Stephanie Jansen – fresh from Nashville

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Stephanie Jansen is making a name for herself on the Country Music scene as a singer/songwriter. Her recent EP release, Risky, is receiving rave reviews, and plans for a new album are in the pipeline for next year. Stephanie pops into The Aztec in Forster on December 7, fresh from a stint in the Country Music Mecca – Nashville, USA.

When do you first recall being exposed to music that had a positive impact on you?

Being born to relatively young parents (they had me when they were 18 and 19), I was raised on their ’80s CD collection. The soundtrack of my childhood was Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Bon Jovi, Rod Stewart, Cold Chisel … that’s the stuff Mum would crank while she was doing the housework, and those were the tapes or CDs that dad would play in the car on our family road trips. Mum and Dad love music, and I can’t remember a time where it wasn’t a part of my life, in one way or another.

I’ve even been told stories of them taking me out to pubs and clubs with them as a newborn, and sliding my capsule under the pool table when they wanted to dance (with them watching close by, of course!)

My first concert was Michael Jackson. I went to see him at the Sydney Cricket Ground when I was 4 years old (although I really couldn’t see a thing, being so small). I think after that the bar was raised pretty high as far as concerts go!

You never set out with the intention of making music a career choice. When did you first realise that a professional career as a singer-songwriter was a possibility?

To be honest, I’m not sure it’s something I ever ‘realised’ … I think it is a dream that is becoming more and more real all the time. What I do know is that I never, in my wildest dreams, thought that I could or would do this for a living. I thought that the artists and writers I ever saw on stage were born stars, something I could never be. But once I started to realise that ‘stardom’ is just being yourself at your most, tapping into what is uniquely ‘you’ and being unafraid to show it, I started to think that maybe it is something that I could do after all … it’s something we all have in us!

It seems you’ve always marched to the beat of your own drum, having studied Philosophy at university. How do you think your study choices have influenced the person you are today?

I’ve always been really interested in ideas and trying to make sense of this crazy world we live in. So really, that I was drawn to Philosophy isn’t all that surprising to those who know me. I loved that degree. I think I came out of it feeling less intelligent than I went in (Philosophy will do that to you), but I think the biggest thing I took away from it is the courage to think outside the box. Philosophy is all about looking at the things we ‘know’ and deciding just how rock solid they really are. And I think that that’s a skill that can come in handy in the 21st century − especially for the independent musician!

In a way though, I’ve always felt that music is about people’s philosophies on life, so that I’ve now become a songwriter isn’t that crazy either.

Who are some of the performers you’ve toured with over the past few years, and what’s the most important thing you learned from these experiences?

I was really lucky to serve my ‘apprenticeship’ in music as a backing singer/guitarist. I gigged alongside some great Australian Country artists, including Amber Lawrence and Catherine Britt. Those years were a really important time for me, because I was able to stand outside the spotlight and look on to see what it takes to be a successful artist these days − not just on the stage, but behind the scenes too. I learnt a lot from those girls … they work hard, and they’re great at what they do …

You went out on a limb to forge your own solo career recently, with the release of your first EP, Risky, earlier this year. What were some of the inspirations behind the songs?

At the time I was writing the EP, I was feeling overwhelmed at times by the people giving me (well intended) advice as to what I should do. The songs Risky and Boxes were my cheeky responses to those people.

Other songs on the EP are about the things I think are important enough to write about. The current single The Life You Made is about reminding ourselves to slow down once in a while … we live in a crazy materialistic world. Sometimes it’s easy for things to get out of hand. But I think it’s so important to be kind to yourself and take a break … hang out with the kids … spend some time with the people you love.

What’s your favourite single off the EP?

That’s like asking a mother to choose her favourite child!

At the moment, it’s the song Shoes. I got to sing that song at the Bluebird Café in Nashville recently, and it’s one of my most special career moments to date. I like the song because it’s me, it’s honest, and it’s not trying to be anything it’s not. It’s a song for parents and daughters … and anyone who’s ever struggled to fit in.

You’re looking to release your very first album in early 2013 … any ideas about its content just yet?

I’m really excited about this record. I started writing a bunch of songs for it in Nashville; I wrote around 17 songs in the month I was there, some of which I daresay will make the final cut. I think the album will be very different to the EP … It will be a little rawer, and probably much ‘groovier’. I’ve become a lot more fearless creatively; I’m exploring heaps of different genres and styles and feels beyond Country Music …

I think in the last 12 months I’ve experienced a real musical ‘coming of age’, and I’m sure that will be reflected in the songs. I’ll continue to write until we get into the studio though, so I can’t tell you what to expect – I don’t actually know myself!

You’re over in Nashville at the moment. Why did you decide to go the US – and how much have you enjoyed the experience?

Nashville is the absolute Mecca for artists like me, and particularly songwriters influenced by Country Music. It was a dream of mine to one day go there … I’ve loved every minute of my trip. It has changed me and my approach to music in every way. I feel that I have more clarity in where I’m headed as an artist, and I’m totally inspired moving forward to this next record.

Where can people download or buy your music?

My EP Risky is available on iTunes, but you can also buy a copy through my website and have it delivered to your door!

My website is the place to go for info on gigs and myself: www.stephaniejansen.com.au

I have a pretty happening Facebook page, and I’m also active on Twitter and YouTube and have some pretty exciting things going on there too.

Thanks Stephanie.

Interview by Jo Atkins.

This interview was found in issue 70 of Manning Great Lakes Focus

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