It’s her powerful voice and emotional delivery that has brought Janice here. But at the same time, it’s her integrity and will that shaped her into a star in the making. Janice is clear on that front: sure, it’s a collaboration to be an artist, but in the end this is her music, her words, her terms. She grew up in Stockholm and like so many other great Swedish singers – Seinabo Sei, Sabina Ddumba, Mapei and Lykke Li – joined Tensta Gospel Choir in 2009. It was when watching a clip of herself singing a solo with the choir that she realised that she actually was good at it. She decided then and there that singing was her calling. Her debut single, the atmospheric R&B meets pop tune Don’t Need To, was released in 2016 and detailed the hesitation she felt about a new relationship. But Janice takes her music in many directions, like the powerful Love You Like I Should, a guitar-heavy anthem about her boyfriend, which was written during a difficult time in London. All of this has made Janice the woman on everyone’s lips this year, and that’s even before her album has dropped – she was named as someone to watch in 2017 by Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter. It’s easy to see why, she’s an ultra-talented young woman who holds up her inner strength for everyone to see.
You’ve recently recorded your first album. How did you decide the direction or style you wanted?
I actually had a very clear vision of what I wanted it to sound like and how it would look before I was even in the studio. But when I eventually sat down and started to experiment, it wasn’t re-ally that which came out. So I’ve tried to let go of my influences and see what comes out [in-stead].
Do you write on your own or do you work with someone?
I like working with people, I mean, I like the exchange. Especially in the beginning when I felt like such a newbie it was priceless to be able to work with other songwriters.
Did you know which songwriters you wanted to work with?
I worked with many before I found a small team that I love working with and that’s my executive producer Andreas Söderlund and Javeon McCarthy from Bristol in England, a songwriter and a really great, wonderful guy I can call my friend and brother. We found a flow and a space where I felt really at home, so we’ve made lots of great songs.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I feel like I’ve screened it for the first time a lot of times: screening it the first time on a big screen at a film festival and then screening it for the first time in Burkina Faso with the girls and the class. Then screening it for the opening in Sweden, which was the first time my friends and family – who have been very close to the project – could actually see it in a finished version.
You’re like, you’ve got such ambition! But it was obvious that I wanted to express myself, it was always there in some shape or form. Soul or theatre, or that I was dancing.
Who has inspired you?
There are several, but Whitney has been a very strong role model, as a black woman in a very white USA. Brandy was also a very big inspiration I also felt I could relate to. Sade. Kind of all those 1990s singers. Someone really cool is Nina Simone, her attitude is something I have al-ways admired.
What do you think women could do to inspire other women?
Basically everything that goes against the flow. That’s the thing, right? Strong women are seen as too provocative and irritating and that’s the thing I think we need to get past.
So your advice would be to stand your ground and go your own way?
Yes, absolutely. I worked with a songwriter everyone talked about, but I felt he just kept shut-ting me down during the sessions, that he didn’t respect me as the artist and songwriter that I am. I do not (!!!) accept that.
Maybe he had a different idea of what he wanted you to be.
Exactly. And we started to write a song my record label wanted me to finish, but I couldn’t do it because he refused to meet me even halfway. I have no problems working with guys or men but I mean, there should be some exchange… and if there isn’t, I walk away.
You started in music through Tensta Gospel Choir, how did it affect you so you were able to take this step you’re now taking?
I think it affected me lots. Before I came to Tensta I could hardly sing because of how nervous I was, all shaky. But then I came to a place where people were so talented, with a feeling and a delivery that I had never seen before. I mean, gospel is awesome in that way. I’ve alway been touched by people who are emotional and fragile and that’s what gospel is. But it could also be so damn big and powerful and happy, I mean it’s love, hope and happiness. That’s where I feel I found my voice and how I wanted to express myself. The community in the choir: every per-son has had your back and pushed you from day one.
Everyone supports each other.
Exactly, whether you want to be a singer or artist or teacher. It’s really a place that allows peo-ple to blossom.
What would you say to girls who has the kind of dream you have?
You should always stand your ground, trust your gut feeling and yourself. Surround yourself with people who lift you up and don’t bring you down. To me it’s been super important in this process, because I went from being independent to signing with a label, which meant a whole lot more people to work with. The ones who really know me and understand me are so needed. Always talk about how you feel and what you think, no matter what. There are no stupid ques-tions.
What does female empowerment mean to you?
That’s something that has been a part of me my whole life. And my dad passed away so my mum has been a huge part of why I have the force I think I have within me. So I can apply it to almost everything. It can be so incredibly powerful and I feel that almost all the women I’ve met, especially the creative ones, have only benefited from talking to each other, exchanging expe-riences, collaborating. There are so much fun things to do! Me and Sikai got to write a verse each on Cherrie’s song Lämna han that we made into a remix. I never write in Swedish but I did because they supported me in it. That’s sisterhood!
I think that’s so cool in the music business, that you work together like that.
Yes it’s so nice. And when I’ve worked with other female artists and writers I’ve realised that we can be quite different, but the business always wants to compare us. I remember the first inter-views and articles about me, they were usually like this: “Her songs sound like a mix of…” and they named three other female singers.
They wanted to define you.
Yes, and they had to mention Seinabo [Sey] or Sabina Ddumba and it’s super flattering for me, Sabina is a really close friend and Seinabo is also a friend that I look up to and am inspired by, but why should we be compared?
What’s been the biggest success of your career so far?
There are so many, but for example my first gig at Debaser Strand this year. It was a full venue and it was very hot, very intimate and the gig felt so special to me and my band. It was the first big gig with the new songs and it was fantastic. I lived on that experience for months.
Is that how you would define happiness?
It’s definitely a very strong feeling that I get when I see how people are touched by what I say or sing. It means the world if people write that a song affects them a certain way, or people who have written about Answer, a song about my dad who passed away. It’s so forceful in some way because it is a very emotional song. I’m singing about my feelings and how much I miss him and if someone can find strength or comfort in that… that’s everything to me.
A difficult moment becomes something very powerful.
Exactly, something that can help others. And that makes me to want to do even more and help even more people.