Jam Entertainment News, June 1, 1990

by:  Elianne Halbersberg

Taking Pleasure In Being Unique.

If you happen to spot Jane Child walking down a street in your neighborhood, feel free to stare - she's quite used to it. "I've walked around looking like this five or six years," she explains, I’m used to being looked at, so I was prepared for fame! The only difference is now my name. I'll drive around and someone will yell to me. Grocery shopping is getting tough, but I’m not complaining because everyone is nice. I'm no longer just another person in the world; I'm the center of focus. But this is what I chose to do, so I have a responsibility to be nice as well,"

Moving to the left of conformity has been key in her life, and this individuality is the core of her self-titled debut, which she wrote, performed, and produced. Watching the first single, "Don't Wanna Fall In Love," climb to the top of the charts has been the most rewarding of experiences, and has opened up minds to the unique talents of the Toronto native.

I've always been outrageous, as far back as I can remember," she notes. "I started to do my hair six years ago, and got my nose pierced four years ago. The way I dress has evolved; I've always worn a lot of jewelry. I never desired to look like everyone else, and people should know that it didn't happen over night, or all at once. I felt comfortable in Toronto like this and really am homesick for the seasons and being able to walk, although I am more protected driving. I live in Los Angeles now and what's surprising is that wherever there is a really big conservative side to a city, there is an equally outrageous underground. L.A. has no conservative side! That's why you see kids on Hollywood Boulevard in leather, and in Beverly Hills you see the Gucci version of the same thing."

She grew up in a musical family, with both parents involved in the classical field. This led to similar training as a child, and a considerably formal background. This was eventually eschewed for contemporary sounds. “I am making a better living than I’ve ever had have classically!” she laughs. "In classical music you are very limited, and the amount of self that comes through is so miniscule because you're interpreting the masters with hard, fast rules about how to do it. It is very structured and kind of close-minded. My parents aren't that way, however, and are less surprised than anyone about my success, I've always been determined. It is not their kind of music, but they like what I do. They're proud."

Despite her hours and hours of practice and theory, stepping out into the real world was quite a culture shock. Joining her first band, she found herself lost. There was no music for me to read, I was expected to improvise, which you don't do classically. You only play piano, organ, or harpsichord—never a synthesizer—so there were a lot of changes to make.

"As a writer, I don't sit down and call up my training. I just do it by ear, what feels right. I think that is a better way. The first songs you write are inevitably terrible. I have figured I can say what I think about things - it is a powerful medium. At first, I didn't do it because I had a great calling. I did it because I wanted to sing. Since then, it has become important to write good songs, so the motivation has definitely changed."

At fifteen, she was on the road with a band, facing the club circuit, and forced to compromise. It was either play cover songs, or go the original route and struggle to find work. She recalls, "It was very, very hard. They would send us up to places you wouldn't believe exist. The first year, I worked 45 weeks, ate and slept in these places. It was a very good lesson in life. They are beyond comprehension and nobody wants to hear music they haven't heard on the radio, so you either cover it or slug it out on your own. I did both and decided not to take any day job, but make my living in music, so anything I was hired to do, I did as well as I could without attitude. I played organ in church, very structured piano for ballet classes, organ at a horseshow—paid well, very long hours— a lot of piano bars, some classically, and in those situations it was good if they heard me before they saw me because they were very upscale. I did a lot of jingles - and then there were the magical times with I sang with a band doing my own stuff, which is what I lived for. The rest of the time, I just supported my habit."

Eventually, she cut a demo tape that landed in the hands of major labels. Having done jingle work in the studio, the engineer allotted her "spec time." With her budget low, she played all the instruments, since paying musicians was impossible. "The studio was an hour outside Toronto," she says, "and it was five dollars by bus to get there. I recorded about five songs. My entertainment lawyer in Toronto looked after things and believed in me. He had a client who was a partner in a New York production company. They signed me, I moved to New York, then they moved me to L.A. and got my tape to a label but the deal said I couldn't produce myself, so I refused. They seized my equipment.

"I stayed in L.A. and somehow my tape got to everywhere. I don't know how. Thirteen labels went into a bidding war and I was without management or a cent to my name. It was a very diverse time. I lived in a place where everything was turned off because I couldn't pay the bills, while I was being flown first class, wined and dined by labels. I met all the heads of companies and decided to go with Warner Brothers. Producing myself was an issue, but I got it the way I wanted, and here I am." .

Perhaps it was her determination, or her refusal to bend in any way, but despite her soft-spoken manner and delicate good looks, she denies ever encountering sexism or not being taken seriously at any time during her negotiations. "It never entered my mind," she states.

"No one to my face in the record business has ever taken me less seriously than I think they'd take a male. Maybe there was some hesitation because I was a new artist, but I demand to be taken seriously and if you present yourself that way, you probably will get it. I present myself in a way serious, non-sexual, businesslike manner. I wasn't going to give anyone an opportunity.

Regardless of how I look, you communicate difference of gender in different ways. I never communicated that at all. I had very strict rules.  Everyone I met treated me fairly and with respect."

While "Don't Wanna Fall In Love" is one of those infectious melodies that remains with the listen a for hours, and does lead to bit of toe-tapping, don't call Jane Child a "Dance" artist. This is a popular misconception based on one song, and the mere thought makes her bristle. "No! I absolutely don't see myself as that!" she insists. "Some of my music is danceable, but there is a difference between dance and funk, and I'm a funk enthusiast.  I guess all anyone has heard is the single, and that's what they're basing it on. Once they listen to more of the album, they'll see that there's more to what I am.

Perhaps this will show itself when she takes her show on the road, the element she considers the "reward" for her efforts. Although she admits a desire to make a second album before taking the stage, she confesses, "I'm dying to go on tour, but I won't go until it's right, I have no band, and I refuse to have anything to do with tapes. That's not the way I would do it. I'd rather have another record's worth of material under my belt, but since this success so far, they're making it awfully tempting. Still, I won't go out until it's right."

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