Exclusive interview by DJ Tito Pulpo
Born and raised in Garfield, NJ, Janice Robinson was drawn to music at an early age. As the daughter of a Baptist preacher, her vocals were nurtured and grew during many hours of worship in church, but she was unable to truly exercise her love of music until reaching high school.
Her attendance at Adelphi University gave her the first real environment in which to exercise her love of acting; she majored in theatre but also spent many hours truly expressing her other loves of music…composition and writing. During her college years, a meeting with a family friend landed her a coveted spot as a back-up singer for Rick Wes during the sold-out world Hangin’ Tough tour headlined by 1980’s teen-pop royalty. After leaving Adelphi she continued to pursue her love of singing, performing with various bands from 1989 to 1995 and it was during this time she was able to experience the true world of touring – the strains, the successes and the failures. Janice was discovered by legendary producer Niles Rodgers (Chic) and singer Carole Davis and became Davis’s choreographer during the late 1980’s. Months after the tour, Janice nabbed the lead singer role of the Euro-dance/pop group Snap! Who ultimately taped her first TV performance ever with the #1 international hit “The Power” on “Soul Train.” It was at this stage that she gained a wealth of contacts on an international level. One such contact was Joe Vannelli, who would collaborate with her on some of her first songs, “Children” and “Sweetest Day of May.” Janice’s major breakthrough came we she gained worldwide success in 1994 with the Italian based House group Livin’ Joy when her track, [I’m a] “Dreamer” hit the number 1 slot in the UK as well as the top 10 in many other European countries, as their lead singer before going solo in 1999. Labeled as a House Classic, it is still played to this very day to rapturous responses around the globe.
Returning to the US, Janice once again took up writing and joined forces with the likes of Wyclef Jean, Taylor Dane, Soul Solution. She is currently producing and performing with house music legend David Morales (DEF MIX Records). Her successful projects lured her back once again to performing and she was soon signed up by giants Warner Brothers Records and released her first album, “The Color Within Me”, with them in 1999. The album showcased Janice’s unique vocal style and depth, which crossed her soulful/RnB style heavily with deep rock influences, truly demonstrating her vocal talents. In 2000, Janice performed on the American fantasy drama Charmed and also toured the US as an opening act for the American leg of Tina Turner’s World Tour. Currently residing in Florida, Janice is now under the guidance of her new manager the legendary A&R Hosh Gureli who has been instrumental in staging her comeback to dance music as an artist. Gureli’s A&R direction at Arista Records garnered global success for the world’s top selling albums including Whitney Houston’s “The Bodyguard”, Ace of Base’s “The Sign” and Toni Braxton’s “Secrets” and was the Program Director (at KMEL San Francisco) who exclusively broke the first hit radio records for Paula Abdul, Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men. Janice has also collaborated with top European deejays/producers John Dalhback, Rune Rk and Wolfgang Gartner. Throughout her 20-plus years in the music industry, Ms. Robinson’s career has come full circle as a top-charting singer and songwriter. She is a devoted mother who cherishes her family and to this day, is still an internationally known music artist who is very influential in today’s Euro-dance sound.
Good afternoon Janice. Thank you very much for agreeing to talk to the BG Life readers. We are honoured!
BG: You’ve built yourself a pretty solid reputation in the soulful house/ R&B genres as well as rock. I have to ask which you prefer singing to ?
JR: : I actually don’t have a preference, my gift is from God and what I prefer is always delivering the message and truthful emotions in the vocal delivery. Depending on the song, I will sing it in the emotional format and my voice will just adapt to that style. I guess I have always been a chameleon. It’s a blessing and a curse, because in music industry they want to categorise you and I am rock, pop, dance, soul, R&B, and probably jazz if I tried LOL!! But seriously, I am purely about the message and the emotion and what the people are going to feel when they hear me sing. That’s it.
BG: “Dreamer” was an absolutely HUGE success for you and Livin Joy. Did you expect that kind of success while writing it?
JR: Absolutely not!!! I had no idea what I had written, I had no idea it would become this massive global song and I was lost for words. I was so young and was really doing someone that I cared about a favour. He was a DJ friend of my boyfriend at the time. He had a vision of this whole thing. His name was Gian Luca, from Mestre, Italy. He was a really nice guy. He and I sat in his little car playing songs that were popular at the time and he would tell me, “Janice I want to do a song that sounds big like this”, and I was like “okay, I will write you something, don’t worry.” I wrote “Dreamer” out of kindness because I wanted to make my friend happy. Unfortunately, he died of stomach cancer and never saw all of the success of his vision. Gian Luca does not get any recognition for putting it all together. I will always speak the truth. As you can see my journey has been blessed without staying as Livin Joy, that for me is just a beautiful memory.
BG. What’s your favourite colour?
