives worth climbing towards besides trying to pull me down.  I also thank them for the extra attention to my pages.  All of those extra hits are great!  🙂 

As for the pimp that night, he came back in the store still talking loudly I suppose to compensate for the fact that he didn’t shut me up.  He got in line with the women.  We rang him up and he took out a wad of one hundred dollar bills and threw money on the counter towards me.  But he didn’t look at me.  And he didn’t speak to me.  One of the women reached up to take a flyer off of the counter and he smacked her hand and told her to put it back.  I felt kind of sick inside.  As a woman, a mother, and a human being I now wonder what kind of abuse one had to endure to get to that level of despair and self hatred…I wondered that for both her and for him.  I pray I never come to understand that. 

I recently saw a quote in different variations on the internet but I’m not sure who said it or how the real quote is worded (if you know please tell me!).  But I will share it as best I can since it’s really fitting for this situation…..

“Remember that if people are trying to pull you down it’s because you must already be above them.”

Many thanks to the wonderful friends and fans in my world who take the time to send me a positive message, a kind word, and just something to let me know I am moving in the right direction.  For every negative comment I may receive I have so many more messages of love that you all continue to shine on me.  I choose your light as my focus and we are rising together!!

Love and Light,

Janice B.

**photo credit D. Taylor Images

Standing Up for the Queen

Greetings!Janice B. and QueenEarth

Let me start by saying this wasn’t the blog I planned to post today.  But as usual, something happens that irks me and I need to vent.  So here I am.  Several of us have been chatting about this topic on Facebook but let me explain what happened. 

In short a fellow female musician was discriminated against. 

My friend Missy Smith aka QueenEarth has been performing at local farmers markets as a part of her spring/summer performance schedule.  She recently spoke to the woman in charge of the Briggs Chaney Farmers Market about being considered for a performance slot there.  For those who don’t know, Briggs Chaney is a very diverse area of Silver Spring, Maryland.  The website for their farmers market shows pictures of people from all walks of life, all colors, races, and cultures.  It even states that they are sponsored by a group that is working to strengthen the community and celebrate the diversity of the area. 

I’m telling you this because apparently the female manager of the farmers market  has no idea about their mission to celebrate diversity.  Missy sent her the usual letter with samples of her music.  The woman responded and told her that the one song, video clip actually, was inappropriate.  She actually said, “I love your music and your voice but the content is inappropriate for a family venue.”  Missy had to ask her what song she was referring to since she couldn’t imagine what song would be offensive to families.  She was referring to the song “Supermodel” in which Missy is talking about courting another female.  Now I know the song and I’m actually learning the background parts so I can accompany her when we perform together and even I couldn’t imagine what was so offensive. 

Here’s the actual clip for your review:

http://youtu.be/dNmDJst_Tb8

Missy explained to her that she often tweaks her song sets to accomodate the crowd.  We have all removed profanity or suggestive lines from our songs when children are present for example.  The woman said that they didn’t want to “shake people up” or “change anyone’s minds” as if hearing a lesbian sing will make all of us heterosexuals uneasy and have us switching up our sexuality.  Ridiculous.  Does it make gay people uneasy when I sing about a man?  Missy pressed her for more of an explanation and asked, “so you are saying that if I was singing this song to a man it would be okay?” and the woman said “yes”.  Missy politely withdrew her application to perform. 

When Missy told me about this last night I was amazed that someone could be so arrogantly discriminatory.  Amazed and pissed.  What really got to me was not so much that this woman was a homophobe or racist or whatever she was.  She could have easily replied to Missy that there were no performance openings available or not even responded at all.  But she actually chastised her for sending the video clip of the song.  She said that she was “surprised that she sent that clip to promote herself” as if Missy was wrong for representing herself and her work honestly.  That perhaps had Missy hidden the fact that she was openly gay, she would  have been accepted as a performer.  Look it’s no secret that Missy is gay.  I know her girlfriend and they are both open and honest about who they are.  But neither one of us has ever gotten up on the mic and said “Hi I’m gay” or “Hi I’m not gay”.  It’s simply not an issue in what we do and how we perform.  And I would venture to guess that our friends and fans don’t give a crap either.   And are people at farmers markets really hanging on a singers lyrics like that when they are buying organic tomatoes??  Really?  It’s gonna “shake them up”?  C’mon….it’s 2012 right?  Aren’t we past this bullshit? 

