Hey Everybody if you’re out there… Here is the FULL article that I wrote about the leap of faith and going to my own FATHEAD RECORDS label and th eupcoming release of ORIGINAL on June 24th…Maria Shriver just Blogged about and then put into her Twitter feed…WOW! Hellova way to start MY day!
A Declaration of Independence
By Janiva Magness
I have been blessed with a wonderful career as a blues artist, but lately I’m a bit of a basket case.
For the last few months, it’s been impossible to sleep more than five hours a night. My ulcer has flared back up. I just finished writing the songs and recording my 11th CD with my stellar band and collaborator and producer, but I feel stressed at an entirely new level.
Earlier in my career, when I was still struggling for recognition as a legitimate artist, signing with Alligator Records meant everything to me.
I even actually had it written down on a sheet of paper. What are your wildest dreams? Write them down. One of those for me was to be on Alligator Records. It was so long ago, I had forgotten until I recently discovered that piece of paper.
But following three successful CDs with the iconic blues label after finally signing there in 2008, we recently agreed to part ways. I was burning to make the CD I felt compelled to do. And it needed to be done unencumbered by anyone else’s vision or agenda, with no bargaining or negotiating over any part of it.
So instead of working with the known, the solid team at Alligator and benefiting from its accomplished marketing, financing and publicity network, I went with the unknown. I decided to release this CD on my own record company label, which I had for many years. I would release this CD myself, no safety net, no network to help me get it or get it out.
It’s super exhilarating. My producer and I get to make all the creative decisions, which is wonderful. But at the same time, it feels like I am balancing on a tightrope, way up high above the ground, and no net anywhere to break my fall if I stumble.
I am extremely proud of this recording, which is called “Original.” You could say it is my Declaration of Independence. All 11 of the songs are originals, seven that I co-wrote, which is really stepping out there for me. I typically found other writers’ great songs that resonated with me and tried to put my own personal stamp on them and it worked. I Recording my own songs wasn’t something I had the courage to do until my last CD, when the three originals on the record were the ones my fans seemed to love the most. One of them, “I Won’t Cry,” co-written with my producer, Dave Darling, was named 2013 Song of the Year by the Blues Music Foundation, a huge honor for me.
It seemed to make the most sense for me moving forward, to go deeper into writing. I wanted to do more original work. The songs evolved as Americana Blues and Soul, pretty cool really.
I love the results, but I’m nervous as hell. What if my fans and the critics don’t like the new direction? What if it actually sucks? I’m not a 20-something artist who can roll with a break in my career momentum. That can be deadly to a musical career. I feel confident and hopeful people will like it, but I’d be lying if I said my mind didn’t go to those dark, negative places. It certainly does.
I learned long ago, after much pain and heartbreak, that I have to be true to what’s in my own heart, no matter how awkward or frightening it may seem.
It took me a long time and a very crooked journey to finally understand that. When I was 13, my mother gave in to years of depression and took her own life. Three years later, my father killed himself. At 16, I was one messed up orphan, spending a lot of time living in the streets, using drugs, alcohol and whatever else I could find to bury the pain and confusion. Over a two-year period, I was shuffled in and out of 12 different Foster homes. On three separate occasions, I was committed to a psychiatric hospital for depression and other problems.
Convinced I’d be better off dead, I tried to follow my parents’ example and attempted suicide a bunch of times, coming pretty close at age 16 and again three years later. Finally, when I needed it most, Carrie, a compassionate and loving woman who would be my last Foster mom, came into in my life. She helped me to start seeing things a bit differently. Instead of trying to kill yourself, she said God must have a reason for keeping you alive through everything you experienced. Maybe it was time to start figuring out what that reason was, she told me.
Carrie heard me singing around the house and encouraged me to do something with my God-given musical talents. It took me several more years to get up the courage to do anything about it. I never believed I had any real talent back then and was far too terrified of being rejected. But eventually, the desire to sing and see what I had overcame my anxiety. I auditioned for gigs and slowly but surely, good things began to happen. After more setbacks and false starts than I can count and with help from so many wonderful artists and friends, I found a way to actually carve out a living doing what I love best: playing music that speaks the truth, my truth. Music that lifts me up and, I hope, lifts up and entertains those who hear it.
Gratitude is probably the overwhelming emotion in my life these days, but I’m not kidding when I tell you that even with decades of sobriety, therapy yoga and meditation, going this far out on the tightrope as I am with this new CD, I’m still scared to death of taking a wrong step and tumbling to the ground.
A wise person once described faith this way: When you come to the edge of light and everything you know and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen. There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.
God, I hope so. I believe it. But I know one thing for sure: No matter what happens, these songs had to be written, this record had to be made and I had to do it this way. I had to do it free. It really is my Declaration of Independence. And just like I sing on the last track, “I’m still standing and my heart’s still beating.”
That’s the truth, no matter what comes next.
If you want to learn more about the new CD, you can find it here: http://janivamagness.com/music/
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