Blues Soul Singer
Following her multi award-winning songwriting debut on Alligators’ Stronger For It, now comes Magness’ eleventh recording, the new CD aptly titled ORIGINAL on Fathead Records, her own label. A collection of twelve Blues, Americana and Soul original songs. A record breaking eight are Co-writes for Magness, on what she feels is a collection of some of the most personal and empowering songs she has written.
ORIGINAL is Janiva’s true declaration of independence. “This was simply the most logical move for me as a writer and performer. A CD release of ALL original Blues Americana and Soul songs. It just had to be made, and in order to do so, it required me to be a fully independent Artist. Therefore the evolution onto my own label, Fathead Records made the best sense, period.”
Produced by and collaborated with Dave Darling, Magness, historically known as a musical interpreter, co-wrote eight remarkable, autobiographical songs for the album, including the poignant and melodic “Everything is Alright”, the riveting “When You Were My King” and the take-no-guff showstopper “I Need A Man”, and more. Of her songwriting, Magness says, “Writing songs for me is laying out more of my soul, thru the stories, for everyone to see and hopefully connect with. It’s much deeper level of vulnerability.
Magness, is among the premier Blues and R&B singers in the world today. Her voice possesses an earthy, raw honesty born from her life experience. Having released 10 albums thus far, Magness is a charismatic performer known for her electrifying live shows. A dynamic musical powerhouse, Janiva has received 22 Blues Music Award nominations to date, winning the coveted Blues Music Award for B.B. King Entertainer Of The Year (she is only the second woman to ever win this Award, Koko Taylor being the first). Additional wins include Contemporary Blues Female Artist Of The Year in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2013, as well as Song of the Year for her original composition “I Won’t Cry”, co-written with her Producer Dave Darling (Glen Campbell, Dominique Pruitt, Brian Setzer, Stray Cats, Def Leopard, Motley Crew, Meredith Brooks, Dan Hicks, John Waite).
Magness’ fame has been hard won. Born in Detroit, Magness was inspired by the blues and country she heard listening to her father’s record collection, and by the vibrant music of the city’s classic Motown sound. By her teenage years, though, her life was in chaos. She lost both parents to suicide by the age of 16 and lived on the streets, bouncing from one foster home to another. At 17, she became a teenage mother who had to give up her baby daughter for adoption. One night in Minneapolis, an underage Magness sneaked into a club to see blues great Otis Rush, and it was there that she found her salvation and discovered that the blues were her calling. Magness recalls, “Otis played as if his life depended on it. There was a completely desperate, absolute intensity. I knew, whatever it was, I needed more of it.” She began going to as many blues shows as possible, soaking up the sounds of her favorite artists, including Johnny Copeland and Albert Collins. She immersed herself in records by James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Etta James and all the other R&B greats.
Watching these artists live and listening to their recordings sparked Janiva and gave her life new direction and purpose. Her first break came several years later, while studying engineering and working as an intern at a recording studio in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was approached by her boss to sing some supporting vocals on a track. Finding her voice, she soon began working regularly as a background singer. By the early 1980s, Magness made her way to Phoenix and befriended Bob Tate, the musical director for the great Sam Cooke. With Tate’s mentoring, she formed her first band, Janiva Magness And The Mojomatics, in 1985 and soon after the influential Phoenix New Times named her group the city’s Best Blues Band. She moved to Los Angeles in 1986 and slowly began finding work. She recorded her second studio album, It Takes One To Know One, in 1997 (her debut was the cassette-only release, More Than Live). After three more independent releases, Janiva signed with Northern Blues and recorded Bury Him At The Crossroads in 2004 and Do I Move You? in 2006. Both CDs were co-produced by Magness and Canadian roots star Colin Linden, and both garnered Magness a tremendous amount of critical and popular attention. Magness and Linden won the prestigious Canadian Maple Blues Award for Producers Of The Year for Bury Him At The Crossroads. Do I Move You? debuted at #8 on the Billboard Blues Chart and was the #1 CD of 2006 on Living Bluesmagazine’s radio chart. Blues Revue said, “Magness is a bold and potent artist with a powerful, soulful voice…impossible to forget.”
Magness signed with Alligator in 2008 and released her stunning label debut, What Love Will Do, to massive critical acclaim. The Chicago Sun-Times raved, “Her songs run the gamut of emotions from sorrow to joy. A master of the lowdown blues who is equally at ease surrounded by funk or soul sounds, Magness invigorates every song with a brutal honesty,” while Blues Revue called her “a blues interpreter of the highest rank…punchy and tough…swaggering, incendiary vocal performances.” Fueled by all the positive press, National Public Radio’sWeekend Edition profiled Magness, putting her in front of an audience of millions and expanding her ever-growing fan base. Her 2010 follow-up, The Devil Is An Angel Too, brought even more acclaim. The album was the #1 CD of 2010 on the Living Blues radio chart. The Wall Street Journal said she plays “hard-hitting blues and soul.” Living Blues declared, “Accolades come easy when you’re this good. Magness is blessed with smoky, seductive pipes that bend the blues into pure enchantment. Her steely conviction is authentic, soulful and playful. The emotion rings true.”
In addition to her musical accomplishments, Magness reaches out to help others. She is a Spokesperson for Casey Family Programs National Foster Care Month Campaign (her sixth consecutive year) and an Ambassador for Foster Care Alumni of America, promoting National Foster Care Month. “It is a huge honor and a daunting responsibility. But I am very excited to be a part of this important work, and I look forward to carrying the message of hope for youth in the foster care system, and to alumni,” says Magness. “Casey Family Programs does groundbreaking work, and I am deeply honored to work with them again. Foster Care Alumni Of America is an amazing organization that focuses on adult alumni of the system.” Magness has also reconnected with her daughter, and is now a proud grandmother. “Our fate doesn’t have to be our destiny,” she says. “I’m living proof of that. And I’m so very grateful.”
What Other People Have Been Saying...
“Hopefully, this recording [Original] will bring the rest of the world to Janiva, and then they’ll know, like I know, that she’s one of the “real deals” out there.” — Bettye LaVette
“Sweet Soul Music is alive and kickin’!” – Mavis Staples
“One of the most fiery and original vocalists in contemporary blues and soul…Thoughtful, inventive and almost unerringly on the money.” – MOJO