So I slept on this mess.  It even woke me up once.  I know you are probably asking why.  I’m not gay.  I wasn’t the one rejected.  It’s not about me.  But to me this type of casual discrimination is dangerous.  “Hi we don’t allow gays, blacks, whites, women, etc to perform here.”  If you speak that from your mouth then you practice it in your life.  And if you practice it in your life you are also practicing in in MY community.  MY life.  It is most certainly about me.  It could easily be someone saying we don’t hire female perfomers.  As a matter of fact that happens quite frequently here in Baltimore bars.  And it’s wrong.  And I can’t sleep on it. 

So I decided to write a letter.  Look I know that people with a mindset like this woman’s probably won’t even care about what I have to say.  But being silent wouldn’t be right to me.  I’m not a political person.  I don’t picket and protest.  But wrong is wrong.  And as a fellow artist and musician (and fiesty scorpio) I just couldn’t let it go.  I had no intention of posting this.  I’m certainly not looking for any kudos.  I just think that the only way to combat this discrimination is to call it out when we see it.  To say we will not tolerate this in our community.  It might not change peoples minds but it will let them know that they are not the majority.  It’s not okay. 

I’m posting this letter at the recommendation of fellow artist and musician Teporah who also composed her own letter to the manager of the farmers market.  She said I should post it for others to read.  So here it is:     

Hi Gigi,

I am a singer and songwriter here in Maryland.  Like most local independent artists I work very hard at getting exposure and new gig opportunities.  It’s not easy and we often do this all on our own.  I was excited to learn that some of my friends and fellow musicians were now performing at some of the local farmers markets.  What a great idea to encourage the performing arts at an event where there are often socially conscious, open minded folks shopping to support organic farmers, community artisans, local vendors etc.  I have friends living in Briggs Chaney and I know what a diverse community it is.  I can see from the pictures on your farmers market website that the customers and vendors represent many cultures, races, and age groups.  It’s a great place for an artist to perform.  

However knowing this only deepens my disappointment to learn that you would not accept my good friend and fellow musician QueenEarth (Missy Smith) as one of your musical acts.  It is my understanding that it was because of one song she sent you in which she sings about another woman and that you felt it would be inappropriate for the farmers market crowd.  I believe you said it could “shake things up”.  I truly cannot understand such a decision and quite frankly as an artist it frightens me.  

I suppose it’s not necessary for me to go on and on explaining what an amazing artist you are missing out on or to list all of the songs she performs that touch so many people that have nothing to do with anyone’s sexual orientation.  And besides that she is also a supporter of local businesses, farmers markets, a teacher and mentor to many, and an amazing person.  I can’t imagine anything coming out her soul being deemed inappropriate.  We quite often perform together. 

I respect that you are in charge and it is your right to determine who is a “fit” for the audience.  But I also wonder if your diverse market, vendors, and community share your views.  I’m quite sure you have some gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender folks there in the community.  What’s really sad is that they have no idea what they are being denied access to.  They didn’t get a choice.  They don’t get to experience QueenEarth.  And I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I sang Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” or Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” in the material I send out for gig consideration.  Would I be deemed a lesbian and inappropriate?  How many gigs have I been denied because someone placed judgement on me and didn’t think I was right for the crowd?  And even more upsetting, as a listener and a consumer, how many great acts have I missed out on because someone didn’t think I would find it appropriate?  I’m also confused since your website states that you are sponsored by IMPACT Silver Spring.  Their mission statement on their website speaks of strengthening the community and celebrating the diversity in the area.  

