Interview with Portland, ME based rock artist JanaeSound
By Emily May
Janay Woodruff, who goes by JanaeSound, is a rock artist based in Portland, Maine. Born in California, her mother’s job took the family to St Louis when she was 9 years old. Her love of music developed early in life and shortly after the move, she was cast in the children’s chorus of ‘La Boheme‘ through the Opera Theatre of St Louis. Last July she had the opportunity to open for Flo Rida at the St Charles Arena in Missouri and has forged ahead in the beginnings of a promising career in music. She has appeared at the Heart & Soul Substance Festival, Sunna Winter Music Festival, Bitter End in NYC, The Mint in LA, AllRoads Music Festival and Harvest Moon Festival. She recently released her latest single, “Diamonds“, about surviving the pressure and challenges of life around us and never giving up, as well as an accompanying video. The single has racked up over 100,000 streams on platforms such as Soundcloud and Spotify. She recently made the move from St Louis to Portland, Maine and has already become a valuable member of the local music community. Operating in a very DIY fashion, Woodruff promotes herself and her music, writes her own music, designs her own merch, books her own shows and handles her own tours and performed over 60 shows last year in 7 states without an agent or manager! It’s safe to say that JanaeSound is gaining momentum and has no plans on slowing down. With an EP coming soon and plans to write more music, play bigger shows and continue to push herself creatively, she seems on track towards a bright and successful future. Staff writer Emily May spoke to Woodruff via email recently and discussed her new EP, her latest single, designing her own merchandise and what’s next for her. You can follow JanaeSound and stay up-to-date with all upcoming music and tour dates via the following links. Check out her video for “Diamonds” below.
iTunes/Apple Music- https://itunes.apple.
You just released your latest single “Diamonds” about pushing forward and never giving up. You wrote it about some dark times you went through as an artist and the doubts you had that made you begin to question if you should keep going. What inspired you to push through the darkness and not give up on your dream?
Yeah, I was going through really hard time when I wrote that song. I am a woman of faith and in that rough patch, my faith was all I had to carry me through the darkness. I recently performed at a BMI showcase and I got really emotional after singing Diamonds. That was a huge moment for me. When I wrote the song, I never dreamed that I would get an opportunity to perform in L.A., let alone at Hotel Café, and for a BMI showcase, no less?! As I reach new milestones in my career, that songs feels more special when I perform it. I am both grateful for every opportunity I get and to the version of me that didn’t give up even when she had every reason to.
You started singing at the age of 9 when you were cast in La Boheme through the Opera Theatre of St Louis. When did you first realize you wanted to be a singer? How did the opportunity to be in La Boheme arise and how did it influence your musical aspirations? Are you currently involved in theatre?
I new very early that I wanted to be a singer and I was constantly singing as a little kid. I owe that opportunity to my elementary teacher. He pulled me aside after chorus class and gave me a tape and told me to learn this song. It turned out to be an acapella piece and he took me to my first ever audition. I was shocked when I was cast.
You have mentioned that you were mostly singing in church in your early teens when you discovered rock music. What kind of a role do you feel that rock music has played in shaping the artist you are today? Who are some of the rock artists that influenced you the most?
I love Rock and it’s really empowered me to take risks in my songwriting and vocal performances (long sustaining vocal notes, dramatic high notes, guttural low notes). I am inspired by Heart, Led Zeppelin, Prince, Aerosmith and so many others.
You grew up in St. Louis, MO, and now live in Portland, ME. What is the local music scene like there? Is it a supportive and creative environment?
Yeah, so I grew up in St. Louis. The music scene continues to be vibrant. Some of my favorite STL artists are Valencia, Allen Gates, Mvstermind, and Bo Dean. I currently live in Portland, Me. The music scene is jam packed with talent and has welcomed me with open arms. I’m currently obsessed with justplainjones, mosart212, and the batimbo united burundi drummers.
You have said that you are always interested in collaborating with new artists. Who are some current artists that you’d like to collaborate with?
WHEEEEW! That’s a long list because songwriting is my first love (and craft). Someone connect me with Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Anderson.Paak, PJ Morton, Sia!
You participated last summer in a BMI music workshop. What led you to attend and what did you learn from the workshop?
I am so grateful to be asked to speak on the panel at the BMI music workshop in Portland, Me. I shared my top secret Diamonds work tape (first ever recording of the song which was on my phone) and also played a snippet of the finished song. I also spoke a bit about the writing process which was insanely fun (and emotional) with the awesome folks at Halo Studios in Maine. There would be no record without Kevin Billingslea (engineer) and Darren Elder.
I read that you design your own merch. Have you always had a love for art and design? What inspired your merch ideas and designs?
My merch was (and still is) an intense labor of love. I needed a quick and relatively inexpensive way to get my stage name seeded in the minds of folks when I moved to Portland. I upcycled two jackets, my favorite of which is a (faux) leather jacket that I hand studded (300+), added faux leather fringe, and painted Janaesound on the back in white glow in the dark paint. I’ve expanded operations with a heat transfer machine and screens for printing. I was inspired by various stage outfits from 70s rockers.
What was it like for you to have 2 of your up-cycled jackets featured in WMPG’s annual fashion show in Portland, ME last year?
God is SO good!! I was so honored when they asked me to participate. It was my first time seeing anyone else in my jackets and I received a ton of positive feedback. They’ve asked me to return this year and I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve! I really cant WAIT to debut my new upcycles.
You performed over 60 shows in 7 states last year, all without a manager or agent! What was that like for you? Do you feel that you learned any important lessons from the experience? Where are you hoping to travel/tour this year that you haven’t been before?
Last year was incredible. I still can’t believe I was able to book myself, handle travel accommodations for myself and others, and the other kagillion things that go into planning and executing a tour without a team. And even though I’ve only had a tiny taste, I can’t believe how much I love the road! I learned that sometimes all you have, is all you need.
You finished your first EP last year, as well. What was the inspiration behind the EP and do you feel that your music has evolved since then?
Music is how I work through my low points in life. I love nothing more than turning a negative experience into a positive uplifting song. It really helps me heal and move on from those moments. When I wrote my first EP, I was working through my fear and doubts about pursuing music. I’ve grown so much as an artist and songwriter since then. My 2018 was meteoric and wonderful and I’m so grateful… but whoever said you can’t have extreme highs without extreme lows wasn’t joking around! I was robbed quite a few times. There was literal theft of money and gear… and also theft of time, opportunities, intellectual property and my faith in certain people. I am grateful for all of it. Now I know how to protect myself, I learned to forgive people who aren’t sorry, and I’m writing better music. I don’t believe in glamorising pain but since life is full of it— why not turn it into a rockin song? 🙂
You made your first JanaeSound music video this year. What was the inspiration/idea behind the video and what was the process like?
I am super grateful to Will Berry Films for making my first music shoot so fun! We had ZERO budget and yet the video turned out really well. I was inspired by white empty spaces and the idea of a blank canvas, which illustrates how i felt alone, unclear about my future but hopeful that I could make so good of it.
What else is coming up for you? What are your goals and plans for 2019?
2019 will bring more music and visual content! I am thrilled to hit the road again too. My goals are to play bigger shows, continue writing music and push myself creatively.