“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.

4 thoughts on ““My Life”: The Soul Behind the Songs”

  1. a very nice post JB, I love reading about the stories of the songs, in my opinion, it always makes the songs THAT much more important.
    Isn’t it a great feeling to have finished such a massive project? I remember when I finished my EP, I was hyper as hell from excitement :). Congratulations! Yay!

    Thank you for sharing your stories with us, I can’t wait to get my AUTOGRAPHED copy! I already love the CD, I got to hear it with Sahffi a couple of weeks ago. w00t.
    Great job to you, MoRece, & the Stinkyface Crew! keep up the amazing work, I’ll see you at the Grammys 😀

    Like

  2. Jan, thank you so much for your beautifully written story behind the music. I read it through twice and felt inspired and touched to be given a look inside Janice B. How I wish we could meet in person 🙂 Now all I’d like is an autographed copy or six of your CD – I know several people whose lives would be enriched by hearing it, myself included. I am so happy that your musical dreams and aspirations have become a reality. No one deserves it more than you. Much love always xxx

    Like

    1. Ayyyyyy I thought I already sent you a cd. 😦 Okay well now I have birthday and Christmas covered!! 😀 Thanks for your kind words! Love you!

      Like

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