While I accept that this email will probably not make a difference or change your views, I felt compelled to speak up.  You might feel it has nothing to do with me.  I am not gay.  I wasn’t rejected as a performer for your event.  But I am a part of a huge circle of local musicians and artists who are affected by these decisions.  On a personal level being deemed inappropriate is hurtful.  As an artist it goes against everything we do.  Music is healing and all inclusive.  We reach many people.  We unite many races, cultures, and sexual orientations.  We also often use the internet and social networks to reach our fans.  Missy and I have over 3000 friends and fans combined on social networks and music websites.  Many of those people are local.  And those friends/fans in turn can decide if a farmers market that would exclude a performer based on sexual orientation or the wording of one song is a farmers market that they will support.  Like you they are free to choose.         

Love and Light,

Janice B.

So yeah….I sent it.  Of course she hasn’t responded.  That’s okay.  I just wanted her to know that her little dismissal of one artist affects a lot of people.  Guess I can get some sleep tonight!

Here’s a clip of me performing “I Remember” with QueenEarth on guitar: http://youtu.be/3l3fgUR18RA

“To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice.” ~Confucius

Until next time….love and light…

Janice B.

Letting Go and Falling Free…

“The only constant is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.”
— Isaac Asimov

Ahhhh  change.  Lots of folks fight hard to avoid it.  They hold onto bad situations out of “comfort” and fear of the unknown.  Fear of what will happen if they let go and move on uncertain of what tomorrow will or won’t bring.  It might be a relationship that isn’t working but hey it’s much easier to hold onto it because the alternative is being alone.  Or maybe it’s a project that someone won’t give up on because they’ve put too much time and money into it even though it’s becoming a complete disaster.  It can also be someone’s appearance.  They are desperately trying to stay “young” and refuse to accept Mother Nature’s little touches on their skin and figure.  And some folks are just plain stuck in a time warp.  They retain the “look” they had at the highest point of their lives.  You’ve seen them…the ones who still have the same style of hair and dress they wore in high school because that’s when they were the happiest, the most popular, etc.

I will admit that in the past I have been there many times.  (except for the hair…that changes all the time lol)  I’m someone who doesn’t like to give up on things.  When I put my whole heart into something it’s very difficult for me to let it go and move in a different direction.  I feel guilty; I feel like a failure, I feel like a fool.  And in the past I would rather feel all of those things than face the possibility that letting go might bring something better.  Taking that leap is some scary shit.  The fall might kill you or it might be exhilarating and change you forever…but nothing happens till you take that first leap.  Over the past years I have learned that in order to grow as a person and an artist, I have to be willing to step out on blind faith and follow my dreams.   When I do what brings me joy everything else falls into place.   I left a job that was paying me well but draining the life out of me.  It was scary at the time but it wasn’t scarier than thinking about how sick I would be if I stayed.  No amount of money was worth it.  I was also in a difficult position with a musical decision a long time ago and I had to decide was I going to stay there and try to make it work or move in a different direction and trust that no matter what happened I would embrace the changes ahead.   A new friend I had met through this musical family at the time asked me why I was holding onto something that clearly was bringing me no joy.  And she reminded me that I won’t ever find that joy until I let go of the things that are holding me back. “You don’t need this.  Just let it go.” I believe were her exact words.

I chose to move forward.  It was challenging.   I lost some “friends”.  I lost a band.  I lost the only musical connections I ever thought I could have, I lost a little bit of who I thought I was.  But the better side of the coin was that I also lost self doubt, I lost that knot in the pit of my stomach after every band rehearsal, and I lost the need for approval from people who were only giving me negative energy in return.  And in this process I gained so much.  I met new musicians, new friends, created new music.  I became a solo artist.  ME…Janice Alexander Buerkli…now Janice B.…a freaking solo artist!  It didn’t happen overnight.  It wasn’t easy.   I remember when I first started posting the songs on MySpace that my producer MoRece and I had created.  I remember getting some negative comments from some people in my musical past that I had moved away from.  I heard some ridiculous shit.  And I admit, at the time it made me angry and it hurt.  And I remember MoRece saying “They are only talking because YOU are making moves…you are creating a buzz.  It’s not a bad thing.”  And he was right.  These folks didn’t think I would keep moving and when there was tangible musical proof that I was, they got uncomfortable.  It sucked but it was a part of the process.   Lord I don’t look back often but when I do I cannot believe how far I have come and how much I have changed.  And I’m still evolving.  I’m still learning, still writing, still creating.  It’s amazing.