JR: My favourite colour is White. I love how I feel when I wear it, my spirit feels pure and clean. I feel the presence of God deeply. I feel like all the difficult things I have been through have just been washed away. I feel clean of all the dirty things that come at us constantly in life and feel unaffected by it. You know my ancestors suffered greatly, and I can feel my angels, so when I wear white I am representing all my ancestors who died for me to be free.
BG: I’ve. not attended any of your live performances but seen videos of you on the internet – Amazing heartfelt performances. What’s your most memorable performance? Where and why?
JR: I have so many performances that have really been amazing, it’s kind of hard to narrow it down to one, but I guess I will have to say the night I performed “Dreamer” at the ROXY in NYC. Junior Vasquez was the DJ and that night was as EPIC as it gets. Those gay boys showed me a level of love that to this day, I think it made me understand my place in dance music history. That night those gay men gave me a reaction that went through my whole body and it created a fire in me that has never gone out. The gay community ignited my stage presence, and that is why I feel like God gave me this gift and they are the ones who have received it the most so deeply.
BG: What is your biggest passion?
JR: My biggest passion is my daughters. I am deeply passionate about my daughters, I live for them and everything I do is for them. Before my daughters, my first passion was writing songs, but once they were born, my passion became all about them. I can spend every minute of every day with them. When I am with my kids, I am the happiest. They are the loves of my life.
BG: What is your worst fear?
JR: My worst fear is having bad health in my old-age like my parents. That is why I exercise and eat extra healthy. I am determined to live the most healthy life I can, and grow old healthy. My parents health issues really made me see how eating healthy and exercising is crucial. My parents were from a different generation than me so they were raised differently and by the time came for them to change, it was too late as they were diagnosed with all types of health problems which eventually left me and my sisters as their care taker. I was really young at the time. Most people have to take care of their parents when they are their care takers. I was really young at the time. Most people have to take care of their parents when they are in their late 40s and 50s, but my parent’s health declined right in the middle of my career. I was on tour, opening up for Tina Turner when my mother was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure, the same thing Natalie Cole just died from, so that ended up being a long journey in and out of hospitals for 15 years. And then my father was diagnosed with kidney failure and in the end he died from bone cancer. This took me out of the spotlight for over a decade. I did the right thing, I took care of my parents and I became a mom at the same time my parents’ health failed, so I was basically the caretaker. Fifteen straight years of looking after other people, I stopped taking care of myself and my dreams. I totally forgot I even had a career and fans that loved me.
BG: Other than the music industry can you tell us about any other projects are you involved in at the moment?
JR: Well, I am very involved in mentoring other artist and songwriters. I have several young artists that are in the beginning stages of their career that I spend a lot of time talking to and being there for them when they are dealing with very frustrating situations. I help them stay focused and grounded and remind them that their talent is a gift from God and not to let the frustrating part of the business ever mess with how they create music, to always allow their creative angels to be present when they are creating music… that is strong and powerful. This advice I give to all artist and songwriters. You are given this gift to make a difference and it holds a lot of power, so make sure you are being conscious about everything you create. Create from a real place. Those are the songs that have the most affect on people. I also sing at hospitals for sick children and go to inner-city schools for Career Day, teaching kids about my career as a singer/songwriter. My biggest project at the moment, is that I have started writing a book about my journey through music and life. I will shoot a documentary in Italy this summer as I am writing it.
BG: Having been in the music industry for some years you must have seen some changes. Do you feel dance music has progressed from an insider’s point of view, with regard to new and upcoming talent on the horizon?
JR: The music industry is foreign to me now. The dance music industry has had a complete makeover. There are a lot of things I absolutely love about it and there are things that make my stomach hurt. You see Dance is a community for me, it always has been and it should feel like a place where people come to release their pain and escape from all their heartache and struggles of their daily life. Dancing is a spiritual movement and what saddens me the most is that there is a style of dance music that is spiritually bankrupt and just filled with repetitive noise and dark satanic sounds. Dance and movement is as spiritual as it gets and if you are creating dance music it should feel like an explosive emotion of happiness of joyous beats. That’s Dance music. There is a darkness hovering over the spirit of dance music that worries me, because there is a generation missing out on the spiritual experience of what Dance music is and all they are feeling is the drugs and jumping up and down. That’s not Dance music. Dance music is when the rhythms, the voice and the lyrics all come together and take you, your body and your soul on a journey where you find yourself moving to the rhythm. It’s a romance between your body and the beat. Dance music should feel like a passionate kiss on the dance floor making you tingle from the inside. There are so many styles of Dance and there are so many DJ’s, but the reality is, the DJ & the DIVA have a responsibility to the people on the dance floor and I take this responsibility seriously. I am a dance artist in every sense. I am an artist in every sense.
BG. Favourite holiday destination? Visited or not
JR: I love Venice, Italy. It is a magical place for me. I remember being taken there as a first date with my then Italian boyfriend, twenty four years ago and I just loved it.
BG. Your current release is your single “There Must Be Love” produced with David Morales. How are you finding its current success and what was your inspiration behind writing this latest musical gem?
