MP3 Janice Grace - No Work All Play
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3 MP3 Songs
POP: with Live-band Production, ELECTRONIC: Dance
Meet Janice Grace
What are the seemingly unrelated elements that alchemically converge and create a fresh new musical presence? Sometimes, artists seem to spring from nowhere, perfectly reflecting the zeitgeist, and we become consumed with their lives, even as they become part of ours. So, before the mad rush to deconstruct the ethereally inspired Janice Grace begins and the tabloids distort it, here's the real story:
Born in Long Island to a mother whose hobby was singing opera and a father who rebuilt theater organs for fun, Janice Grace climbed up on the organ bench of the family Hammond B3 at the age of five and began playing Bach by ear. Later, she would listen to her mother practicing arias and imitate her with note-perfect intonation.
By the time she was in the fourth grade, Janice was the school's musical prodigy, playing concerts for classmates and accompanying the chorus. By high school, the preternaturally talented musician had become an accomplished oboist and the mainstay of local orchestral and band performances, winning gold medals for excellence and her school's award as "Best Musician," while simultaneously pursuing an intensive extracurricular education in liturgical music.
Throughout high school, Janice also studied piano and classical organ with a teacher who recognized her emerging abilities. With his support, she became assistant organist at Trinity Lutheran Church in Hicksville, Long Island, and, by the time she was 13, undertook a schedule of rehearsals and performances that ultimately consumed more than five hours a day. "They said I showed flashes of early brilliance," she says, "but I was a strange loner and all I knew was that when I played music, I felt power. I may have been possessed. Or mad."
By 17, although profoundly drawn to the music of the church and the symbols and icons of religious life, Janice Grace was also deeply immersed in the music and fashion of her time. Although she was enrolled at the Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, when the dormitory lights were out, it was funk that provided inspiration.
"At first," she recalls, "It was disco, and The Gap Band, and P-Funk that got me off. I still loved church music, but the chapels were cold and the dance floors were hot. Then I discovered Seal, and Massive Attack. And ultimately, Depeche Mode."
She was also beginning to experiment with clothing design, making her own clothes with a sensibility that, she says, "I borrowed from Cher, Audrey Hepburn, and Siouxsie Sioux." After one semester, she moved to a studio apartment in Manhattan, and with a windfall $2,000 bought an electronic keyboard.
Freed from the constraints of choir school and armed with synthesizers, Janice Grace was ready to be discovered. "I may have been a bit naive," she laughs, "but Madonna was huge then, and it just seemed like it would be my turn next. Man, so wrong." Still, she did what young musicians in New York do - she got crummy jobs.
"I was working to afford my gear jones," she says. "I don't even want to remember the jobs, but if I got good enough in them to be asked to stay, I'd quit. I didn't want to make it easy for myself to leave the music business." Somehow, she pieced together an eight-track recording studio in her apartment and taught herself to engineer. "I learned out of sheer necessity, but I learned," she says.
Soon, she was working nights and writing and recording during the day, gradually meeting other up-and-coming musicians. "We were all helping each other, writing together, playing on each other's demos," she says. "Sometimes, it was discouraging. One night, at a time when I felt that everything I was doing was strategically positioning me to fail, I was working late and blew off a meeting with a songwriter looking for a collaborator. And so, I dissed Desmond Child [writer for Ricky Martin, Cher, BonJovi,]."
Atlas Almost Shrugged
Through friends, she got a job waitressing at the Hard Rock Café and loved it, and through a chance meeting on a jury duty bench, she hooked up with a band called Atlas, playing keyboards and singing backup vocals.
"What was great about the Hard Rock was that when you had a gig the whole staff would show up. And the band was this close," she recalls, "almost ready for a deal." For more than a year, Atlas made strong inroads in New York's competitive downtown band scene, playing showcases at CBGB's, the Bitter End, Kenny's, and the Cat Club.
For Janice Grace, the band's ultimate inability to land a record deal proved to be something of a blessing. She had been continuing to write and record her own material, and finally left Atlas to form her own band. "I realized that what mattered, what still matters, is the satisfaction, the artistic fulfillment of making my own music," she says. "I think it's the confessional quality of being a solo act that appeals to me."
With enough material for a showcase set and intent on producing a major event, she rented the Limelight, but her band wasn't ready and the show went on with Janice (and two backup vocalists) performing to prerecorded tracks. "The show had energy, and the labels gods came," she says, " but nothing materialized. Afterwards, I thought I came across too much like Björk, who's great but must scare A&R guys."
After the Limelight gig, Janice Grace pulled back for while. "Here's how I remember it," she says. "Time passed. The pages on the calendar tore away in the wind. No, wait, that's not my story, that's a 1940s movie. A detour, in the form of clothing and fabric design studies, presented itself in the mid-1990s.
At the Fashion Institute of Technology, she perfected pattern-making skills that she had long toyed with, but never taken seriously. "Fashion definitely has a place in the World According to Miss Grace," she says. "I see my clothing designs as a direct parallel to my music.
Right now that means they're a mixture of downtown, funky, street-wise pieces in new fabrics and polished, classic, tailored pieces that are still slightly off." There are no plans for a commercial line yet, but she will wear costumes of her own design in videos and at engagements supporting her new CD.
A Long Time Coming
In 1999 Janice Grace returned to the studio. Working with producer Carlo Fornerino, she experimented with material and recording approaches for six months before arriving at the electro pop/rock sound that energizes Janice Grace, her new CD.
Janice Grace was released in March 2000, on Jaguar Records. Off to a quick start, the eight-song CD earned her Artist-of-the-Week honors on Billboard TalentNet for two weeks in a row. The disk subsequently reached #1 on Radio BTN, based on site-visitor voting, and the album's first single, The Only One, hit #5 on NewMusicWeekly's -Next Up Chart and https://www.tradebit.com's New Hit List.
Janice 's video to The Only One, directed by Adolfo Doring can been seen on her video page.
"It's been a long time coming," Janice Grace says, "I've had this thing on the runway for a long time, but I think the wait has been worth it."
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