Fear used to hold me back.  I had a lot of personal phobias that stopped me from doing the things I wanted to do.  But quite honestly there is very little I am afraid of now.  That is one thing that taking the leap of faith will give you….fearlessness.  Even the difficult things that happen to me I know will result in something joyful.  Every heartache, loss, breakup, disappointment had a purpose.  I like to create a timeline of joy in my mind.  For example if I hadn’t gone through “A” I would never have met “B” and “C” would never have happened.  And “C” rocks!!  🙂  Everything I have today that brings me joy is a result of all of my experiences, good and bad.  I know that I have to keep my eyes open, look for the joy and keep moving forward. 

Now when I am at a crossroads I tell God I’m ready, I let go, and I soar toward what beauty lies ahead.  It sounds silly, I know.  I didn’t believe it either the first time I did it.  But it has never failed me.  You should try it.  Just let go…..

“Slowly..letting go and falling free I’m soaring…taking in the beauty of this flight…and lifted by the light that I’m feeling inside..watch me fly…” ~Janice B. from the song “My Life”

*My new CD “My Life” is available for download for $8.00 on my page at the Stinkiface Music Website.  Here’s the link! http://www.stinkifacemusic.com/janiceb

Love and Light,

Janice B.

“My Life”: The Soul Behind the Songs

Greetings!

Well since my first full length CD “My Life” drops tomorrow, December 6th, I figured I would talk about it a little ( a lot? LOL).  All of the songs have a story behind them even if the story isn’t about me.  Some of these songs were written in my journal over 7 years ago and only became real songs when I started working with MoRece of Stinkiface Music.

MoRece was able to bring the melodies and meanings to life.  Understand that because I don’t plan an instrument I have to go into the studio with my lyrics and sing the melody to MoRece.  I tell him what style of music I hear, the feeling behind it, what instruments, harmonies, etc. and then he makes it happen.  So although a lot of these songs were written in my journal and the melodies were archived in my head way before I even knew MoRece…ALL of them exist in their current form because of my work with him.

So here is the CD track listing and a little sumptin sumptin about each song…

“My Life”

