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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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.

“My Life” is done…..part one…

Wow this is too surreal for me.  MoRece stopped by my 9 to 5 and dropped off the master of my CD “My Life” hot off the Mobtown Studios machinery!  He’s done this a million times…. no biggie for him.  But for me it’s a monumental occasion.  I literally jumped up and down in front of my building.  MoRece laughed.  I don’t expect anyone to understand.  I hold a piece of my spirit and my soul in my hand….on this dinky little CD.  This is everything I have written, cried over, smiled about, and lived for the past 9 years.

I didn’t play it right away….waited till I got off work to listen in the car.  So many things running through my head.  Are people gonna listen to it and understand the depth of what created these songs?  Probably not.  I’ve been writing this volume of songs since I was with my band in 2003.  There are sooo many stories behind each track on this CD.  17 tracks.  17 pieces of me.  All the songs flow beautifully.  I didn’t feel the urge to skip a track.  All of the songs kept me wondering what was next….and duh….I picked the song order!

Anyway I’m going to slowly talk about each song.  Some of you will be like yawnnnn but I know a lot of you are with me.  Feel free to read on and I welcome your comments.

The first track on the “My Life” CD is entitled “To Grandma”

I’m dedicating this entire CD to my maternal grandmother Edna Engle.  She played piano and sang with a small ensemble of musicians waayyyyyy before it was ever accepted that a woman lead a band.  She was well liked in her small town but she had big talent.  She was offerred an opportunity to join a musical group that travelled the world but she turned it down to raise her daughters.  My mom and my aunt.  She was a performer.  She played to the crowd.  I don’t know if she ever had the ability to write songs.  She died when I was a dorky teenager before I even knew I could write songs.  But she loved to play.  And she loved to get others to listen in and sing along.  That’s what she did best.  She is the one who would play whatever I wanted to sing when I was a toddler.  And she could play anything.  Even a song she hadn’t heard before.  She is the one who took me out walking in the snow and singing Christmas carols up and down the street when I was 3 years old.

She sparked the flame that still burns within.  She is the reason I am a musician.  She is with me….she is in every song.  I am doing what she wasn’t able to do.

The first track of the CD “To Grandma” is a spoken intro…then an actual clip of her playing the old piano in her house in Frostburg and me singing along like a maniac.  LOL I think I was about 2 or 3 at the time.  The quality is bad.  This was originally recorded on an old reel to reel tape recorder..probably in 1968.  My father years later sat a cassette recorder up next to the reel to reel and pressed record.  Creating an old school…super bad quality recording of  numerous clips of me singing with Grandma playing piano on a cassette.

MoRece…..magician that he is…..was able to restore a lot of this clip.  After the clip there is an acapella intro into the next track “Shining Down”.  “Shining Down” was written for and about my grandma.  And for anyone who feels that someone they have lost is still with them…and guiding them.

This is the first part of the CD.  I hope you all will stick around for the stories behind all 17 tracks!!!

Until next time…..

Janice B.

** extra factoid……originally the intro contained a super clear clip of me singing “I Wonder” from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty at the age of 4 years old.  We cut it out because it is impossible to obtain a mechanical license from Disney and I certainly cannot afford to be sued by them!!!!  Bummer!