Contributor’s Note: As the former lead vocalist of the legendary female rock band Vixen, Janet Gardner’s powerful vocals propelled Vixen to the top of the Billboard charts with crossover hits “Edge of a Broken Heart” and “Cryin’” and AOR rockers “How Much Love” and “Love is a Killer.” Vixen toured extensively, grinding out 200 shows per year, opening for the likes of Deep Purple, Ozzy Osbourne, The Scorpions, Kiss, and Bon Jovi.
Teaming up with guitarist/songwriter/producer Justin James (who has worked with members of Staind, Collective Soul, Tyketto), Gardner ventured into the solo realm to unleash a new side of her musical creativity. Together, Janet and Justin penned a collection of emotionally charged songs with gritty grooves, infectious hooks, and inspired lyrics that merge hard rock influences from the last four decades.
The power duo inked a deal with Pavement Entertainment in early 2017. On August 18, 2017, Janet released her debut self-titled solo album worldwide. The album received well by fans and critics alike. Janet and Justin toured heavily afterward around the US and UK.
Now, duo is back with their sophmore solo album, Your Place In The Sun, which is set for a global release on May 31, 2019, via Pavement Entertainment. A perfect follow-up to the self-titled debut, this new release combines modern rock elements with the classic sound Janet has become known for in her decades of female fronted and influential fury. She also continues to push the boundaries and tread new waters.
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Mark Madness :Good afternoon again Janet How are you?
Janet Gardner: Good. Really good. We’re having some beautiful time and we just did the video. We’re working on another one. Everything’s great.
Mark Madness: So you’ve been busy since we last talked a couple of years ago. You’ve had two albums, toured the UK and also left Vixen, So you have been keeping pretty busy.
Janet Gardner: Yes. I have a lot of things happening.
Mark Madness: Are you still working on your full time job as well?
Janet Gardner: Well, I’m pretty much working all the time, but yeah everything is going well.
Mark Madness: Do you find this new album is more representative of who you are as an artist rather than the first one?
Janet Gardner: They’re both pretty representative of different things that I liked doing. Yup. This one’s probably a little bit more kind of what you would expect. Probably a little more what I’m kind of known for. Yeah. Well you know, it’s all, it’s all inside me. It’s just a matter of, you know, when Justin and I sit down, kind of what, what comes out where we feel like at the moment. Yeah. It’s great to have that freedom to just kind of do what we’re feeling at that time.
Mark Madness: I meant more that generally with an artist when they first bring out the solo album, they’re finding their feet. Finding their musical feet in terms of what they want to do and obviously you’re comfortable with that now . So on the second you basically following your own musical vision that you have already established and identified .
Janet Gardner: Definitely. You know, we, we, yeah, definitely wouldn’t. When Justin and I write together, there’s definitely a thing that just sort of happens no matter what is, it’s like a chemistry between us that sort of drives it.
Mark Madness: Do you think, I think it’s easier or more difficult working with somebody that you related to you live with,and you have an relationship with? Is that not more difficult? Yes. ?
Janet Gardner: No, it’s easier for sure. Um, I think, you know, we were afraid at first that it might drive a wedge between us. We’d have arguments and it would y’all be uncomfortable. But the opposite happened. We became so comfortable and I think we’re both very good at sort of putting away our ego when we’re working and whose ever idea is truly the best. We try to go with that. We try to find that and not have that well, you know, my, my opinion is more important than yours kind of thing. It never feels like that. It’s always whatever is going to work the best for the song. Yeah.
Mark Madness: Was there other musicians involved in putting this album together? It wasn’t just solely created with the two of you?
Janet Gardner: It was just the two of us again. Yep. We, we keep talking about, you know, bringing the other two guys in. Ritu Rivera and Anthony G our drummer and bass player and we’re going to try to do that for the next album. Yeah. It’s hard to get everybody together cause we don’t all live in the same place.
Mark Madness: I was actually surprised by the quality of the songwriting on the release . It makes me wonder why you actually ever needed outside songwriters on those early Vixen releases?
Janet Gardner: Yeah. I think that we were not really given enough time and enough sort of encouragement to develop our own songwriting. I think it was kind of a quick and easy fix to have, you know, big established songwriters. Yeah. The radio friendly material. And I think it was the easy way for them to get, Oh, this will get played on the radio. Whereas I think, you know, some of the songs on, on Rev It up actually that, you know, written by band members I think are equally great. I think they’re very, very good quality songs. So yeah, a tough spot to be in because we wanted to kind of say, hey wait, let’s give us a little more time to, to write a few more songs that are radio friendly or that are in the vein that you’re looking for. Yeah. And there just wasn’t a lot of time. We’ve kind of had to jump in on and get it done. So yeah, it was kind of unfortunate, but definitely on rev it up. We, we definitely took more time and wrote some great songs.