  1. To Grandma…Intro:  This track includes a very worn snippet of my grandmother playing the piano and me singing when I was probably about 2 or 3  years old.  This was originally recorded on a reel to reel tape recorder and then transferred to cassette tape “old school style” by sitting the cassette recorder in front of the reel to reel and pressing “record”.  LOL  It was later burned on a CD.  Most of the CD wasn’t useable but MoRece was able to capture this snippet.  The original intro included a clear cut of me at 4 years old singing Disney’s “I Wonder” from Sleeping Beauty.  We had to remove it at the last minute since we were uable to obtain licensing permission to use it.  Bummer.
  2. “Shining Down” : This song was written in 2003 about my grandmother.  I felt like she was watching me and guiding me in my musical journey…and I still do!  It was a reminder to me that even after our physical death our spirit carries on in the loved ones we leave behind.
  3. “Love Will Find You”: Written in December of 2008, a good year into working with MoRece and newly signed to Stinkiface Music…this song came sneaking in after creating “Watch Me Fly”.  I liked the mystical feel of it and wanted to write a song with a similar vibe about how true love never dies…it evolves and transforms.  This is one of my favorites and is sometimes compared to Portishead.  (great compliment!)
  4. “Watch Me Fly” : Ahhh the catalyst to so many things!  This song has become my mantra more than I ever imagined it would…and apparently other people have taken it on as well, relating to the message.  And to think this song almost didn’t get recorded!  I wrote this in the summer of 2003 after first starting to write songs and sing with the band.  The song was for me and about me.  I was still learning my way around songwriting and performing and there were folks who were jealous and angry that I was taking this step and reaching for my dreams.  I was new at it and vunerable and the stones being thrown hurt with sharp intensity.  About my music someone said, “White folks won’t get it and black folks will never accept you” and that was all I needed to hear to send my pen soaring across my journal page in anger.   We were originally going to record it while I was in the band and we were going to change the hook and bend it around a track the guitarist had created.  But it never happened.  5 years later after working on another song in the studio MoRece asked me what was next.  I sheepishly pulled this out of my journal not sure if I should really make it a song or not.  Sitars, soap opera keys, and a marching drum changed everything about the way I would see myself as an artist going forward.  The vocal track is the original scratch track we did that night.  My throat was sore and my voice was tired.  But it fit the track.  And I remember MoRece saying that sometimes the first take is the best.  It went on to be the title track of my 2009 EP.
  5. T&T Calling:  I met Brenda Butler on MySpace in 2008 and we have been “twins” ever since.  She is an amazing vocalist and a beautiful spirit who lives in Trinidad.  She called in to a blog talk interview of mine once to congratulate me and her deep beautiful speaking voice was amazing.  I asked her to do the spoken intro to “So Much Love”..a little “reggae-ish” tune on the CD.  I gave her very little direction.  Just told her I wanted it to sound like she was talking on the phone to her friend about the song.  She ran with it!  She quickly got into a studio in Trinidad and recorded several different versions of the clip.  I love how she says “and all doin da face ova here”.  LOL!!  She’s a gem!
  6. “So Much Love”: Another song that was written while I was in the band.  We were speaking of recording it but never did.  I actually wrote it because we had been doing some outdoor gigs and festivals and I wanted a summer song that everyone could bop their heads to.  A song about divine love in all forms.  I was originally planning on having a friend of the band do a rap for the bridge.  But that idea was abandoned after MoRece suggested David Ross aka Native Son of my label mates The 5th L.  His part is perfect!
  7. “A Part of You”: This is the first song I wrote with MoRece and the reason we started working together.  After hiring him as an engineer for another project I had a few minutes left of studio time and wanted to record the scratch idea for A Part of You.  I knew how I wanted it to sound…I just needed to find a pianist to play it.  I came out of the booth and MoRece started playing keys just like I heard in my head!  Everyone has a theory about who this song was written for.  The truth is it’s not from my perspective singing about a lost love.  It was inspired by something I was told once by a former flame.  That no matter where they were or who they were with, a part of their heart belonged to me.  I took that emotion and turned it into a song making it sound like it was my story.  This song touches a lot of people and along with Watch Me Fly it has garnered a lot of emails and comments from my listeners letting me know how it relates to their lives.
  8. “Storm” If I tell you what this song is about I will have to kill you.  And I don’t want to do that.  🙂  This is the only song I don’t reveal the meaning of.  See if you can figure it out.  No one has yet.  MoRece is the only other person who knows what it’s about and he won’t tell you either.  Or I’ll have to kill him….and then you.  And that would be bad.
  9. “Runaway”: This song was the last song written for the CD and the timing and arrangement in my head wasn’t synching with the normal musical world.  LOL  It almost didn’t make the CD.  MoRece was able to make it happen at the last minute.  This song was written in pieces.  The original song “Stolen Moments” only exists in my journal.  I started writing “Runaway” and took the bridge and ideas from “Stolen Moments” creating a whole new song.
