Music is and will always be my life — but I never thought I’d get the chance to make another record.
So says Janey Street, whose career ignited in the 1980s with several hit singles and videos. The years that followed proved anticlimactic professionally, but she never gave up on her commitment to music. That dream drove her as she moved from New York City to L.A. to Nashville, writing music for movies and TV to living on odd jobs to pay the rent.
“I was doing songwriting workshops all over the country, mentoring for the Nashville Songwriters Association, painting houses, giving guitar lessons — whatever,” she says. “I was just trying to survive.”
Then, in an instant, everything changed. Kirk Pasich had just launched Blue Élan Records, with a mission to bring “expertise, perseverance, a long history of working with talent and an environment that fosters creativity on the artist’s terms.” As it happens, he was also a dedicated fan of Street’s music, which inspired him to track her down and make her an offer she dared not refuse.
The roller coaster ride began right after that. Street devoted six weeks to writing new songs. Within the following month, she was back in L.A. for five more weeks, recording the best of them for her first album in more than a decade.
The result is My Side of Paradise, a tour de force collection of songs about heartbreak, loss, love and simply feeling blue or feeling great for no particular reason. All of them capture Street’s gift for transforming her experiences and observations into plain-speaking, honest lyrics that sometimes cross the line into poetry.
“It was like this whole bunch of songs just exploded and flowed out of me,” she continues. “Making the record was magic. And because the label is so cool and progressive, because they trusted me and my songs and my producer Dave Darling, we made a killer record. It has been an amazing time of creative energy and having good folks around me — something I hadn’t felt in a long time.”
My Side of Paradise is a prism, reflecting multiple sides of Street in which listeners can see their own lives reflected. Vivid images come to view, mirroring each other, as complex yet as simple as the stories they illustrate. “I remember playing in a rock ’n’ roll band, living out a dream,” she writes and sings on “Among the Missing.” “We had all these big plans, me and the guitar man … Now I’m just singing for the tip jar, for lonely dancers and crazies hanging at the bar.” Can any of us see those saloon balladeers as we did before, after hearing this song?
Who can’t relate to Street’s portrait of long-ago school days in “Grand Delusion”? “Cartoons, crayons, faded jeans … Barbie dolls and GI Joes. Life as it is in a TV show. Notebooks, grade school: They called it learning. I called it rules.”
Surely you’ve had days where you feel so up, like nothing can go wrong, that you just want to dance. That’s the feeling Street captures, though from an artist’s point of view, on “Scat Like Ella”: “That music makes me want to strut,” she proclaims over a swaggering retro disco beat. “I’m down with it! Turn it up!”
And “At the End of the Day,” the gorgeous piano-and-strings ballad that closes My Side of Paradise, Street, she speaks for all of us who see love as a harbor beckoning after too long at sea: “At the end of the day, things you used to say echo and ring so true,” she sings, her voice both strong and tender. “When the world slows down, I still feel you around. I see life from your point of view.”
Street drew from plenty of history as she wrote these songs: Growing up as a scrappy, talented kid in New York City, a funky Top 20 single (“Under the Clock”); another chart success (“Say Hello to Ronnie”); earning support from legendary record executive Clive Davis and other industry leaders; countless nights opening for the Bee Gees, Melanie, Richie Havens, Odetta and other headliners; a critically acclaimed blues album, The Street Less Traveled; songs picked up by other artists, including Ruth Brown, whose version of “Hangin’ by a Shoestring” was a highlight on her Grammy-nominated album Good Day for the Blues …and also plenty of time having to do whatever she could to make ends meet.
No wonder that love and pain intermingle through My Side of Paradise. But for the first time in too long — really, the first time ever — Street is in a place where she can make the music she wants to make, with support from a label that believes in her as much as she deserves to be.
“Really, I’m pinching myself,” she says, laughing. “The people at Blue Élan are so progressive. Their whole attitude is, ‘Hey, do what you need to do.’ It was like a switch went on for me. After writing for other artists and for film and TV placements for years, it was like all these new Janey Street songs had been just dormant inside of me. These songs are self-expressive, insightful and simply things I can sing the shit out of. Maybe they were always there, even though I was writing all the time. They’re not just radio songs; they’re the way I see the world.”
In the world that lives in her music, we hear our stories as well. That’s the mark of a great writer and singer. That’s Janey Street.
CLIENT : Janey Street
TAGS : Artists