JR: The success of “There Must Be Love” is surreal because I had taken some time off to focus on raising my daughters. My Mom had passed away and my father was gone and I was kind of alone in the world. Life changes once your parents pass away – it just does. I had moved to Florida with my kids to escape living near an abusive person, so I chose the Sunshine State just to feel sunlight and joy for my kids and me. I arrived there in August of 2013, then my Mom passed away in November of 2013, so I really wasn’t writing much, I was just grieving and trying to take care of myself and my kids. I was really just trying to feel alive. So when David called me on Christmas Eve of 2014 and said to me “I have something special for you, it’s a track and I know it’s for you”, I was like “okay send it over.” He began to talk about Frankie Knuckles, and we both spoke about how we were dealing with the death of our loved ones, my Mom and Dad, his nephew and Frankie. We both had been through a lot and he said to me “I want you to preach over this track”, and I was like “What?” He just said “Preach, bring the word.” David had never spoken to me like that. You could tell we had both gone through life changing experiences and it was going to show through our music. The moment I heard the music, the words just began to come to me. I was lying in bed playing the music over and over again and I began crying as I wrote each line. I cried through the whole song. It felt like God was giving me the words and I was allowing him to just use my body as a vessel for this very powerful message. I had never written something so profound before. I have written a lot of songs but this one was really different. I recorded it on my iPhone and sent it to David a few days later and his reaction after he heard my iPhone recording was incredible. He was in Japan and we both got emotional on the phone in the moment. It was just us and our song in that sacred moment that I will never forget. So the inspiration came from the hard times of my life and all that I had faced and all that David had faced. We still felt Love for life, for music, for our fans and for our family. No matter how many things may hurt you in life, Love is always there, God is always there, he will never leave you. So staying connected to the source is the way.
BG: David Morales (DEF MIX RECORDS) is a legend in his own right and you’re currently collaborating on a few projects. What’s it like working with him?
JR: Working with David Morales is like working with a big brother. He pushes me to be the best I can be. He believes in me and gives me pep talks when I am feeling down. I felt really forgotten by the music industry and David was the only one in dance music who really remembered me and to be remembered by someone at that level is incredible. All those other DJs, none of them called me or thought about me, but David did. And for that I am grateful and deeply loyal to him. It’s an honour to work with him. He has such an incredible body of work. And to now be a part of his journey, it’s really special to me. To be associated with him it’s bigger than big. I am lost for words half of the time. It’s surreal.
BG: You’ve decided to have a very special dinner party. Which three people (famous or otherwise, dead or alive) would you most like to invite and why?
JR: The first person I would invite would be Dr. Martin Luther King because I would want to really pick his brain about ways I could do more to help bring his dream to reality. I keep thinking about the fact that the civil rights movement happened before I was born, but knowing that Black people had just earned the right to vote a few years before my birth is a scary thought. I have always wanted to make a difference, so he would be the first person I would invite. The second person I would invite would be Maya Angelou because she is a fountain of wisdom, beauty and love. Her poetry was always written from a divine Godly place and I always felt this connection with her. I cried when she passed, as she always felt like a spiritual mom in my head. The third person I would invite would be Whitney Houston. She grew up singing in a Baptist church like me in New Jersey and I feel like our stories and our rise in careers were very similar. She was a few years older than me but I feel like I could have been a really good friend to her. I feel like I could have been a person who inspired her to stay clear of drugs and I think I could of helped her keep her faith. You see, she knew God and she knew God well. She had the gift and anointing on her. But there were some serious demons that had a hold of her that just didn’t let her go. I think about her all the time. I think about the songs I wrote for her and how they make me feel so emotional when I play them today. She is a special spirit, like really special. A very anointed voice, a gift from God, so powerful. It’s been four years and yeah, I would want Whitney at my dinner table. Those are my three guests.
BG: What’s your biggest personal success?
JR: My biggest personal success is being a great mom to my two daughters. Providing them with a beautiful and loving home in a beautiful community where they attend very good schools. They have very good activities in their lives. That is by far my greatest personal success. Doing this on my own has taken a lot of courage, a lot of prayer and faith.
BG: What’s your biggest life lesson learnt?
JR: Never give up on yourself. Always find the love for you, because if you don’t love yourself, then you can’t expect others to love you. Knowing that God loves you and that you love yourself are the two most important loves ever after, any other love is just an added blessing. Love yourself, really love yourself and your life will feel harmonious.
BG: Before we go do you have any words of wisdom about general life for the BG Life readers?
JR: I would tell them to really have love, purpose, and meaning in your life. Know what your purpose is and build a relationship with God. I am not saying you have to run up in church and start shouting, I am just saying to have a daily conversation with him and be grateful for all he has done. Be grateful from the moment you wake up in the morning, because life goes by in the blink of an eye and you want the dash between your birthday and death date to really mean something. I know I do. I want people to know that LOVE is LOVE and it is crucial that we fill our lives with LOVE.
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