  10. “Sweet Harmony”: is an ode to musicians.  You know that feeling you get watching a live band play?  People get so taken by the power of the music and the live experience that they become enthralled with the people onstage.  (cue the groupies!)  I have always loved the song “Killing Me Softly” and the meaning behind it.  It inspired me to write this piece about the magic that each musician in the band stirs up inside of people.
  11. “I Remember”: This is the story of love and friendship transcending race and the physical.  After hearing one too many racist comments at work one day I found myself feeling angry yet very sorry for these ignorant people making the comments.  They don’t know my friends and family..my beautiful circle of love and joy.  So I wrote this song telling the story of my friend Shelley and I growing up together and the racism we moved through as we got older and the world became less innocent.  The line in the bridge “why can’t they see what unites you and me?” was the first line written and the line that defined the rest of the song.  The original version on my EP “Watch Me Fly” was an upbeat popish tune.  Sahffi does the guitar version on the CD and I think it gives the words of the song more heart.
  12. “Waiting”: I often talk about how I like to take an intense, sometimes painful emotion and transform it into a song about something totally different.  “Waiting” is an example of this.  I was witnessing a close friend going through a difficult time.  I felt helpless and I longed for some magic thing I could say or do to make it better for them.  I didn’t know what to do with that feeling.  So I flipped it around and I told the story of what happens when you have been carrying a torch for a friend and decide to let them know about it.  The uncertainty, the anxiety, the angst of that moment when you decide to make that call.  This song is that phone call.  And the energy behind the emotion stemmed from an entirely different situation.
  13. “Maybe”: also sometimes referred to as the cougar song.  LOL  I always thought “cougar” referred to one of those older chicks who make passes at their teenage son’s friends.  I didn’t know I fell into the age bracket!  grrrrrr AND when I heard someone define it as “a woman over 35 on the prowl for younger men” I was insulted!  I don’t “prowl” after anyone!  (I’m married of course!)  It’s not my fault if younger men are drawn to me. LMAO!  But anyway..all joking aside…this was a tongue in cheek take on the situation.  I wanted it to be bare bones so we just used me on vocal and Buddy Jordan on bass.  I love how it turned out.
  14. “Rain”:  This song was one of the first songs MoRece and I did together.  We recorded it and sat it aside.  MoRece wasn’t happy with the “churchy” feel of the keys and I was on the fence about it.  I performed it acapella at an open mic once and people seemed to like it.  We revisted it and tried it with someone else doing the keys but I didn’t like it.  I insisted on the original keys that MoRece did and explained that I wanted that “let’s just sit down and run through this song” raw acoustic feel to it.  It’s song about redemption and forgiveness.  The entire song was written around the line “Once this fog has lifted I’ma see the golden sky”.  I was very depressed and up early one morning driving and it was so dark and foggy outside.  When I went over a hill the intense sunlight hit me in my face changing my mood and inspiring this song.
  15. “My Life” : I explained this song in a previous blog so I won’t go on about it.  But it was a newer, more upbeat and “feel good” version of the message in “Watch Me Fly”.  If you know of the artist Janita you will understand the feel I was going for.  Background vocals by Ama Chandra were added purely by coincidence.  She stopped by the studio one night because we were talking to MoRece about another project and I asked her if she would do some vocals.  It’s a blessing when you have super talented folks hanging out with you! 🙂
  16. “Sumptin Sumptin in French”:  a quick recording of my son Alex being silly and singing “Frere Jacques” (Brother John).  I taught it to him in French and his father was singing it to him and forgot the words to the one line and sang “something something in French” and Alex picked it up and thinks its funny when he sings it wrong now.   I started the CD with me as a child singing and wanted to end it with my son doing the same.
  17. “The Visit“:  This was a poem I wrote after I visited my grandmother’s gravesite.  I had such strong memories of being in her house and hometown as a child that when I returned as an adult after her death I was sure I would feel something or get a sign that she was there.  “The Visit” is the story of that day.  I owe the recording of this song to MoRece.  I don’t do spoken word and I only think songs and melodies.  He orchestrated this piece.  He brought it to life.  It wouldn’t exist outside of my journal or on this CD if it wasn’t for him.

It’s a strange feeling to be finished with this CD.  It’s completion has closed old wounds and opened new doors filling me with hope and inspiration.  I am a different artist and songwriter now.  I have evolved since starting this project and it’s completion is a testament to where I have been, what I have experienced, and where I am going next.

Thanks for flying with me on this journey!

You can purchase the CD tomorrow, December 6th through the Stinkiface Music Online store or through the usual online retailers. 

http://www.stinkifacemusic.com/onlinestore.cfm

Love and Light,

Janice B.