Published on March 29th, 2012 | by EDMinsider2
EDMinsider Interviews Singer/Songwriter Janai
Singer/songwriter, Janai (Jan-ai El-Goni), is just as beautiful of a person as her voice. She captured our ears and hearts on Dusky’s debut album, Stick by This, with lyrically stimulating “Lost in You” and “It’s Not Enough.” Soulfully seductive, painfully honest and always emotionally provoking, she is one of those songwriters that has the potential to tug on the heart strings of listeners worldwide for eternity. I chat with the vocalist about her nerves, influences, relationships, her ideal dream team collaboration and what’s to come.
Janai: Music has always been my first love, and singing for me is the purest way for me to express myself. It started off with loving musicals like Little Shop of Horrors and dancing and singing like a lunatic in my room as a kid. I have always felt instantly happier when I sing so what better way to try and make a living! My involvement in the Electronic Dance Music scene came about from working with friends who made dance music.
EDMinsider 2. Have you always lived in London? How much influence does this city have on your music?
Janai: Being a Londoner is hugely influential on my writing and musical outlook. I do most of my writing looking out of my bedroom window in Hackney, on the banks of the Thames near the Tate Modern or riding around on the bus! I feel very lucky to have grown up in one of the most cosmopolitan, ethnically diverse city’s in the world. Although most of my lyrics are about relationships, this city has a huge effect on how I feel from day to day.
EDMinsider 3. Congratulations on all the success with “Lost in You” and “It’s Not Enough.” How did you link up with Alfie Granger-Howell and Nick Harriman and what was that experience like?
Janai: I met Nick and Alfie in 6th form and we’ve been friends ever since. A few years ago I had a overwhelming urge to write songs again, and they were kind enough to indulge me! Working with Dusky is always a pleasure, they know how to get the best out of me, and the two tracks on the album were the product of that. I’ve learnt so much from them both, and all the producers I work with. Musically and personally I have a lot of respect and love for Nick and Alfie.
EDMinsider 4. “Lost in You” and “It’s Not Enough,” though both vocally different, possess some similar lyrical ground. Where did you draw your inspiration from for these particular tracks? What is the writing process like for you?
Janai: Both songs are about the relationship I am in now. I wrote ‘Lost In You’ when I fell in love. It’s about giving in to how I felt, and letting another person see all the quirks and craziness that I try to hide. ‘It’s Not Enough‘ is about the same relationship, but the other end of the scale. I wasn’t happy with the way our relationship was developing and wrote about it. He must have got the message because he fixed up after he heard it! The writing process for me is both frightening and cathartic. I’ve learnt that for a song to touch people and have meaning it has to come from an honest place. Forcing myself to write honestly can be quite painful sometimes, but is rewarding in it’s own way.
EDMinsider 5. Your tone is, without a doubt, incredibly unique in this genre of music. What else do you think sets you apart from the abundant vocalists out there?
Janai: If I’m honest. I think I’m one of those singers that will always cringe when I hear my voice. I’m slowly getting used to being praised for it, so thankyou!
I think that is what sets me apart from other singers. While I am confident in my vocal ability, I’m not over confident and know that I still have a lot to learn. I write and sing in a way that feels true to me. I try not to listen to current ‘cool’ things, or jump on any bandwagons. There’s a lot of fake confidence and not enough humility out there…
EDMinsider 6. Who would you say are your greatest vocal influences? Which current vocalists in the Electronic Dance Music genre are you a fan of?
Janai: My greatest influences are people like Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Etta James, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder. Basically all the originators of soul, blues and RnB. You can feel and hear their pain, longing and happiness. This is what I aspire to vocally and try to achieve. For me Adele and Amy Winehouse are the closest recently we’ve come to this. It’s really bad but I don’t really listen to much electronic dance music. I don’t want to be influenced or try to be like anyone other than me. I love all the old school 90′s dance music though.
EDMinsider 7. Rumor has it that you’ve recently been in the studio with Mat Zo. Can you tell us a little more about what’s happening?
Janai: I’ve recorded a track that will possibly be included on Mat’s album. It’s has a more RnB feel to it which I’ve wanted to do for a little while. It was a pleasure working with Mat, he has a wicked energy about him, and he’s so young! hopefully we will be collaborating again in the future.
EDMinsider 8. “The Truth”, a track off of Gordon’s City’s The Crypt EP was released last month. What can you tell us about working on this track?
Janai: This was another collaboration with an old school friend RacknRuin. I recorded it a few years back and didn’t think anything would happen with it, and then he and Foamo hooked up to form Gorgon City, jazzed it up a bit, and put it out. I love it when that happens! I’d forgotten I even wrote it!
EDMinsider 9. You’ve just booked your first international gig in Portugal. Can you give us more details about this particular event?
Janai: I am sooo excited! Hopefully it’s the first of many international gigs. It’s in the Creme O Porto club on 30th March, and I’ll be performing ‘Its Not Enough’ and ‘Lost In You’. It’s my first international solo gig, so I’m a ball of nervous energy and excitement at the moment!
EDMinsider 10. You’ve said that recording in the studio is sometimes a nerve-wracking process for you. Do you also get nervous performing on stage? Do you prefer performing live or recording in the studio?
Janai: Recording in the studio is less nerve racking now as I’m used to it. I still get nervous when I work with new producers, but I just take the piss out of myself and crack really lame jokes to ease the tension. I’ve been gigging with my band We Used To Make Things for the last 5 years, and we’ve been lucky enough to play some main stages at festivals, and in some iconic venues in London so I’m much less nervous live than I used to be. Solo gigs are scary as I miss having the band behind me, but I’m starting to love it more. I enjoy the studio and live gigs for different reasons. I like the power you can command on stage. Inviting an audience into your world and getting a response is always amazing, but so is nailing a vocal in the studio. I’m becoming a performer on both platforms.
EDMinsider 11. What has been your most memorable performance and which London venue is your favorite?
Janai: My most memorable performance is either aged 10 at a primary school talent show when I sang ‘Killing Me Softly’ and made half the audience cry. My brother who is 10yrs older than me and who was supposed to be ‘ard as nails’ came and I made him cry too. I think that was when I realised I could be a singer. The other would be aged 14 infront of my whole school. I sang ‘Hero’ by Mariah Carey over her voice on a tape. The teacher turnt the track down and I thought I sounded like a dying frog and got so scared I ran off stage and started crying! Eventually I had to go out and sing it again. I won that talent show, but I didn’t sing in public again for a very long time I was so traumatised and embarrassed by that experience! My favourite venue in London to play is Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho. I have played there a few times with my band and it’s a truly amazing experience.
EDMinsider 12. If you could put together a dream team collaboration including yourself, who would be involved?
Janai: Beethoven, Michael Jackson, Nina Simone, Amy Winehouse and Freddie Mercury from beyond the grave… Beyonce, Adele, Marsha Ambrosius from Floetry and Nas if it could happen today. If I can make people feel what these artists have made me feel at one point or another in my life, I’ll die happy.
EDMinsider 13. It looks like 2011 has heated a lot of things up for you. Looking back, what was the most memorable moment and what can we expect in 2012?
Janai: 2011 was a year of firsts for me. My first video, first release, first publishing contract… All of it was memorable… This year I’m hoping to build on that. I’m writing some songs for the house music label Defected which should be released later on this year, hopefully I’ll get booked for more international gigs. Anything is possible really…Watch this space…
Lost in You Official Video
Article by: Meryl Luzzi