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Janiva Magness

How would you describe your music?

Rhythm & Blues. Americana. Memphis Soul.

What is your role in your band? In the studio? In business or marketing decisions?

"IN THE BAND: Artist & Band Leader. IN THE STUDIO: Artist, Arranger & Co-Producer BUSINESS & MARKETING: I make the decisions for my business and marketing either on my own or with the Team of folks I have hired to work with me. In my case I have two excellent First Teams (my Band and Alligator Records). I also have a small number of folks I have contracted with to do specific jobs ie: Social Media Marketing, etc.

I usually get a good chuckle to myself when someone asks me ""Are you with the band? What are you.. the singer?"" I just smile and say ""Yes!"" "

Describe your gear.

Sure SM 58 Beta Microphone. Sure PSM Wireless In Ear Monitor System.

Related Themes: Gear

Do you think being a woman and a musician is different from being a man and a musician? If so, how? Was there a moment that made a difference clear to you?

"Yes, absolutely different. I believe women have our own set of challenges that comes with being in the music business and on a bandstand or in a studio. I believe men have their own set of concerns but I cant really speak to that.

However, I have ever felt the male/female difference but did not clearly understand any of it until around 1983 I had been working with a group of players for several months. I was doing a LOT of the booking. There was a conflict between myself and one other player in the band about a particular date booked. They were going to back up a famous artist without me.

I did not mind that ""the guys"" wanted to do that, it was simply the way this other band mate went about making that happen. Pretty underhanded in my view.

I realized right then and there if I didnt start taking the bull by the horn and acting much more like the Alpha, that I was gonna continue to be run over by this guy and a bunch more just like him. So I booked a huge pile of shows (translation: I got the work!) to be billed with MY name out front and let everyone know right then if they wanted to continue to work with me, it would continue to be as Janiva Magness and...... Everyone was really cool with it, except the one guy who had been behaving poorly. He quieted down when he understood that I could work fine without him. In the end, he took the work.

But I have to say I really had to do some soul searching before I was willing to step out and wrestle this guy (and anyone who stood behind him) for control. My nature was to be a lot ""nicer"" about business than pro-active or aggressive.

That was a very valuable lesson for me. Turns out - wrestling him down was the best thing I could have done, for me, for the band and for MY career. I did not want to have to behave so Alpha like, but it paid off in spades, especially in the long run.

Turns out, I am a really good at arm wrestling...today I choose my battles as wisely as possible, I now realize that NO ONE has power over me unless I give it up to them. I dont have many conflicts with people any more, if they cant or dont give me what I need, I just move on. I still try to be fair and kind, but its best for all involved to not waste time. Shocking, but true. A whole lot less blood gets spilled... What a relief that is!"

Related Themes: Cashing In

Do you see differences between generations of women musicians?

"Yes. I see a lot more women on Guitars, Bass & Drums than I ever have before... Keyboards and Wind instruments too. It used to be VERY rare to see a woman on the bandstand other than traditionally speaking, IF a woman is on the bandstand - she's singing.

That's great, but there is also the ""No Chicks"" rule that is of course totally insane, but it still does exists amongst male musicians. Not as severe as it used to be... but I still see it here and there. I'm just relieved women are continuing to break those small minded high school rules. I hear a lot less of ""yeah, she's good ... for a girl"" and a lot more ""yeah... she's good or great!"" and that's excellent. There is definitly evolution in process.... in my view, that's a beautiful thing for all of us!"

Related Themes: Off The Clock

Did anyone ever give you any valuable advice about making your way in the music industry? What advice would you give to a woman musician just starting out?

"Yes. Bob Tate who was the Musical Director for Sam Cook for many,many years. I had the honor to work with Bob for a few Years in Phoenix, AZ. What a beautiful soul he was. He taught me much (and still does) about practicing and getting better command of my instrument. He used to tell me it was the ONLY way to get respect from other players. He talked a lot about Sarah Vaughn and Aretha Franklin and how they could show up ANYBODY on their instruments and piano. Sarah was ruthless - so he said - about players that gave her crap and didnt play the right changes behind her. She would school them fast and hard - it wasnt pretty - and they would get in line or be fired. Simple. But she had full command of her instrument and knew music and could read like a M.F! So can Aretha he said. He would tell me again and again ""...and dont take no stuff from these men... cause they gonna dish it! But dont take it, no matter what they say. And for god sake dont sleep with them... cause they all gonna want to sleep with you - soon as they feel your power! Soon as you do - its over!"" Well I took his words in and boy was he right for the most part. Hahahaha God Bless Bob Tate!

My first voice teacher, Gail Hensley Gunderson told me similar things, including that ""...when folks started to praise you, be very very careful to not buy their words hook line and sinker, cause people in the music business eat their young!"" Hahahaha boy was she right!

Nancy Cox my second voice teacher taught me - practice, practice, practice! And I still do!

MY ADVICE: Get control of your instrument. Practice, practice, practice. I still practice vocal exercises to this day - after 34 years. I do that because it works. I see so many players trying to make their way and havne't done enough homework to have a grip on whatever their instrument is, enough to command respect from their fellow players and artists. So players get frustrated cause they cant get any respect and get an attitude about that! Ha! Respect is earned, not a given. Remember half the gig is YOUR ATTITUDE! I work with people who give me what I need musically and otherwise, and if they dont or wont, I simply move on to find the right fit. Oh yeah, get real good at handling your own business. You are gonna need that skill! Also, try to be willing to have the ""student mind"" and be teachable, a very valuable thing I have learned. Learn what it is you want and then pursue that with a vengence. Be clear and whenever possible be kind. It is usually possible to be kind to people. Take the high road whenever possible when dealing with other humans. The music business is full of really bad musicians, taking money. Then there is this huge glut of mediocrity taking more money, above that are some tremendously talented and disciplined people, hopefully taking money. Strive for the 3rd category!"

Related Themes: Advice

Why did you choose to play the instrument you play?

It chose me, I did not choose it... ; ) and its the one thing that came the most naturally to me. Singing speaks to the place where there are no words, and I need that speaking.

Related Themes: The First Time