Written by: Justin Stokes
Continuing the Women In Music series, this month’s profile is on Janelle Faiman, whose output with Janelle and the Gentleman is as unforgettable rock-n-roll Biker Viking who just so happens to have a soft spot for the blues and Louisiana culture. A child of music parented in small parts by many influences, Janelle’s approach toward endless experimenting might appeal to the adventurer in all of us. Here’s the interview:
JS: You have a show coming up at the East Room on Monday, November 16th as a part of Jesse and Noah’s “Psychedelic Barn Party” series. What can you share with readers?
Janelle: The owner, Ben Jones, is a great supporter of ours. We played one of our first shows there about a year and a half ago. This show should have 3 bands or so on the bill, and is put together by Jesse and Noah Bellamy, an Americana group. They describe it as “This is the Psychedelic Barn Party that features Rockers, Shockers, Neo-Honky Tonkers, Cowpunks, Post punks, Power Poppers, Janglers, Paisley Undergrounders, Bluesmen, Country Legends, Up and Comers, Chanteuses, Pickers, Hipsters, Bluegrassers, Newgrassers, Hillbillies, Psychobillies, and Methodists!” It should make for a really fun time and a great addition to Nashville’s East side.
JS: How would you describe the “lyrical meat” of your music?
Janelle: In the EP, I write about self-actualization, desire, self-discovery, sexuality, and personal demons. These are all big concepts that some great artist have explored, and Charles Bukowski summed it up best, “An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.”
JS: Care to share your thoughts on crafting a song?
Janelle: Elizabeth Gilbert explains creativity really well. She talks about it as this cloud floating above us full of little beings, and these little beings are creativity itself. Every once in a while, they wander down from the cloud and choose someone to tap on the shoulder. If you fail to notice them, they go back up and tap someone else until they are materialized. There are times I have to pull the car over, if that’s when creativity taps me on the shoulder, and those times are awesome, but it also takes work. There is a great quote that says, “creativity is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”, so I write every day. I create something everyday. When I sit down to write a song, the music, the lyrics, and the melody come together, for the most part, all at once.
JS: You recently released a pretty impressive music video for your single “Bad Reputation.” Let’s discuss that project – from the inception to the creation – and how you influenced the final product.
Janelle: A few months before the video, I was watching my girlfriend get her hair cut at Brave Barbershop, here in Nashville. I thought, “what a great place for a music video.” If you haven’t been there, go TO-morrow. Hunter Prewett, partnered owner of Brave, has been a friend of ours for a few years and he was all for it. Jared Rauso, producer at Make it Pop Creations, and Caleb Dirks, a videographer, who are also friends of ours, agreed to film it.
The song, “Bad Reputation,” is about recognizing your self-worth. We wanted the video to carry that message, while being fun and entertaining. Every face you see in the video is a friend of mine and captures just a glimpse of each persons own unique confidence. As for me, I appear in three distinctive looks. Through those, I wanted to convey the idea that, just because I’m a woman, doesn’t mean I need to dress a certain way. I get to choose what the outside looks like, while knowing the value of what’s on the inside. The day we shot the video happened to be the date that Janeane Garofalo was performing at Zanies, across the street. As we wrapped, I noticed a small group of people gathered outside and I heard a familiar voice that I immediately recognized as Janeane’s. I decided that she would be in the video, and found myself walking towards her, determined. Somehow I managed to make her laugh and she agreed to spend the remaining ten minutes of her break sitting on my lap in a barber chair. She was awesome and amazing, I mean, she’s Janeane Garofalo.
JS: Let’s go back… had did the band form? How has it evolved?
Janelle: I had been playing all the open mic nights as a solo singer/songwriter and really wanted the collaboration of a band. Bass player, Tyler Boone and I have been friends for 8 years. He and I started playing together in 2011, but with other musicians. More recently, I met drummer, Bobby Brown and he and Tyler and I really hit it off. The three of us were the core group, but played around with adding keys and strings at different times. Lead guitarist, Derek Toa, was introduced to me when I needed a last minute fill-in. When the four of us got together, we really rounded out the sound that you hear on the EP. Moving forward, we’re focused on continuing to evolve our sound and get stronger.
JS: You have a new album that’s a self-titled release?
Janelle: We were playing shows around town and people kept asking where they could find our music. That reinforced my drive to get our music out in the world and, more specifically, create a packaged product. We recorded our EP at Omni Sound Studios, here in Nashville. I wrote the 5 songs on the EP, but recently we’ve started writing collaboratively, which is really exciting.
JS: What’s influenced you as the front of the band?
Janelle: It’s been pretty varied. Earlier on, it was listening to bands like No Doubt, Hole, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Later I discovered people like Etta James and Van Morrison. When something grabs my attention, musically or otherwise, I really dig into it. In 2010, for example, I picked up a book one day because the title,‘The Last Madam’, intrigued me. After I read it, I wrote my song ‘Norma’s House’. The book is about a woman who operated a brothel in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Having never been to Louisiana at the time, and with only the address from the book, I took a trip to the old brothel and found the current owner inside. Today, the building is restored into seven different housing units. The current owner knew of the book, and through him I met the author, Christine Wiltz. From there, I performed my song ‘Norma’s House’ on a local morning television show and on local New Orleans radio station WWOZ. I recently found out that a film is in the works!
JS: Being an artist with a diverse palette of influence, how does that affect your ability to “market” your content? Are you working against the industry machine?
Janelle: When I first came to Nashville, I did all the open mic nights because that’s what people said to do. I never felt like I fit there or in any particular songwriting community. I had heard a hundred people say a hundred different things about the ‘right’ way to pursue a career in music. I really struggled for a while trying to decide which direction I should go. Finally, I started listening to my own voice. I usually write alone as if I’m writing in a diary. I had to listen to that girl and pursue music her way, maybe ignoring how things “should” be done. I think as I grow more confidently into who I am as an individual, my goals become more clear, and it gets easier to find a niche.
JS: On marketing your content, what is your perception of the “culture of music discovery” as it pertains to local artists? How are prospective fans finding your stuff?
Janelle: Playing as many shows as possible, posting videos on social media, any and all of it – If people don’t know they are missing something, they won’t go looking for it. We have to be our own advocates. In the past, I struggled with promoting myself. However, when you start to really believe in what you do, it becomes easy to share that with people. This is exactly why I decided to make the video for “Bad Reputation.” I wanted to show people who we. It was important to me that we have a video to accompany our EP. This allows people to hear us and see us, to feel our vibe and our style. I think that, in todays music discovery landscape, that’s how we break through the noise and gain a fan.
JS: You’re currently putting together a tour as well?
Janelle: Right now, I’m looking at 2016 and booking regionally, as well as making it a priority to get up to my home state of Minnesota this spring. I’d really like to get over to Europe next summer, and looking for a few New Orleans dates at the moment
JS: Future projects?
Janelle: I’ve started another project that I am really excited about. Luchedora, is a female duo, drums and guitar. Think Black Keys and Nirvana. The band name references a female fighter and drummer, my co-hort Andi Sylvester. We’ll have stuff out for that soon. Janelle and the Gentleman’s next show will be at the East Room on Monday, November 16th as part of the Psychedelic Barn Party series for Jesse and Noah, which feature experimental programming that ties into the Country+ paradigm of Nashville’s local music.
Be sure to visit http://www.janelleandthegentlemen.com/ and find her on your favorite social media. You can see her music video for “Bad Reputation” here: