She’s not an idols star

{mosimage}Janita is
one of the most sensual Finnish singers. A teenage star in Finland, she moved
to New York when she was 17. During eleven years there, Janita has built a
solid career based on an elegant R&B of soulful and jazzy sounds. While on
holidays in Helsinki, the singer took a bit of time to speak with FREE! about her
career and future plans.

How do you
remember your first years in the music business?

I was a
kid, 13-14 years old and I grew up very fast. When I was 17 I felt like an
adult. I wasn’t, though. This time was one of the best parts of my life. I met
a lot of people. Everybody was older than me so I learned a lot from them.
Getting into touring, performing, having an 11 piece band… That was pretty
amazing for such a young age. I was able to fulfill my dreams.

And you
didn’t need to participate in Idols.

No, no.
This happens a long time ago. 15 years ago!

You were
also very young when you decided to move to New York

New York was
something exciting and new. I had some interests from record labels. There was
something going on there. But it has been a struggle to find my place there.
There are so many artists and everybody has to struggle for his existence. I
felt that I had the freedom to really find my own voice. New York gives you the
opportunity to find who you are as a person.

Why did you
decide to go there?

Finland is
a small place. After a while in the business, you know everybody. Everybody is
expecting certain things from you. Growth is harder. Everybody thinks you are
one kind of person, but in reality one is changing all the time. Sometimes when
people expect something from you, you stop growing. In a place like New York
you have to keep growing, to try to find new things. You have to evolve. It’s
lovely to know everyone here in Finland. I love that aspect but it can be
restricting too.

How was
playing live for the first time there?

It was very
liberating. Here everybody knew my face, my name and there I had freedom. Nobody
knew me. Fame can complicate your life.

How do you
feel when you come back to Finland?

It’s great.
I love this country. My roots are here, although I have spent already almost half
of my life in the States. I feel part American, part Finnish. Honestly. But my
roots and my family are here. But I love coming back and spending time in
Finland.

Do you know any
Finnish people there?

I have some
friends and my partner in crime is Finnish. We speak Finnish all the time of
course. I haven’t forgotten it. I speak it perfectly still. And I read books in
Finnish too. I am proud of it. I would hate to lose part of it.

In New
York, you had an accident that it was a turning point for you. What did it
happen?

It was in
my first years there. I was walking down the street and scaffolding fell and
hit my neck and back. It made me realize some things. I used to be very shy.
Typical Finnish: very humble, introverted, trying not to make a big thing about
myself. Finns are brought up that way. But it’s tough when you are too shy to
start creating. For me songwriting was something I only dreamt about it. I
didn’t have the balls to do it. After the accident, I realized how fragile life
is. I needed to express myself and do everything I want to do. You don’t know
how long you are going to be here. Things can change in one moment. That’s when
I started to get over my shyness.

What was
the first song you wrote?

I’ve been
writing some things here and then, but the first real song I wrote was Heaven.
It’s a very easy song, but it has a deeper meaning for me and I know. People
might not realize it or find other meanings.

It must be
funny when people give a different meaning to your songs.

I think
it’s great that you write a song about something that happened to your life and
somebody else finds a different meaning. That’s the whole point of it.
Everybody has their own life and his own way of thinking. That’s very positive.
Nobody has to thinks in the same terms as I do.

Are you afraid
of critics and reviews?

No, because
so far they have been pretty good. There’s no need to be scared. I’m still
finding my way, my audience. I think there are more and more people listening
to my music, but I still have lot of work to do.

Were you in
New York when the 9/11 happened?

I was in
Brooklyn. I heard of it because my mother called me. Everybody was awake in
Finland, but I was sleeping in New York. I turned on the TV and saw what was
happening. I felt it. I felt when the towers came down. All the smoke came to
Brooklyn. The smell of it lasted for four months. You couldn’t escape it. It
stayed in your mind.

Do you
follow Finnish music?

A little
bit. I checked Iltalehti and Ilta-Sanomat from time to time. I feel proud when
a Finnish band do well. But I don’t listen to the radio that much. I discover
new music from friends, recommendations.

Any favourite
Finnish singers?

I saw Risto
at the Flow festival. It was great. Also Tuomo. And Jaana is my friend and a
wonderful singer. There are many

Your last
album so far is from last year, Seasons of Life. How did it do?

Fine. I’ve
performed around the States a bit and I went to Japan twice. I get emails from
people who really reacted to the album and felt the music. That’s wonderful. I
always wanted to do music that it’s meaningful for people. How many people? It
does not really matter.

How was
Japan?

I loved it.
I’ve only been to Tokyo, though. But for a Finn, it feels pretty easy, almost
like home. The culture, the quite and shy style of the Japanese people… It
feels easy for me.

In that
album you did a cover of Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence. Was it your choice?

The label
wanted a cover and luckily I could decide which one. Normally covers are
no-brainers. You usually choose something easy. I could have done something
from Stevie Wonder, for example. But this time I wanted to do something
different and Depeche Mode has always been one of my favorite bands, so I
thought it would be a good idea to make this cover. It’s a beautiful song.

Are you
working on new music?

I keep on
doing new music, but it is going to be more edgy. I’ve been listening to a lot
of alternative rock and some folk music. I feel like those things are
influencing me. Before I was more into soul and jazz. Now I’m expanding my
horizons.

What are
your favourite bands and artists at the moment?

Death Cab
For Cutie, Keen, Jeff Buckley, Crosby, Stills & Nash and one Brazilian
singer from the seventies, Milton Nascimento.

 

Photos by Eduardo Alonso