Barbara Zaragoza 8:04 p.m., Dec. 19
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- Local Lives
Local Lives: Janie Plante - Songcrafter
Local Lives is a series of interviews with local artists and creators. Do you know a photographer, painter, musician, performer, artisan, or creator that you would like to see interviewed? Contact email@example.com.
What is your name, where are you originally from and how do you typically describe to others who you are and what you do?
My name is Janie Plante and I'm originally from Seabeck, Washington. I've lived in the midwest for a longtime and now I live in the San Diego area and I love to do music. I love to play songs. I love to write songs. I love to share music with everybody.
How do you react to the various titles that could apply to you? Artist, Musician, Singer-Songwriter, Female Singer etc.
The titles that resonate most with me as far as my craft, is I use the phrase songcrafter because I take situations in my life or situations I observe in other peoples lives and I draft them into a poem, or a sort of a form of poetry, so I consider that artistry. I'm a musician, and so using guitar or piano or vocals I bring that to life in music. And so it's more than just writing a song and more than just singing a song.
Tell us about your recent move and how has that affected your music.
My husband's job brought us from Minneapolis to San diego and I'm really happy that happened because I was already in a groove playing and singing quit often at different venues in the Minneapolis area. I always wondered what California life would be like, and I wondered what the music scene was like here—and it's been a growing pains for me and it's different. It's challenging but it's time to do something fresh so I'm really happy to be here.
I think in moving to California I had no idea that it was actually going to be so wonderful to be outside everyday. I go outside every single day. I'm out there I don't care if it's raining, which is rare, if it's sunny, whatever it is I just love to be able to be outside, and coming from Minnesota that's a little tricky, you had to learn to do a lot of things inside—especially during the winter.
It has been very interesting to be outside as much as I am now, because when I pick up my guitar and I sit out on the bench, or I go out in the back and sit by the pool, I get very inspired by just being able to be out. Even if it's under the stars in the evening. It's inspiring to me, but I haven't been writing yet. It's like I've been collecting pieces. I haven't been here very long, only 18 months. I've been collecting little pieces and little thoughts. I call my scraps of paper my undone songs, unfinished. And they're like in that kind of a metamorphosis spot where they start with just a line or two and then I'll go out and I'll sit and I'll play for a while, and then I get inspired about something else and I'll take a couple more notes, and so it's a process. It Hasn't actually culminated into anything fresh yet.
Have you stumbled on any pleasantly surprising aspects of Santee since you moved here?
One of my favorite discoveries in the town of Santee was one day when I was going to the Library and I saw a sign on the door that said, "Kaffee Meister coming soon" and I thought, "Hey, there is a music venue waiting to happen" and I want to be part of what's happening in my town. Not going all the way to downtown San Diego or out in one of the other suburbs. I want to be in East County. So I'm really thrilled about that.
Describe a current trend in culture or music that you're following or have recently observed.
I was very disillusioned for a number of years—I'd say decades—where it was hard to find what is called a singer songwriter. Someone who would sit down with one instrument, nothing else, vocals and one instrument. In the 70's there was a plethora of such individuals and they're all pretty much my favorites. But in recent years we've seen people...I think John mayer started breaking the can wide open. Jason Mraz came shortly thereafter. We've had people from Anna Nalick, Sara Bareilles. There's just so many now that are vulnerable, they'll just sit down and they'll play. I heard Alicia Keys recently play something that... I think of her as more of a hip-hop artist, but you see her sit down at the piano and play beautiful articulate ivory, and match her voice up with just...naked, nothing else going on. And this is a throw back to what I grew up with. Because when I was writing songs at a very young age...my first song that I actually wrote the date on and I know I wrote, I was 16 years old. I was probably writing before then and didn't realize it. But during that time we'd write our songs at the camp fire down by the beach. There was no electronics, no Youtube, there was no way to actually get that recorded unless you went into a recording studio—which I'm going to totally date myself here, reel to reel. It was very old school but that's how songs grew then, and with technology being so advanced now, where you can have voiceovers and you can have pitch control and all kinds of other things coming around your music and making it artificial that's something that's been very disturbing for a lot of artists that are home grown.
How has the rapid advance of technology affected your work?
Technology is a two edge sword. It's a great blessing and a tremendous asset, and it can also really be in your way. There have been times where I...not too long ago in fact, I was playing a gig here in San Diego and we could not get my guitar electronics to work. It just would not happen. And I had my guitar strap on and I unplugged the thing and I walked around the front of the whole PA system and I played some Sheryl Crow and we had a blast. And everybody was in completely into what the moment was. I didn't make any excuses, I just got out there and made it different. But as far as the very first guitar that I ever performed with, it did not have built in electronics—didn't have any way to plug it in. I didn't have anything but just a microphone maybe up to it that would probably do some feedback. Then when I take it to the other level, if I wanted somebody to hear something I'd written, I'd have to go into the studio, have it recorded, have the CD pressed, get that out to somebody. Now of course you can just take an iPad or a macbook and and do some recording and stick it on youtube. I mean there's such benefit to that and I love that's an option, but I still go back to my roots of wanting things to be live and pure. I have a vocalizer which is a harmonizer and stacks my vocals, and it's a lot of fun to use that. I would never use that on every song. I don't want to overdo that. I like things to be used as an asset, not as an excuse or a crutch to what you do or do not own as a musician.
Today is New Years Day. Tells us about a current aspiration, goal, or resolution you've made with regards to your music.
I had a unique encounter with someone recently. An older gentleman who I was singing for in an environment, in a gig I was hired to do. And I ended up speaking with this person for quite some time kind of off the clock, just speaking with him because he showed a great interest in my music. And as we were talking I was talking about my originals and he was asking questions and finally said to me, "What is your real dream? What is it that you really want from whatever this gift is that God's given you in music. What would really float your boat." And I said, "Well I like people", and absolutely the first thing out of my mouth I said, "I like people to feel better after they've encountered me and my music than they did when they walked in the room, and that absolutely makes me thrilled." And he said that was a little altruistic and there must be more to it than that. There must be something deeper. And then I began to explain that I would want for people—the masses—to hear some of my original music, and then he looked me straight in the eye and said, "When did you give up on that dream?" So, I thought about that for a minute and said "Curiously my CD that I did produce a number of years ago, the title was Don't Give Up." How curious is that? And this gentleman I've never met before! And so I began to think about, what are the steps I need to take. And the very first decision I made is to go through all of my writing and look at everything with fresh eyes. I've been writing for decades. I have a stack of finished songs that I crafted for special occasions that, with a tweak or two, can become public and reach many people. Not just that one wedding, or that one retirement, or that one baby's birth, or that one sad loss and burial of someone. So I have these opportunities right in front of me that have been lying dormant, and it's time to dig them up and get going.
If you were mentoring another musician, what is one fundamental that you would make sure they understood?
There's so many ways to do music. And I respect so many styles of music. One thing that I have a very low tolerance for is making excuses. And so if you are in a performance mode and you're sharing your heart and sharing your self with someone and your voice cracks, or your string breaks, or your nail breaks, or you're having a bad hair day, it's really not about that. And to never draw that attention to yourself, because it's all about what you're giving out and projecting and allowing other people to experience. And so I'd say, don't ever taint the experience.
Local Lives is sponsored by Santee's own Kaffee Meister Coffeehouse. Come enjoy exceptional espresso, cappuccinos, and latte's as you lounge on the couch, socialize at the community tables or work at the laptop bar. With breakfast, soup & salad and live music three nights a week, it's everything you'd expect from your local coffee shop.
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