JanaeSound triumphantly overcomes internal self-doubt and anxiety.
The Portland, Maine pop-rock singer-songwriter holds intense conversations with her inner saboteur in “Feared,” an upbeat, take-charge anthem about personifying and conquering your fears.
“I wrote this tune because I really struggled with fear at the beginning of my career. I would experience extreme paralyzing anxiety whenever I did something new and just before each breakdown. I was fighting panic attacks before some of my biggest gigs and opportunities, which is not sustainable or healthy,” said Janay Woodruff, aka JanaeSound.
“I began to acknowledge my fears, thanking them for trying to keep me safe, and then I try to release them. This is something I continue to practice. With COVID-19, everything I worked so hard for seemed to disappear in the blink of an eye. It was fear I couldn’t talk myself out of, and it just seemed like the right time to release the track.”
Throughout her latest single, “Feared,” JanaeSound crushes lingering worries as she soulfully sings, “I know you wanna keep me safe/I know you want me in my place/Even if this dream’s just a wild chase/I’m runnin’ out of time/I gotta face my fears.” A strong sonic army filled with bouncy bass, zippy synths and pounding drums help JanaeSound emerge victoriously from her emotional battle.
“In the track, I have a conversation with my fear. She’s doing the whole ‘let’s panic about a million things that could go wrong’ thing. I really do have that voice, ha-ha! She tries to talk me out of some of my best ideas. If I listened to her, life would be so boring,” said Woodruff, who released the track in June.
“I like to think of her as someone who means really well and wants the best for me. I let her know that growth (which I want) and being comfortable and safe (what she wants) aren’t compatible, and that I’m running out of time to reach my goals.”
JanaeSound will squash any remaining struggles in an upcoming video for “Feared,” which will drop this fall. The video will remind listeners about banding together to fight recurring fears, worries and anxieties.
“I want anyone who listens to know that you are not alone if you are experiencing anxiety or fear, especially given current events. Take care of yourselves first. Then smash those goals one step at a time. Even the tiniest step forward is progress. If all we did today was exist and feel kind of OK, that’s progress, too! I believe in you!” Woodruff said.
Break Me Down and Diamonds
Outside of “Feared,” JanaeSound develops a thicker skin on “Break Me Down,” a dynamic rock-fueled ode to overcoming betrayal and disappointment. Charging electric guitars, militaristic drums and brave bass encourage JanaeSound to face her opponent as she boldly sings, “You took me under your wing/I thank you for that, I thank you for that/You tried to sabotage me/I won’t forget that, I won’t forget that/You underestimated me, so I’m comin’ for you, baby.”
“I was mad when I wrote that song. Some people really let me down, and it was happening so often that I thought, ‘OK, girl, you’re not gonna be upset every single day. You’re gonna channel this into some music. You’re gonna make a war anthem, and you’re gonna play this song when people try it, and you’re gonna feel fine,’” Woodruff said.
“And so I did. I just heard this song that said, ‘We’re not a victim, and we can learn from people doing us wrong, and that it’s really more about them than it is about us. And the most important thing is that you’re still standing.’”
JanaeSound continues to stand tall and proud on her debut single, “Diamonds,” a heartfelt ballad about strength, persistence and victory. Booming synths, echoing percussion, intermittent piano and bluesy electric guitars surround her as she emotionally sings, “I’m under pressure, but I don’t feel the heat/Got my eyes on the future/Can’t accept defeat/I’m under pressure, but I don’t feel the heat/I’ve come too far to give up now on the edge of victory/The higher I climb, the harder it gets/I’ve got one life to live, and I don’t do regret/At the end of all the fighting, I know I’ll end up diamonds.”
“I wrote ‘Diamonds’ in a really tough spot, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue on with music. Everything I was writing was so sad, and I thought, ‘I wish I could write a song that would make me feel better coming from me.’ It was kind of my love letter to myself because I made this choice,” she said.
For all three singles, JanaeSound collaborated with Darren Elder and Kevin Billingslea from The Halo Studio in South Windham, Maine. Elder and Billingslea produced the powerhouse rock tracks while helping execute JanaeSound’s creative vision, which includes additional singles and an upcoming EP.
From Opera to Livestream
JanaeSound started honing her creative vision while growing up in St. Louis. At age nine, her third grade choir teacher recognized her vocal talents and helped her get an audition for “La Bohème” at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. She played a local townsperson who sang during the big chorus numbers while Mimi was falling in love or getting sick.
“It was insane. I loved every moment of it. I’d be out with my stage parents buying things from the shop and singing,” Woodruff said.
After wrapping up “La Bohème,” JanaeSound developed a taste for the stage and sang in church. She watched Dorothy Dandridge perform in “Carmen Jones,” a 1954 film based on 1943 stage musical of the same name set to the music of George Bizet’s 1875 opera, “Carmen.”
JanaeSound also developed a deep appreciation for Nina Simone, Brittany Howard and Beyoncé while learning to play violin. Together, those musical influences and experiences encouraged JanaeSound to write songs and play music on stage.
“I’m so grateful that’s the first type of music that I heard, and I was introduced to such great strong, powerful women. To this day, I love my singers,” she said.
JanaeSound continued to write music and perform live in St. Louis before relocating to Portland, Maine with her husband. Known for her laser focus and unshakable drive, she developed a strong local and national following through touring and opened for FloRida at Now 96.3’s (KNOU-FM) Night Out in 2017.
With touring plans currently on hold due to COVID-19, JanaeSound will perform an 8 p.m. Friday livestream set for Backstage Live at Maine Savings Pavilion inside Rock Row. The livestream set also will raise funds for Preble Street Food Pantry’s “Ending Hunger Benefit” with viewers donating directly to the cause.
“It’s been a hot minute since I’ve gotten to perform with my band. I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve, ha-ha! I am really excited to raise money for Preble Street Food Pantry – they serve food to our homeless population (in Portland) who are even more vulnerable during the pandemic,” said Woodruff, who’s known for wearing her trademark cat ears during live performances.
Despite the ongoing challenges with the pandemic, JanaeSound plans to keep writing, recording and releasing new material.
“Writing has always been a cathartic release for all my emotions, and let’s just say it’s pouring out of me right now. I also recently put together a livestream at the legendary, but empty State Theatre to celebrate and bring awareness to Juneteenth,” she said.
“In nine days, from pitch to livestream, I curated, produced and performed in a showcase of black talent, which also raised $10K for local organizations that empower Portland’s black community. I have big plans to release some fun content this fall; it will be far from traditional.”