Mark Madness: Yeah. Of course. You’ve moved on from Vixen as a band now .What led to that decision to finally leave Vixen? Did you find that the band had run its course? Or did you just want to just focus on your own solo work?
Janet Gardner: Yeah, I feel really grateful that in my life now I’ve carved out a place for music because I missed it so much when I wasn’t doing it. And there was, there was a big part of me missing. So having said that, all the other stuff in my life still exists. Yeah. So I only have so much head space and so much time I can devote to, even though I would love to be a full time singer, musician. Yeah. You know, how many times do you get bit in the ass by that? Yeah. And then all of a sudden your bank account, it’s like, whoa. So I’m trying to balance everything and that’s what led me to the decision with Dixon because last year was insane, you know? And I, it was like, I can’t keep going at this pace. I have to do something a little bit differently or I’m going to just keel over. Yeah. You know, I have to allow, it was the kind of thing where you, if you spread yourself too thin, you’re no good to anybody. So given my family situation between, between the two of us, Justin, I have three kids. Yeah. To spend time with their all three adolescents now. Yeah. So there’s a lot of stormy stuff.
Yeah. They’re in desperate need of guidance, you know, they just dont need diapers changed and things like that anymore. But you got to keep an eye on them and you got to make sure that you’re there for them when they need to talk, when they need to vent Yeah. Yeah. And I prepped my really short ending family and just being exhausted. Yeah. So something had o change and given the Justin and I get to do music together. Yeah. It’s ideal So yeah, it was time to just, you know, let them carry on and let them do what they wanted to do. Because I also, there were things that I would have to say no to. And I hate restricting anyone. Yeah. I hate going, no, I can’t go away for three months. I can’t do that. So, you know, they can do what they want and need to do. And, and I came to have my music my way that fits into my schedule and, and that’s, that’s really what it boils down to.
Mark Madness What about your relationship with the record label these days? Obviously the relationship between an artist and a record company has dramatically changed since you first started out. I just wonder what sort of input a label has these days in terms of maybe tour support You also mentioned there are a couple of videos to promote the album-obviously all that adds up in terms of costs.
Janet Gardner: Well, yeah, I, it’s, it’s really more of a partnership. ,They really don’t have that much input in what we do. They do, they’ll give input and say things here and there about, you know, what they think that they can contribute. Um, but for the most part, we kind of do what we do and they’re really excited about this album. And so we decided to go with them again. Yeah. They’ve been really, really wonderful.
Mark Madness: I mean I know, for your first album you did some dates in the UK. I’ve talked to a few artists and things like that are pretty expensive with the current financial climate.
Janet: Yeah. We don’t, we don’t get anything in the way of tour support or anything because it really, it’s not like in the old days where you, you tour to support your, your recorded work. It’s the opposite. Yeah. You do your new music so you can get out there and play it. It’s, Eh, it’s kind of reversed. Cause you know, so many people are just streaming things and, and getting things for free or watching it on YouTube. Why buy it when, you know, why buy the cow when the milk is for free? Yeah. So it’s kind of different in that way that the good thing is that most of our fan show their support in some way.
Yeah. They’ll buy a t-shirt, they’ll buy a concert ticket, they’ll buy a VIP pass, they’ll do something to, to support you. And that’s great because without that, you know, we couldn’t keep doing it because let’s face it, it’s expensive to get hotel rooms and lights and, and all that stuff. It all costs money and doing what you love. I’m not expecting to get rich, but there’s only so much we can do without receiving some financial support somewhere. Yeah. So fans are really great with that. They’ll buy the special bundle or do something to sort of help support you and it’s, it’s great.
Mark Madness: What about in terms of actually going out then and touring ? I personally feel that songs can only take on a life of their own when they are played live. Do you already have tour dates lined up?
Janet: We do. We have, some days in the states over the summer and we got a new agent and he’s looking for some sort of tour, more of a tour kind of thing in the fall, right in the summer , we’re doing a west coast run. We’re doing an east coast, we’re doing the Midwest here in this day. And then we’ll see what pops up from there. You know, we’re always looking for a good package to get on or that’s what we’re hoping for for the fall.
Mark Madness:Do you think it can be possible then to have a return to the UK, maybe play some shows in Europe, obviously finances has got to be taken into consideration.
