It’s time to wake up to a very different Janine Wilson.
Her third album since releasing the debut The Blue Album in 2000, Wakin’ Up is Janine’s first album of all-original material, making it her most personal artistic statement to date. Building on the same partnership that delivered the award-winning songs “Don’t Even Start” and “So Long,” Janine teamed up with guitarist extraordinaire Max Evans (Ugly Americans) to write the songs that would eventually belong on Wakin’ Up.
Once the writing was complete, Janine approached maverick recording artist Blake Morgan, founder and president of NYC’s Engine Company Records, in the hope of having him produce the album. Morgan proceeded to do one better, putting together an incredible band of top-flight New York musicians for the recording sessions—Jonathan Ellinghaus on drums, John Turner on bass, Melissa Giges on backing vocals, and even providing Wurlitzer, Hammond B-3 organ, and backing vocals himself. Together with Evans playing guitar, Janine’s powerhouse vocals have never been in front of a more solid or sophisticated sound.
The album opens with another award-winning track, “It Should Be Me,” and though this song appeared on Wilson’s 2005 album Save Me From Myself, the similarity ends there. With new songs, a new producer, and a new band, Janine has also found a new kind of confidence. Her voice now shares its usual outspokenness with a more open vulnerability, amplifying the natural sultriness of her delivery.
The opening guitar licks of “Just Kiss Her” make it apparent that this vulnerable side of Janine Wilson hasn’t softened her, a fact mirrored by the directness of her lyrics (‘You keep wasting your time / While I’m standing here / Offering mine / And it’s all right here for you’). The heartache and pain are palpable in her phrasing as she sings “Disappear,” a rock ballad reminiscent of Sheryl Crow, contrasting with the masked denial found in Evans’s “Not For Real” (‘I don’t take anything to heart / I’m just a million and one false starts’).
With the pseudo-title track “Wakin’ Up in Texas,” a new direction starts to appear, blending her bluesy roots with a pop-rock sensibility more akin to Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders. The desperation of her lyrics draws you in as the first half of the album ends, and as the second half begins, the sweetness of the acoustic guitar on “Only One In Love” capitalizes on that closeness, commiserating the loneliness of unrequited love (‘I let you take my hand / Let myself have too much fun / Too bad I’m the only one in love’). The pop-rock angle continues in “Kiss You At Hello,” a shamelessly hopeful song of love at first sight.
Janine sings about the urgent need for green living during today’s hard times (‘When the markets crash and the headlines flash / That there’s no end in sight / You’ve gotta learn to live with less I guess / And make the wrong things right’) in the alt-country-tinged “The Grass Is Always Greener,” followed by an equally passionate plea to not waste an opportunity for love in “Rustin’ In the Rain.” Janine shares the vocal spotlight with Evans on this one, leaving you wanting to hear more of this duo.
Recorded with Blake Morgan at the helm of Engine Company Records’s studio in NYC and at Philadelphia’s Studio 4 with Grammy Award-winner Phil “Butcher Bros.” Nicolo, Wakin’ Up proves to be yet another step in Wilson’s continuing evolution. So how should we feel wakin’ up to this new Janine Wilson? With a newfound confidence behind her eyes, she smiles and answers by quoting from the last song on the album.
“Hey—in the end, ‘It’s just you and me . . . like always.’”
How do you describe your music to people?
The term "Roots Rock" can generate a lot of "what's that?" it seems. I usually follow it up with "Rock." Singer songwriter/Roots Rock is probably more like it. I have so many influences, it's hard to say who I and the band most sound like for comparison's sake. I would say Sheryl Crow meets The Wallflowers and Springsteen with sprinklings of others.
Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
I suppose it was a combination of my Dad's Dixieland and Jazz records and watching musicals with my Mom - not to mention long drives in the car constantly punching the radio buttons and wondering how The Beatles made it so fast from one station to the other that led me down a musical path. No one in my family is particularly musical, but I recently learned that my Great Aunt Veronica (I took her name as my confirmation name - yep, I'm a bad Catholic girl!) played the organ and sang in church so that must have been where I got "it." I also worked as an usher at Vets Memorial Auditorium in Columbus, Ohio, as a teenager and was exposed to everything from Parliament Funkadelic,Tammy Wynette, Springsteen, The Greatful Dead and Frank Zappa. I knew I had to be a part of that scene!
What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
I have a lot of favorites so I lumped them into my perfect day: Waking up early in the morning and baking blueberry muffins for breakfast with some iced tea and hitting up a really big and cheap flea market where I find loads of stuff for practically nothing. Then in the afternoon I find out that, Wow!, this flea market has a Black Crowes and Springsteen concert and they are selling PBR in bottles and vanilla buttercream cupcakes (cake and beer is good!) and I get to be at the front of the stage and then both the Black Crowes and Bruce invite me onstage to sit in. Then I find out that Nathan Fillion is back stage and wants to meet me. Then he asks if I'd like to go to Paris for breakfast the next day. I say, um, yes!
Other than thinking up day dreams like this I do love to (not in any particular order) bake, hang with my friends, write songs and perform, go to thrift stores and flea markets, grow vegetables in my back yard, and strive to be a kick ass singer/songwriter and Martha Stewart, Jr.
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
The biggest challenge is finding time to do the artistic and fun parts of being a musician. Booking, promotion, etc can certainly take up a good portion of your day and making a living as a musician can be a challenge but I would rather do this than just about anything else!
When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
Wanting to be in music seemed to be more of a dream that probably wouldn't come true for so long until I started blindly taking steps to make it a reality. I never would have believed as a teenager that I would have just released my third album, written songs and won awards for doing so. I am ecstatic that this dream came true!
In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
The music community in the DC area is amazing. There is a very rich musical history here which I think a lot of people are unaware of - not to mention all the great musicians here currently. We have several music organizations, an awards ceremony in it's 25th year this coming February and a DC chapter of the Recording Academy. I have made so many friends and contacts which have resulted in fun collaborations, support and encouragement among peers. A very nurturing place to flourish as a musician.
What other artists out there do you love?
My favs are Bruce Springsteen, The Black Crowes, Shelby Lynne, Sheryl Crow, Liz Phair, Adele, Patsy Cline, Elvis Costello, Annie Ross, Bette Midler, especially her early stuff, AC/DC, Allman Brothers, Astrud Gilberto, Dixie Chicks, Tom Jones, Iggy Pop, Mel Torme, Keith Urban, Nick Drake, Sarah Vaughan, The Pretenders, Phoebe Snow, Herb Alpert and so many others!
What does your future hold?
Early next year we are doing a live recording/video taping. I'm learning guitar so hopefully you'll see me soon performing with one and on new songs. SXSW - I love Austin. A trip to France for a family reunion with some gigs here and there as well. More touring, lots of new adventures, much love, peace and baking!