TBA's "5 in 5" Interview with Janis Ian

1) What does having your own label, Rude Girl Records, mean to you?

JI: A strange blend of headaches and autonomy. The real difficulty isn't having your own label - anyone can call themselves a record company, even if they never release anything. The real difficulty is distribution, and the music business is changing so quickly that it's impossible to know which way to jump.

Add to that my sense of responsibility - I actually pay people to make sure royalties and statements go to the producers, writers, and publishers, along with checks! - and you've got a real time consumer.

However, no one can change my cover art behind my back any more, or insist on a different title for the album. Not to mention that I can record what I like, when I like, with whom I like.

I pay a price for having left Sony, or rather, I pay prices. The lack of clout, for instance - Sony could entice Giorgio Moroder into working with me, whereas I couldn't. The lack of a cohesive infrastructure I can use to better my own standing. Lack of far-reaching promotional tools. Most of all, lack of funds.

But all that's really beside the point. I often put it this way - if you want a global career - if you want huge success - if you want nationwide or worldwide recognition - you have to be with a major. If you want to do exactly what you want to do, the way you want to do it, go with an independent.

2) What were your years in Philadelphia like? Highlights of the city?

JI: They were wonderful in many respects, dreadful in others. I came of age in Philadelphia, always a tumultuous process. I made lifelong friends and had experiences that affect me to this day. I was also very young, and real idiot.

Highlights of the city? Hm. The Rodin Museum for sure. The parks. Rittenhouse Square. 30th Street Station. Chinatown. Oh Lord, I could go on and on.

3) What's your favorite way to listen to music at home? Is it vinyl or bust? Can you name three musicians who have your attention at the moment? Last concert you attended? (We realize it's more than one question, but you are Janis Ian, and we are trying to stick to our format.)

JI: Nice try. Didn't work...


3a) I don't listen to much music at home, truth be told. I have no auditory closure, so it's completely distracting to me. I listen a lot in the car though.

3b) When I do listen, I listen on a small set of Klipsch computer speakers with a subwoofer. Since I'm mostly listening through the computer, it works fine. I have a set of vintage JBL 100's and a set of Mackie studio monitors that aren't even hooked up.

Remember, I do this for a living. When I want serious audio quality,

I go to a mastering room.


3c) I love vinyl, and have a ton of it in storage. There you go.

Someday, when I retire "Janis Ian" and move to a much smaller place without an office or merchandise room or equipment area or wardrobe area or makeup area or office, I'll set up a turntable again in the living room, which will no longer be filled with gear.

3d) I'm loving the soundtrack to Slumdog Millionaire. My webmaster insists I should listen to DeVotchKa. And of course, there's always http://www.belindabedekovic.com/

3e) Celine Dion here at the Sommet Center. No, wait, I'm wrong. God, I've gone to more concerts this month... First was Yo-Yo Ma and Joseph Gramley at the Schimmerhorn Symphony building - fabulous new structure, by the way. They were unbelievable. Gramley stole the show, with Ma's complete support. Then Celine Dion. Then David Koz at the symphony, with my friend Monica Mancini as special guest. Had a great meal with the two of them and Gregg Field the night before.

4) Guilty pleasure(s)?

JI: I'm too old to waste time on guilt. No, really. My parents weren't big on it either, so I didn't inherit much of a sense of it. The only time I feel guilty is when I knowingly do something wrong, or mean. Sometimes there's a good reason for it, but it doesn't make me feel any better.

I will tell you that I put on 20 pounds of cortisone weight from my two surgeries last year, and when I'm done taking it off I may eat half a wheel of Brie.

5) Create your own question. (It's a chance to ask and answer a question you've wished an interviewer would ask). Alternatively, plug away...  you published your autobiography entitled Society's Child, and released Best of Janis Ian: The Autobiography Collection in 2008, what's the feeling now that "it" is out there?

JI: Oh, geez, I hate being asked to answer my own question.


You know, I wish people knew how many mistakes people like me make. From the outside, it all looks so well-planned and smartly thought out. From the inside, it's just a mess. I guess I'd refer people to my website at www.janisian.com, and tell them that in addition to the free MP3's, there are a ton of free articles. Look for the one titled Monumental Mistakes.

You'll know it all, then...

We'd like to thank Janis Ian for participating in one of our "5 in 5" interviews. I have seen Janis perform live many times, and her current tour, in support of "Best of Janis Ian: The Autobiography Collection," is absolutely incredible. I caught her on the East Coast in late 2008.  She'll be in the Midwest and back to the East Coast starting in March. If you are looking for an amazing concert experience (and it is an experience, full of wonderful story telling, and fan favorites), go see Janis Ian live! If you want a great collection of songs, from one of our most talented songwriters, purchase the new album. Searching for a solid read, that will make you think, smile, feel a sense of shock, and it is all true: check out Janis' autobiography, "Society's Child."

Visit Janis Ian for much more information!

-JL for The Buzz About

Comments (0)