Vixen frontwoman Janet Gardner is on the verge of breaking away from the mothership, leaving the safety of a band that has held her safe for thirty years to embark on a solo career. Of sorts.
Later this month (August 18th to be precise) she releases her debut, self titled ‘solo’ record, and we wouldn’t be the people you think we are here at Sentinel Daily if we didn’t engage Ms. Gardner in spirited conversation about said release, now would we? It’s not quite a full-on solo outing, as you’ll discover later, but for now sit back and enjoy a chat with Janet Gardner…
So, you’ve been doing a fair bit of press for this new record – what’s the impression you’ve got so far from the press? “Everyone that’s heard the record seems really excited about it! So far it’s been going great and we couldn’t be happier or more excited about it”.
Why now? What made you decide that the time was right to put out a solo album? Well, Justin (James) and I just started working together! We got married – we’ve been married about a year – we moved into a house, set up a studio and started working… and things just flowed! It just came out and so we thought ‘this is great! Let’s put it out there!’. We thought of band names, but just decided to call it my solo album even though it’s a partnership”.
It sounds like a very personal album – was it important to you that the lyrics reflected that rather than maybe being a more generic sort of rock record? “Definitely. We have a lot of conversations about life experiences, and things that we felt strongly about, and things that we wanted to say. We wanted to dig a little deeper”.
It’s also a very modern sounding record – it doesn’t sound ‘dated’ in any way at all. Given that probably the first people who come to this record will be long-term Vixen fans, are you worried that that modern edge that the album has might be a bit much for them? Or do you think that they’ll accept it anyway? “Well, we didn’t really put a lot of thought into that because it isn’t a Vixen record… so why do that? When they can go and listen to Vixen any time they like (laughs)… We just did what was natural for us. There is a lot of material on the record with melodic, hooky choruses that I think Vixen fans will appreciate. If they are turned off by some of the more modern elements in it… well… I don’t know (more laughter)! We just did what we felt was right for the song. If we felt a song needed maybe a more interesting or ‘modern’ production technique on it then that’s what we did. But there’s plenty of plain, simple, straightahead rock n’roll on there too!”
At this point Janet’s husband and partner in crime Justin appears, and it would be rudeness incarnate not to get him in on the conversation, so he takes the next question himself… What’s the general process for you in writing a song? Is it the lyrics and or a melody first? Or do you tend to work up the music initially and let the rest follow? “I would say mostly it was the music that came first. I think maybe there were a couple of songs where we had an idea that we wanted to write something about; but for the most part it’s the music that came first”.
Do you reject much? Or did you find that most of what you came up with found a place on the record? “Most of it worked. There’s one song that we decided that, because it didn’t flow as well with the other songs that we’d cut that one off. But everything else gelled together really well”.
Justin steps back and let’s Janet take up the phone again.
It certainly sounds to me like a well put-together record. There really isn’t anything that jars at all, nothing that sounds out of place. “Well, it’s a fairly diverse record, but there is a common thread going through the whole album as far as content and mood is concerned. That other song that Justin was talking about was a little too out of left field to really make sense with the rest of it”.
The record comes out in the middle of this month. Will you be able to do much touring in support? “Yes, we have some dates booked in the States starting at the very beginning of September. That’s an East Coast and a Mid West run. We’re looking at some other dates – I don’t want to say what they are yet as they’re not confirmed. And we’d love to go overseas – we want to come to Australia!””
Everybody says that! It is getting easier to get down here now though. “We were supposed to come a couple of times with Vixen, but I’ve still never been. Justin’s never been – we want to come! Make it happen!”
Well there’s no doubting Sentinel Daily is a very powerful promotional tool – maybe someone reading this will put their hand up and do it! Just to move away from the album for a moment – I remember seeing you in around 1990 at The Milton Keynes Bowl in England supporting Bon Jovi and Europe. “Holy cow! That was the biggest gig we ever played!”
Well, I was in the crowd somewhere! Could you have foreseen then that you’d still be in the business nearly thirty years later? Or were you very much a one day at a time kind of person? “I never really thought too much about it! I’m certainly glad to be here and glad to be doing what I’m doing, but no, I probably didn’t think so. I’d have probably thought ‘oh man I’ll be way too old by then!’
But the voice doesn’t sound too old on this new record- how do you keep it in shape? What tricks have you developed over the years to keep it going? “Well, we haven’t done the extensive touring we used to. Back in the day we did two hundred shows a year. Back then the big challenge was to try and take care of yourself and to get enough sleep. I don’t know what would happen if we tried to do 200 dates a year now! Maybe we’ll get the chance to find out! Wouldn’t that be nice?”
It certainly would. Promoters – get to work!