Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Key Change: Interview with Janna Pelle

Janna Pelle is a classically trained pianist-turned DIY Pop performer combining elements of rock, soul, and dance into her theatrical live performances, based in NYC.

Janna's "Key Change," is a concept album illustrating the evolution of the keyboard instrument from harpsichord to synthesizer. With each track on the album performed with a different keyboard instrument (i.e., harpsichord, harmonium, Wurlitzer), Pelle demonstrates the timelessness of pop music. She was inspired by David Byrne’s book, “How Music Works,” one of the main focuses of the book being on how music has changed through history due to the spaces it is designed to be performed in.

Janna recently released the music video for the first single off of "Key Change," 'City Life,' collaborating with virally-famous body paint artist, Trina Merry.

Interview Janna Pelle:

What artists do you draw inspiration from?

Janna: David Byrne. More than anyone else. I remember seeing "Stop Making Sense" for the first time, and thinking, "I can't believe this human being exists. I want to be the female version of him."

I have always been inspired by people who are fearlessly themselves on stage - my favorite performers growing up were Eminem and Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I love David Bowie and Freddy Mercury too - for some reason my inspirations have always been men - with the exception of Lady Gaga, she's not afraid to push the borders of femininity. 

Some artists become solo recording artists because they want the freedom of their own expression. What is your view point as to why you're the artist you are today and not with a "band"? Is there a real difference?

Janna: Well, it started out for practical reasons. I wasn't writing as much music with other musicians after moving to New York – I would sit in my room and write all the songs by myself at the piano and teach them to my drummer and bassist later. There was really no way around that unless I wanted to pay for rehearsal space to write songs, plus the fact that most of the time I had no control over when the inspiration for songs was going to come to me. I did have a band in Florida, and I do miss that aspect sometimes, but I am proud to say that I have found a very loyal drummer, Alex Cohen, who I definitely consider to be a permanent member of my "band" now - my bassist, Doug Berns, is in like 20 bands, but he has become my go-to guy and I know he genuinely loves being a part of my project. We also all get along great and it feels like we have that band dynamic, even though it might be a polygamous relationship.

Lots of people have songs constantly playing in their minds. What song do you find playing your head quite frequently?

Janna: This may sound very cheesy, but lately it's been this song from the musical Hamilton, called "Non-stop" - my brother who I love is obsessed with the soundtrack and constantly sings it every chance he gets. The line that I always find stuck in my head is "How do you write like you're running out of time? Write day and night like you're running out of time!" Because that's how I feel - I thought I would go through a dry spell after creating this last album but I'm still writing (like I'm running out of time!)

Do you have an anthem? A song that gives you strength?(It could be your own song or a song from another artist)

Janna: I love this question. There are two that come to mind immediately: "Noticeable One" by Missing Persons ("I am one of the noticeable ones, notice me!") which I sing to myself on days when I am feeling like, how am I ever going to stand out in this sea of talent called New York? and "Marry the Night" by Lady Gaga - it's about embracing the ups and the downs of your creative pursuits, the journey rather than the means to an end - but I also use it as an anthem to get off my ass and go out at night and see a show and stay out till 4 am when I'm feeling like being lame and staying home. Though sometimes staying in is an important part of marrying the night, too.

Not to categorize your style of music into an over simplified genre, but you seem to have a Alt-Pop style. What kind of artist do you consider yourself?

Janna: Oh, I don't mind if you categorize my music into an over simplified genre, deep down people love categories, they just don't want to admit it. And I do consider myself Alt-pop, so you were right on the money! I guess though... If Lady Gaga is ARTPOP, I want to be SMARTPOP.

What has been your most favorite venue you've performed at?

Janna: So far, PIANOS. Is that too obvious? It's good branding!

What concert venue is your dream to perform at?

Janna: Honestly, I don't really have a dream venue based on the venue itself. Whatever space will fit my fans and the show appropriately - but I do hope that it continues to grow.

Who would you want to share the stage with if you could play at your dream venue?

Janna: I would want to share the stage with St. Vincent, between her guitar and my piano I bet we could come up with something really crazy. And then maybe David Byrne would come watch.... can I change my dream venue to David Byrne's living room, actually?

You have a new album coming out in April called Key Change. Tell us about the album. What are you most proud about and why you can't wait for people to own it?

Janna: Key change is a concept album on the evolution of the keyboard instrument from harpsichord to synthesizer - every song is performed on a different keyboard instrument, starting with the harp, (the inner workings of a piano), and ending with a computer keyboard. The thing I am most proud of is the fact that we actually used all of the real instruments and didn't just use electronic samples of the sounds. It was like a musical scavenger hunt. We rented out a church for an hour for the pipe organ, found a Mozart-era Viennese style piano, and borrowed more synthesizers that I can remember. I can't wait for people to own it because it really is a time machine - there are so many different sounds and styles to choose from that there is something on it for everyone.

There are some great visuals in your music video "City Life". Who directed and produced the video?

Janna: Thank you! The concept for the video, me being painted into the Empire State Building, was my idea after seeing Trina Merry's camouflage body paint art on this New York art blog I follow ( - she already had a whole series of portraits of women painted into different sceneries of New York, and I just saw it and thought, "Nothing says 'City Life' more than this." I worked with Peter Roessler who shot, edited, and co-directed the video.

What else can fans expect from Janna Pelle in 2016? What are your plans?

Janna: Well, hopefully Key Change will hold them off for a while - though I do plan to tour possibly in May by driving my car up from Miami to New York - As my producer says, I "just climbed Mt. Everest," but I am already thinking about the next album. I want the album to be called "Single," and every song on it will be a single - I'm also going to try to stay single for the whole year.

Find more of Janna Pelle at:

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