Welcome to another edition of “Headliners” an ongoing interactive series with the various movers and shakers of the music, book and film world.
I met Janet Robin in late 90’s while I doing my unplugged music series at the Agenda Lounge in San Jose, Calif. While the Agenda Lounge is more well known now for jazz and cutting edge DJs, for 2 years in the 90’s the acoustic series on Tuesday nights were quite the shit! The format was simple, electric bands would strip down and play unplugged.
I got Janet Robin’s press kit while at the EDGE and put it on the CD player in the office. While I listened to her CD, I commented to Jimmy (my boss and partner in crime) that Janet had taken lessons from the famed Randy Rhoads. While Jimmy would be the first to tell you I was “king of chick music”, he was pretty impressed by Janet’s playing. He knew me well enough to ask one question “When is she playing?” and that was even before I had booked Janet!
In person, Janet is not only a warm and gracious lady but is also stone cold beautiful. I spent half the night running the show and the other half picking up my soundman’s tongue..her set was brillant. Janet’s voice is both a bit bluesy but very sultry as well. But what sets her apart vocally is the urgency in her tone. You feel when she is singing,she is also LIVING the song at the same instant. Powerful stuff from a very underated and prolific singer.
And now, Headliners presents……Janet Robin
ET: What inspired you to learn to play music?
My brother initially inspired me.. he was in the room next door and I grew up hearing Zeppelin blasting thru the walls.. Heart, Sabbath, Bowie, Beatles…lot’s of music, and then he took up the guitar, so I followed in his footsteps, since i looked up at him. Then we both starting taking guitar lessons, and luckily got hooked up with Randy Rhoads who was teaching at his mom’s music school around the corner from my parent’s house.
fyi, my brother is now a dentist!
but, I have continued in music..he’s a big fan, though 🙂
ET : Whats it like running your label,Little Sister Records today versus say 8 or 9 years ago?
well i started my label almost 9 years ago, and there weren’t many indie DYI labels around. Ani DiFranco had the most successful one, I believe. It’s pretty easy now.. I just record and release under that name, although everything is tracked and has a bar code on each release. Of course, now with digital downloads and itunes, you don’t even necessarily have to have a label.
There’s a lot more avenue’s to promote and sell your music these days.
ET: What have been your 5 favorite places to play outside Los Angeles but still in California? What made them so special?
hmm… that’s a hard one to answer. Not sure if I have 5 but I can name a few:
1. Water Canyon Coffee Co. in Yucca Valley (Joshua Tree)
a small and intimate venue with great sound and a built in following. People really listen hear and pay attention. Also has great sound for a smaller type venue
2. Pappy and Harrie’ts also in Joshua Tree (Pioneertown)
this place is so special. it just has vibe everywhere and the audience is always up for a ROCKIN’ time out there in the desert. They have great sound and have had some incredible performers, Leon Russell, Shelby Lynn, Rikki Lee Jones. I dig playing here a lot.
I just played here a few weeks ago. It’s in Placerville, Ca. and has a great listening room vibe. Also, another venue where people are respectful and want to listen and pay attention to the tunes.
4. There’s a house concert I do in Palo Alto, so I am not sure this counts, but it’s called Blue Rock House Concert’s and the woman owns a beautiful house always set up perfect for a house concert performance. Always great attendance and respectful, enthusiastic audience.
5. The Coach House San Juan Capistrano
One of the first venues I played with Lindsey Buckingham’s band. Great sound, great stage, also another place with audiences that are enthusiastic and appreciative.
ET : As you get older,do you feel your songwriting gets more emotionally deeper with the wisdom you have gained thru the years?
I definately feel that you get older and wiser. Or, maybe you get younger and wiser. Either way, it’s working for me. I put more effort into lyrics these days and really want them to connect for me.
ET : Do you feel the vast tech advances have buried the most basic part of music,the music itself?
I feel that tech advances are always great and give you lot’s of choices. There’s a lot of computer/pro tools recording these days, and when done improperly can sound like plain wrap. But, ultimately it’s the song and the performance (good, bad or indifferent) that is captured by the artist, whether recorded live, on computer, or tape.
ET : What 5 bands playing today do you feel have both a musical,positive and social impact on the world today?
Well, U2 is continuing to do great stuff, musically and politcally. I think Coldplay is great. I like Paul McCartney’s show, it was awesome. Sting seems to want to make political statements. Melissa Etheridge is great and so is Bruce Springsteen.
ET : Many people feel politics and religion shouldn’t mix,what about music and politics?
I think if it’s art you should be able to do any darn thing you want with your art as long as it doesn’t physically harm another being. That is my opinion. You should be able, though, to sing or write about whatever you want.
Freedom of speech, as they say.
ET : You just released a new EP,tell us a little about it.
I signed with two producers, David Bianco and Steve Baughman, they’ve worked with John Hiatt, Tom Petty, U2, ACDC, all kinds of acts. We chose 5 songs that we felt at the time were the strongest. Recorded with a band and released it a few months ago. This time around, we spent more time on vocals, and my guitar sound. Really wanted to nail a vibe and guitar sound and do the songs justice, so we took our time in recording and arranging. I think it’s a nice collection. Of course, I have new songs already and would like to turn this EP into a full record, so we may end up doing that asap.
9. How has MySpace helped your career versus traditonal marketing ideas? Does it really help a performer?
myspace has totally helped bring new fans and exposure to my music. It’s been great to connect to other artists as well. I just got a European tour indirectly through myspace. My producer worked with another band in Prague, and we connected through our pages. Also, fans in other states and city’s can quickly look up where I’ll be playing on tour. It’s a great tool. Honestly, I use myspace more than then my regular website. The music, pictures, bio, tour dates all come up on one page right away and you can make it look however you want.. customize it. I like the ease and exposure capability of myspace.
For a far more detailed interview w/Janet,please go here:
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By Michael Sullivan