A conversation with Janiva Magness

Feb. 10, 2010

If I’ve counted correctly, this is the 28th music interview I’ve written up. But, I believe this is the first time that each question was actually answered.

You see, I have a habit of asking several questions within each question, and a lot of times folks don’t pay strict attention.

But blues singer Janiva Magness made sure all of her comments (bold) were sent back “In Caps for Easier Reading.”

And you really can’t ask for more than that, can you?

Janiva Magness will be at The Pines Tasting Room on Friday, Feb. 19, from 8-11 p.m. Tickets are $18 in advance.

Interview with Janiva Magness

1. You played a show in Hood River back in 2007, so we must have made you feel good enough to come back! What can we expect musically from you and your band this time around?

I'm very happy to be returning to beautiful Hood River! I have a stellar ensemble and I'd tell folks they can expect a butt-rocking good time! It's definitely a show!

2. Congratulations on signing to Alligator records, (thank you!) that's a huge label for blues. (Yes it is.) Has working with Alligator opened up more connections to artists you'd like to work/tour with?

Alligator is the biggest blues label in the world. That says a lot and it means more. I am very proud to be an Alligator artist. Something I never expected ... So it's good to be wrong! Folks seem to be taking a lot more notice of me since I signed with them, and that is really nice!

3. I watched your video on your MySpace page where you talk about the new record, your band and different aspects of your life. It was actually a refreshing break from some of the clutter that can be found on the Web in general. (Thank you) Where did you get the idea to put that video together?

That was a request from Alligator and I thought it was a very smart idea...

4. Who are you listening to nowadays/ (Who’s on your iPod?)

Maria Callas, Jimmy Reed, Ollabelle, Koko Taylor and a lot of funk! Also been listening to mixes of the new CD which I just finished for Alligator. Release date is April 13 .... Very excited about this one ... ; )

OK thanks, Janiva, and thanks for coming to Hood River!

Thanks for having us back. Hope you can make the show!

Janiva Magness press release from Alligator Records:


“A superb, powerhouse R&B singer who delivers blues and soul with show-stopping authority.”

— Los Angeles Daily News

Award-winning blues and soul vocalist Janiva Magness, touring in support of her Alligator debut CD, WHAT LOVE WILL DO, will perform in Hood River on Feb. 19.

In May 2009, Magness won the Blues Music Award for B.B. King Entertainer Of The Year (she is only the second woman to ever win this award, the other being Koko Taylor), and for the third time in four years, she received the Best Contemporary Female Artist Of The Year award.

Magness is an incredibly gifted performer with a rich, soulful voice and has absolute command over her material. She leads her audience through a range of emotions, from the deepest sorrow to overwhelming joy.

In 2008, she traveled to Iraq and Kuwait co-headlining Bluzapalooza, the first-ever blues concert tour to perform for American troops. Look for Janiva’s second Alligator release in April.

A survivor of an impossibly rough childhood, Magness’ life experience informs her music in a way that is brutally honest, emotionally moving and, above all, spiritually healing. Part of her healing includes helping others in need. In addition to her musical accomplishments, Magness, a foster care alumni, is also a National Spokesperson for Casey Family Programs, promoting National Foster Care Month.

WHAT LOVE WILL DO, co-produced by Magness and Dave Darling (Brian Setzer, Meredith Brooks, Dan Hicks), features 13 powerful songs, each overflowing with Magness’ expressive emotional intensity.

Magness reaches heights only hinted at in her previous recordings, interpreting new material written especially for her and songs from Little Milton, Tina Turner, Bill Withers, Al Green, Candi Staton, Dorothy Moore and Marvin Gaye.

Her impassioned singing takes each song from deep within her being and projects it out directly into the heart and soul of her audience, making WHAT LOVE WILL DO essential listening for blues, roots rock and soul music lovers everywhere.

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 time she was 16. She lived on the streets, was in 12 foster homes in two years, became a teenage mother who gave her baby daughter up for adoption and bounced from city to city, feeling hopeless and desperate.

One winter’s night, Magness hitchhiked across Minneapolis to attend an Otis Rush concert, and for the first time saw a path forward. She began going to as many blues shows as possible, soaking up the sounds of her favorite blues and soul artists.

While working as an intern at a recording studio, 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, and before too long 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 married musician and songwriter Jeff Turmes, with whom she recorded It Takes One To Know One in 1997.

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 along with Canadian roots star Colin Linden, and both garnered Magness a massive 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 in 2004. Do I Move You? debuted at #8 on the Billboard Blues Chart and was the #1 Blues CD Of The Year in 2006 on Living Blues magazine’s radio chart.

With WHAT LOVE WILL DO and a major U.S. tour planned with more dates and countries to be added, there is no doubt that even more recognition will come Magness’ way.

Janiva Magness continues to wring the truth from every note she sings, amazing and delighting both old and new fans all over the world.


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