As a vocalist/songwriter and that rare breed of performer who puts something essential of herself into every note and each word she sings, Janice Robinson is an artist whose life is reflected in the style and substance of her music.
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It’s a life that has brought this New Jersey native more than her share of challenges and contrasts – light and dark, joy and sorrow, struggle and success. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. "Everything I've experienced has taught me to love life and love people," this vibrant young vocalist asserts. "It's also helped me to understand and appreciate what it means to be humble."
That mix of honesty, humility and extraordinary talent forms the foundation of The Color Within Me, Janice Robinson’s stunning debut album on Warner Bros. Records. Co-produced by Robinson and Allen Sides, and featuring the heartfelt debut single "Nothing I Would Change," The Color Within Me is a collection of ten unabashedly up-front songs by an artist who effortlessly combines sharply observed social awareness with soul-baring personal revelation, as easily as she mixes a gamut of musical styles running from rock and pop to gospel and funk.
Certain to draw admiring comparisons to the music of such artists as of Marvin Gaye, Patti LaBelle and Tracy Chapman — all prime influences for Janice — The Color Within Me is an album at once personal and universal, straight from the heart and straight from the hip.
Born and raised in Garfield, New Jersey, Janice Robinson’s recalls her earliest memories of never quite fitting in. "My neighborhood was filled primarily with Italian and Polish families," she recounts. "In elementary school, there were very few black people. So, I was quite often teased. And life at home wasn't easy, either." Robinson's mother was a schoolteacher and her father was a Baptist minister. "I always wanted to be like the other kids," recalls Robinson, "and not the preacher's perfect daughter."
It was in the church, however, that Robinson discovered her deep, natural connection to music. "I used to sit on my mother's lap and clap my hands in church," says the singer. "I was captivated by the voices of the women. They were singing from the heart, and for God, and I could feel it. That's when a seed was planted in my soul."
Janice recalls singing "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" for the congregation at the age of five. "They were jumping and shouting, 'Sing Janice! Sing that song, baby!' and I realized that this was the only thing I wanted do for the rest of my life." And when she wasn't in the church singing, Janice could often be found in the backyard, literally vocalizing to the vegetables. "I pretended that the plants and peach trees in the garden were my audience," she recounts with a laugh. "People thought I was crazy, but I knew better."
Janice’s teenage years were, she admits, "pretty wild. I tried so hard to be a part of the cool crowd. I would do anything to fit in, even if it meant doing something I knew was wrong." Janice’s restless energy found a creative channel, however, when she joined the Inner City Ensemble, a theater group. "I wanted to be onstage to let my artistry out," she confides. And it worked. After a roof-raising concert performance of Melba Moore's version of the song "Lean On Me," Janice realized she had finally found an outlet for her soaring spirit; she would subsequently seek out any opportunity to express that spirit after enrolling in Adelphi University, where she majored in theater.
Throughout her college years, Robinson spent her free time in the music room, writing songs. "I put all my pain, all my passions, all my questions and dreams into songs," she recounts. Adding with a laugh, "No wonder I never let anybody hear them!"
That secrecy was broken wide open when the university held an open-mic contest. "I sang an original song," continues Janice, "and when I finished, everybody was screaming, whistling and shouting. Once again, I realized that music was not just a career choice, but a calling. My goal became simply to touch people with my songs." Between 1989 and 1995, Janice did just that, in a variety of groups and lineups where she was provided with an ample chance to pay her proverbial dues.
"For about one year, I was on a worldwide tour with a European dance music band," she recalls. "And even though I was singing songs that somebody else had sung on their album, I still enjoyed the chance to be in front of people."
During an extended stay in Italy, Janice was befriended by dance music producer Joe Vannelli. They collaborated on the tracks "Children" and "Sweetest Day Of May," both featuring Janice’s vocals.
Those two songs were followed, in 1994, with the breakthrough hit "Dreamer," with lyrics by Janice, performed when she was lead singer for an Italian-based club group called Livin’ Joy. "Dreamer’" was an international chart-topper of major proportions and when it was re-released a year later in the U.K., it immediately entered the pop chart at the top spot. Shortly thereafter, Janice relocated to the U.S. and, back on home turf, she quickly earned a reputation as a top-notch tunesmith, writing with the likes of Wyclef Jean, Taylor Dayne, Soul Solution, Junior Vasquez and David Morales-Robinson. It was only a matter of time before she caught the attention of major label talent scouts, among them Warner Bros. Records, who won the rights to introduce this enormously gifted young artist to American audiences for the first time.
"This album completely captures my spirit at this point in my life," remarks Janice about the music on her Warner Bros. Records debut. "The songs represent all of my various shadings," she says and the stellar lineup of supporting musicians, including Jim Keltner, Waddy Wachtel, Ry Cooder, Steve Ferrone, Jimmy Johnson, Michael Landau, Richard Page, among others, brings full dimension to the canvas. The Color Within Me spotlights such standout tracks as the above-mentioned single, "Nothing I Would Change," which Janice describes as "my life story." Other key cuts include "Finally Taking Over," "Dead End Girl" and the haunting "Afterlife," which, according to its creator, "is about me dreaming I died one night and came back as a man." On "1664 Park Ave.," the singer engages in some evocative wishful thinking, while "Sleeping In The Playground" revels in the glories of a childhood lost. "It Really Don't Matter" speaks of universal love, while the title track details the emotional divides within an interracial relationship.
"This album speaks of who I am," concludes Janice, "where I’ve come from and where I’m going." It’s a journey told in music that gets to the heart of the matter…about matters of the heart.
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