Q&A: Janine Gets Real About Heartache, Happiness, Moving, and Moving On

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We all have that one friend who had the extremely enviable, unforgettable experience of seeing [insert famous singer’s name here] in an intimate venue before he/she started to play stadiums and large venues. It’s safe to say that we had one of these experiences watching Janine perform live at The Hotel Cafe. She has one more show on Sept. 15, so don’t miss out on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Hailing from Auckland, New Zealand, Janine–formerly Janine and the Mixtape–has gained renown for her sultry sound and craft as both a writer and producer. Her lyrics are real and vulnerable, and they touch on the deepest, sometimes darkest, aspects of love and life. For this reason, she is able to truly connect with her audience and demonstrate that there is strength to be found in the worst of times. Her debut EP, Dark Mind, hit number two on the iTunes R&B charts. She followed up with another equally stirring EP, XXEP. Janine has already released two singles this year, “Don’t Love Me” and “Unstable,” and between more live shows and an upcoming album release, the rising artist is only gaining momentum.

Performing with a full, new band, Janine made a powerful entrance with “This Moment,” a track from XXEP. She flawlessly performed her hit song “Hold Me,” her latest singles, and even a song from her forthcoming album. Both the vulnerability and strength behind her performance clearly moved the entire crowd.

But behind the larger-than-life voice is a sweet and thoughtful person we were lucky enough to chat with before the show. Read more below.

OTW: Congrats on the show! How are you feeling about tonight?

Janine: I’m super excited! Maybe feel a little nervous. I feel like there’s just excited energy because I haven’t been on stage in two years. It’s also sold out, and I’m from New Zealand and was living in New York before this. The fact that I can come here and have it sell out, I’m super excited and super grateful.

OTW: Since the last time you performed was two years ago, between then and now, how have things have developed for you?

Janine: I’ve just been working on the album, which I finished last year. It’s just a process to get things out. I’ve written better songs than I’ve ever written in my life. I also decided to sort of take it back and really work on my voice, so I’ve been getting lessons. I think you should always work on your craft, and it’s super exciting because I’ve noticed how much better my voice is. My voice is stronger, and I’m not in a leg cast like I was when I did my last tour (laughs). I also have a full new band. This is actually the first time we’re playing together!

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Photo: Emilynn Rose

OTW: You mentioned you’re from New Zealand, then moved to New York, and now you’re in Los Angeles. How has each city and the traveling process affected your music and lifestyle?

Janine: It definitely has. I write about what I know, what I feel, and what I’ve been through. My experiences have changed me, and they’ve all been in different places. L.A. is a happier place. I definitely still have my moments where things are pretty tough, but I’m happier, so I feel like it’s harder to write (laughs). No, I think the changes have been great. I love New York. It’s a heavier city, but it’s a very real city. I feel like L.A. is a cross between New York and home. I think I have a really good balance, and it’s really allowing me to grow. Every time I move, I meet new people, and that influences the music. Moving brings a new era of growth and a new level of understanding yourself.

OTW: So now you’re in a happier place, but while your sound is very sultry and seductive, your music touches on the darker aspects of love and everything in that package.

Janine: Definitely, and I still do. I’ve been through a lot, and my way of getting through them is to write about them. There’s change between each project, but there’s an element of strength in all of them. The album still has vulnerability, but it has more elements that have come with my growth. There are songs about me not being happy with the world, and there are still some themes with abuse or different things I’ve seen or experienced. As a whole, as I’ve grown, my music has become stronger. This album has a bunch of sassy, fun elements in it, which I had fun with.

OTW: Can you tell us about your newest singles, “Don’t Love Me” and “Unstable?”

Janine: “Don’t Love Me” is one of my favorites. Actually, “Don’t Love Me” and “Unstable” are both about the same relationship (laughs), which I left from New York when I came out here. It was just a very unhealthy relationship. But you know, it’s hard sometimes when you really love somebody. You always want to make it work, and in the end, “Don’t Love Me” was just about realizing that I had to love myself enough to let go. “Unstable” was written about when you’re in it. Sometimes, people have certain ways to keep you in a relationship.

OTW: It’s very inspiring to hear how these tough experiences channel into your music and see how you’re able to share so openly about them.

Janine: Thank you! Well, you got to let go of something to be able to move on. The next song we’re going to put out actually is about the person I’m with, whom I met out here. I don’t usually write songs about being happy with someone while I’m with them for some reason (laughs). I end up writing either about how great they were afterwards or how bad they were afterwards. This is new, and it’s quite nice.

OTW: You’ve had a bit of rebranding of your name. Where did “Janine and the Mixtape” come from, and why did you change to just “Janine?”

Janine: I came out with “Janine and the Mixtape” because I was doing everything by myself but had the beats that I made, a synthesizer, and an electric guitar. When I went by “Janine Foster,” everyone just expected me to turn up as a singer-songwriter. “Mixtape” arose because I love the rawness of hip-hop, I love the cuteness and thoughtfulness of making someone a mixtape, and I love basketball mixtapes. It was this tough, raw, but also cheesy, basketball-loving girl. And then I finished the album, and the album is just such a big step up. I wanted my name to represent my growth. “Janine” is still me, just me in a developed way. It also fits better on posters, which is good. They have to make the font so tiny when it’s “Janine and the Mixtape,” so that’s a bonus (laughs).

OTW: As both a writer and producer, is it difficult to bring your own vision to life and find good people to collaborate with?

Janine: Yes, and that’s why I produced in the first place. I did the first project by myself. I did half of XXEP and a few of the songs I sent to these guys, 4e, and they co-produced it. When the album came around, Atlantic set me up with a whole bunch of different songwriters and producers. At the end of the day, I just did the whole thing with 4e. I did all of the songwriting. We did the whole album the old school way where we got me just the three of us in the studio. As much as I think it’s important to collaborate, I like the old school way where the same people work on the album so you have continuity. They were with me through everything. All the conversations we had, we really went deep, so when we talked about the lyrics, they knew exactly what was going on and all the details in my life. I think that’s super important for getting some real music where you can really feel it.

OTW: You’ve been sharing bits about your album. What are your plans for the album and the near future?

Janine: I’m performing again at Hotel Cafe next week, which is great! I really want to get back on the road, so I’m hoping this jumpstarts that a little bit. I’m just really excited to build. We’ve got the band now and we’re ready to go, so we’re just going to drop songs now and build that buzz.

OTW: Finally, who are your Ones To Watch?

Janine: Preacher Lawson! He’s my boyfriend. He’s a comedian and is in the finals of America’s Got Talent. He’s about to take over the world. Kat Dahlia, Audra the Rapper, and Polly A. SZA’s already blown up, but she’s going to blow up even more.

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Photo: Jessie English

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