Nashville's a funny town. If you're not mindful, you can take greatness for granted here. Recently I was in Wild Oats, the health food supermarket, and I ran into Janis Ian in the produce department, Kim Richey at the meat counter, and Titans coach Jeff Fisher in the checkout line. And since it's Nashville, everybody's real nice to you, as long as you don't gherm them too bad. So you can take greatness for granted sometimes, because it's right there and it's pretty accessible.
Janis Ian was already a pop star at 15. Okay, once in great while, such a thing happens. But I can't think of another single case where it involved not only an original song, but a truly great song, one that caught the attention of a nation in transition. "Society's Child" is still a great song today, and it's only one of many outstanding and successful songs that Janis has written and recorded. She's had several international number ones, and her songs have been covered by a slew of great artists. All of those landmark achievements are covered very eloquently at the artist's website, which is a visit we highly encourage.
She's very brainy and a fast, extemporaneous conversationalist. She's busy, and comes right to the point. We had talked about doing an interview on and off for a couple of months, after running into each other around town a few times in a row. Things kept getting in the way--vacations, snowstorms, her relentless touring. When finally our opportunity came around and I did a little preliminary research into her career, I was really amazed by all she's done, and all she continues to do.
If you get a chance to see Janis in concert, be sure not to miss it. She's an excellent musician as well as a crack songwriter, and puts on a hell of a good show. She and her soundman, Philip Clark, get into some very cool stuff with the vocals and digital delays and harmonizers, with repeats and singing along with herself, very creative and fun, jamming with your soundman on the fly kind of thing. She's a wicked guitar player, and she'll whip out the wah wah pedal and rain down Hendrix's "Standing Next to a Mountain" or something on your head. She makes "good for a girl" sound as stupid as it is. Investigate some clips from her CD God and the FBI on our Listen page.
Greatness is a precious and admirable quality, in any town. Janis Ian fits the bill, and in many ways. Be sure to check out some of her articles or columns on her site, for instance. I was floored by what she wrote in "The Internet Debacle" and its sequel "Fallout," on the subject of free downloading of music from the internet. All musicians need to check that out, big time. It might open your eyes to some new ideas.
With great pleasure, we bring you our conversation with the multi-talented and much lauded Janis Ian. continue to interview