Janet : We would love to, we had so much fun on our UK do our last time. We really want to do that again and pop over to Europe. Last year we spent a lot of time in the festivals and stuff in Europe and it just, it made me realize, oh my God, I have to, we have to get Planet Janet over there too. So we’ll be looking at that too. But I don’t think that’s going to happen until probably next year. We’re going to be pretty busy in the states and do that
And it’s, you know when you’re talking about the currency exchange and things, those all add costs I mean, we, last year we got dinged on a couple of flights, just oh my gosh. They were so expensive during sort of the European vacation time in July and August. Yeah. Holy Cow. A cost a lot of money to get us over there. So yeah, we’ll probably try to do it a little bit off season, maybe in the spring or fall of next year.
Mark Madness: Yeah. So how did the shows go? I mean unfortunately I was unable to attend the Manchester show due to work commitments ,but did you get good turnout at those shows? Did you get good feedback?
Janet: Yeah, it was hit or miss the one show that you’ve talked about, the Manchester one that was not very good. Right? I don’t think it wasn’t promoted well or something went awry and there weren’t a lot of people there, but um, all of the other ones were good.
Mark Madness: You mentioned just in passing a couple of videos, what, what songs are you picking to do videos for this album?
Janet: Well we just did last weekend or the weekend before we did one for “Your Place In The Sun”. That is the title track from the album. Yeah. And that’s a high energy, you know, rocker. And right now we’re working on one for another song. So a totally different vibe. Totally different. So I’m editing and editing at this morning and I find myself going, Oh my God, I’ve gone editing crazy. The shots would be way too fast for this cause we just finished one. So it’s getting there though.
Mark Madness:Future plans for the year?Then the festivals in summer. You mentioned some dates.
Jane: Yeah, we’re playing, we’re doing west coast, we’re doing the Whiskey in Hollywood. We’re doing the Anaheim House Of Blues, then probably hit Vegas on that run. And we’re doing Midwest. We’re doing Ohio. We’ll probably do Illinois and Wisconsin. We’ll do East Coast for sure. We’ve got a Connecticut show lined up and then we’ll do a couple more, maybe Pennsylvania and jersey, something like that. Well, we don’t know, but we’re definitely going to be doing something. We’re, our agent is working for like a package tour or something. Yeah. And then we’ll see what happens said by the end of the year or how we’re feeling. Maybe record some more or place more. I’m not sure. We’ll have to kind of just see when we, when we get closer.
Mark Madness: How do you personally feel these days? Do you feel you’re in an ideal situation? Regarding your work life balance do you feel in a good place rather than the high pressure intensive touring that was your life previously for so many years .
Janet: Yes. I really do everything. It’s all about balance. Yeah. Actually in this point in my life, it’s, you know, you needed time for that time for that and everything is kind of getting the attention it needs and I’m feeling healthy and rested. I actually feel like I can take care of myself for a change. So yeah, it’s very, very good. I feel really good right now.
Mark Madness: That’s brilliant. Thank you very much for chatting. I’ve been fortunate enough to be sent the album stream over in advance of the official release- it’s a fantastic album and I was very impressed with it. As I indicated earlier, the quality of the songwriting is very impressive.
Janet: Oh, thank you so much.
Mark Madness: I love it. Might actually have to go look into ordering myself a copy . Do you have like pre-orders already available? Do you have a link for those?
Janet: Yeah, there is. well the pre-orders are actually going out today, right. And album comes out, you know, this week on Fridays. So I’m, the pre-order thing is pretty much, oh, I mean you can pre-order it on Amazon and on I-tunes, but you won’t get it until Friday. But the people who pre-ordered the bundle yeah. From Pavement, they’ll probably receive them today.
Mark Madness: I’ll go get my order and then thank you very much for chatting again to me.
Janet: Oh really nice talking to you. I hope we get over to the UK so we can see ya.
Mark Madness: Yeah, that’d be brilliant. Thank you very much again. Have a good day.
Janet : You too.Cheers .Bye.
And there you have it! Janet Gardner has several gigs coming up in support of “Your Place In The Sun” via Pavement Entertainment. Check out the gig dates below:
Fri. 7/12- The Venue in Denver, Colorado
Fri. 7/26- House of Blues in Anaheim, California
Sun. 7/28- Whisky A Go-Go in West Hollywood, California
Sat. 8/17- Courtyard Lounge in Englewood, Ohio
For tickets and further information on any of the gigs listed above, click here.
Fans can find JANET GARDNER at the following locations: