Nine Songs: Janice
Janice’s songs are always soulful, always tell a story but most importantly, always come from her heart.
From her debut single “Don’t Need To” to last years’ "Answer" Janice’s music marries her astonishing singing with touchingly honest songwriting. Accordingly, her favourite songs and artists are also those that harness the emotional power of music.
Like several Swedish artists Janice Kavander was part of Stockholm’s Tensta Gospel Choir, synonymous with the success of Lykke Li, Seinabo Sey and one of Kavanader’s closest friends and confidant Sabina Ddumba. Whilst there she discovered why music inspired her, why it didn’t and how inspiration is a fluid process, as we find out about in her relationship with the changing sounds of Alicia Keys.
As a lifelong music fan, Janice has learnt to embrace the vulnerability, exposure and freedom that comes with sharing her feelings and experiences in her songs. Whether through her own music or the artists she’s listening to, Janice seeks connection and communality in a song, a way in that the listener can relate and get onto the same level as the songwriter.
As well as a feeling of connection Janice explains that she also loves star quality and a commanding voice in an artist. ‘I always come back to these soulful, huge singers that pour their heart out for everyone to hear, that’s very strong and it inspires me to do the same. I feel if they can touch people like that, I can. That’s what I want to do.’
“This is a song that I always come back to, whether that’s just listening to music, finding inspiration or getting my creative process going. The beat is there throughout the whole song, which I love, and her voice bounces through the melodies, which is something I wanted to put in my music as well.
“Solange is a huge inspiration musically, but ‘Losing You’ specifically is very special because it was one of the first songs I’d heard by her. It was the song that made me fall in love with her music, what she did and what she does. I’d say it’s important to me in a lot of ways - artistically and musically - but emotionally too, I connect with the song in a special way.
“I first heard it not long after it was released, I was in high school and I listened to it every day for quite some time and I still do for some periods. It’s one of her songs where she’s really direct lyrically, which is quite hard to get in some ways. I think her lyrics can be hard to translate but 'Losing You' is quite simple, it is what it is and that’s what I like about it. It’s quite similar to what I do, what I want to say and how I want to say it when I write music.”
“I discovered Banks quite late, in 2014 or something. I’d just started studying at a school where we got to go through lots of old music, like old rock from the 50s’ and then through the 60s’, 70s’, 80s’ and so on. I’d recently started listening to Banks and I’d always thought she was quite raw and sort of hard to get, with an edge to it all, but then I heard ‘Under The Table’ and I connected with the song on the first listen. I started crying the first time I heard it because it was so beautiful, so pure and so honest. I didn’t know she had that side or that she showed it.
“Right after that I discovered other songs of hers - ‘Someone New’ and ‘Change’- which are also so honest and revealing that she made me want to connect with others in the same way she’d connected with me. ‘Under The Table’ has been a really important song emotionally and artistically, as I really want people to feel like that when they listen to my music and when I’m writing about what I want to say.
“She’s telling an honest story about how she feels; how she’s vulnerable but very strong at the same time. It’s so mellow at the beginning and when she bursts into the second chorus, that’s special. Its pure honesty and that’s beautiful.”
“Only Wanna Be With You’ is one of the newest songs I’ve added to my favourites list, but it’s special, because it’s me and my boyfriends’ song - he showed it me and it blew me away. He played it for me right after we got together about two years ago. It’s Samm’s voice and the lyrics, that honest, pure love. It’s a quite corny love song, but it’s adorable and I can’t stop loving it.
“I have a thing for beautiful, beautiful voices; huge voices, they get to me every time and Samm’s did. I connect with the song a lot emotionally and I really feel it.”
“Kendrick Lamar is one of my favourite rappers and I’d say one of my favourite artists at the moment. ‘m.A.A.d City’ has been with me for a few years, I like that it’s very raw and hard, but when the song changes drastically and it goes in that different direction, I like that too. It changes direction, it’s like different songs all in one and Kendrick does that a lot.
“It’s a song that I listen to when I'm feeling a lot. I always go back to it when I have a lot of emotions, when I have a lot on my mind or when I have a lot to do, because you really get the frustration, the anger and the whole package from this song.
“I first heard it when I was in high school, so there was a lot going on - things about school, wanting to sing and explore. I also remember seeing him live for the first time at Way Out West. I’ll never forget it, it was huge, crazy. It was 2013, the second year I was there, it was amazing.”
“The 20/20 Experience album changed my life. When he released it I was so happy, because I’d waited so long for him to release something new and when he dropped that album it was so good. I had a hard time choosing one song from it, but ‘Pusher Love Girl’ is a song that doesn’t have a structure and that’s what I like about the whole album.
“He showed it doesn’t have to be verse, bridge, chorus and that you can do everything with music as long as it’s real and it’s you. I think he really showed and developed a new side of him with it.
“When he came to Sweden and I saw it live I think I cried for the whole concert, it was so good. It was everything, the lighting, the dancers, his backing vocalists and his vocal skills are not that bad either! He’s a huge inspiration in so many ways.”
“Donny Hathaway has one of those voices, where I don’t even know what he’s singing about but he makes me cry. He makes me feel a lot and if I ever doubt myself, or if I’m not feeling that confident in that moment, I often listen to Donny.
“He makes me feel safe in some way, he sings from the heart and ‘A Song For You’ is a special song for me, because I’ve sang it a lot of times as well. I really feel it.
“It was actually one of the songs that I auditioned with after high school, it was a very scary moment, but special. The way he delivers a song, or how he sings the notes and stuff, might have influenced me a little, it’s so powerful.”
“That voice is like no other. Lauryn Hill really fascinates me. I saw her live at Filadelfiakyrkan in Stockholm in 2012 and she’s such a diva, like for real, which I don’t really feel when I listen to her music. So I was quite shocked when I saw how she talked to the staff onstage, her in-ear broke or something, so she was mad! That really fascinated me. I thought she was quite shy, I just got that feeling from her when I listened to her, even though she has the huge voice and the control that she has over it is like no other. And those runs that she does, it’s only Lauryn that call pull off those kinds of runs and nobody could do it but Lauryn.
“’The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ is a huge song because of the melodies. In a way I don’t even need the lyrics, the melodies of that song are enough, if I don’t even need to listen to the lyrics, if I can just listen to the melodies and feel something, it’s something special, something real. Then on top of that you listen to the lyrics and what she actually says and you just cry. She does something very, very special with this song.
“I remember seeing Sister Act 2 for the first time and the scene came on with Lauryn singing 'His Eye Is on the Sparrow' and she’s just out of this world, she’s not even from Earth, that control, that range. I want to do the same.”
“Alicia. I had a really hard time choosing a song of hers, because there are so many that have influenced me, changed me as an artist and also just on an emotional level. I chose ‘A Women’s Worth' because it was at that moment that I felt she really wanted to do what she did and keep it her way. Slightly after that she went a bit more pop, which is okay, but not really why I loved her and why I listened to her. This is one of the tracks that I held on to and listen to. If I ever hear 'Girl On Fire' or whatever on the radio, I put this on or 'I Got You' and that’s Alicia, nothing else.
“She’s one of the artists that’s inspired me because of what she did – because she was a woman and because she was a black woman and she helped me to think that anything was possible. I was little when I first heard her, I was nine or something. That’s a long time ago, but ‘A Woman’s Worth’ is a song that I’ll never stop loving, it’s soulful yet heavy. It’s just such a good song.
“I always get into these periods where I spend hours on YouTube looking at performance videos and just watching things I like. I watched the clip when she sang at Whitney Houston’s funeral and remember thinking that she really had the power to deliver at those times when music is needed, because it’s healing and it’s so nice in that way. That’s what I miss sometimes with her, just Alicia sitting at the piano, singing her heart out.”
“I actually heard this several years before it was released, I heard a demo of it that one of my friends played for me. I jumped off the sofa and just started singing along, I don’t even think I knew who Marlene was back then.
“About a year ago Marlene was DJing with Ji Nilsson at an event at Monki and she played this song. I ran up to her and told her ‘This song is everything, and so much more.’ She said “Like it?’ and I was “No, hell I love it.” She said it would be released eventually and when I knew she was releasing the EP Sweet I checked it immediately. It’s got such a strong hook, you get the happy, uplifting melodies and the lyrics.
“I actually think Marlene is one of the few people who can do that kind of song without it being corny. She has a special sound that’s so good, it’s so vibey and it’s so hers, which is huge and special and so very inspiring for me when I’m writing my music, to have your own thing. ‘Don’t You Worry’ really makes me happy.”