Wednesday, July 13, 2005
A conversation with . . .
Janiva Magness, with a dark and beautiful album,
is playing on Saturday at Floyd's Sun Music Hall;
Hear two song clips from her new CD on The List
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Janiva Magness has lived her share of the blues, and she’s been singing about it for 25 years. Born in Detroit, Magness is firmly rooted in the
Her new album, "Bury Him at the Crossroads," is a self-proclaimed dark album, a mixture of acoustic and electric-based songs that dig heavily into the personal blues.
Here the singer/songwriter shares some thoughts on her new album and the redemptive power of music.
In the recent
Janiva Magness: I really believe that everybody has their own story, everybody has their own challenges in life. The old-school way of saying it is "everybody’s got their own cross to bear." And for me, the music has been a blessing because it has helped me to not carry on the legacy that I was handed down. At least that part of it. It has provided enough redemption, enough healing — whatever you want to call it — so that it’s not a given that I’m gonna walk down the same path as my parents. And I’m grateful for that because it’s not a legacy that I want to carry, nor is it one that I want to pass down to my children. At least not that part of it.
Pain definitely has a legacy.
J.M.: That’s the truth. That’s just a human truth that unless somebody does something to fundamentally change the course that they’re on, it just carries on and carries on and carries on. And I don’t think that there’s any prejudice in that … it can be passing on the good stuff, and it can also be passing on the not-so-good stuff. This generation’s way of framing it is, it’s passing on the healthy things and passing on the dysfunctionality. You pass it on unless … there’s a kink in the chain. And for me … music has served me in that way, and I’m very grateful for it. … The first time I heard blues music, the first time I was moved by it, the first time I saw Otis Rush, for example … I was 13 years old, I was a young girl, and I didn’t have the cognitive understanding of what was happening to me at that time. I didn’t understand that I was being given a huge gift. I didn’t understand that a door had opened, that would ultimately … have the potential of being a lifesaver.
If there’s a rule for me in really good music, writing, film, whatever, it’s that whoever’s making it has to be really personally putting themselves to task, really digging in there, and I think that’s the difference between what really hits people and what doesn’t. How far are you willing to dig? And that, of course, is the painful thing about being the one writing.
J.M.: How raw are you willing to be? How vulnerable are you willing to be? … I believe people need a sense of connection. If, as a singer, I’m not willing to open myself up enough to give them that, I could sing every note perfect and it would be meaningless. … There’s a glut of mediocrity out there and then probably an even bigger glut of just plain old garbage. And then there’s a smaller pile of really good stuff. And people, I think, for the most part, maybe they don’t understand cognitively, maybe they’re not even thinking about it, but they know the difference between — I really believe this — between garbage or mediocrity and somebody that’s really out there speaking the truth, making themselves open. … The world is such a mess. People need to know that they’re not alone. They need to have that sense of connection. And that makes doing something of quality even more important to me.
Magness will perform at Saturday at the