GREENWICH VILLAGE, MANHATTAN: Sometimes a record is just a recording, and sometimes it’s a resurrection. For the soulful soul-searcher Janita, her newest album Haunted shows how a singer and her muse can find a way to flourish again.
Recently released on Greenwich Village-based label Engine Company Records, Haunted sees one of Europe’s most expressive exports finally finding her true voice. A highly exposed pop star in Finland since adolescence, Janita moved to New York City in the late 1990’s at age 17 to Blow it Up Big. Although a contract with Sony soon followed, along with three albums (1998’s Janita, 2001’s I’ll Be Fine, and 2005’s Seasons of Life) and a pair of Top 40 hits in the ensuing years, artistic satisfaction was conspicuously absent.
If the sonic purity and emotional intensity of Haunted sounds like it’s coming from somewhere very real, it’s because it is. Hearts broke in the making, as Janita split with her longtime collaborator/life partner Tomi Sachary even as he served as co-producer on the album. Along the way, Janita connected with co-producer Jamie Siegel and ultimately crafted a collection of songs that leaves her adult contemporary reputation – foisted on her by years of chart-chasing advice – in the dust.
Over the sharply crafted guitars, keyboards and drums is Janita’s voice, now at the top of it’s soul-drenched game with added control, restraint and range, to tell it like it really is.
Freedom Through Music
“It’s been a heavy process, but a liberating thing,” Janita says about the painful act of splitting with Sachary while making Haunted. “It was beautiful for us to be able to conclude our career and relationship together, but it’s a story of independence for me. A lot of the record was me fighting the boxes that I had been put in musically and artistically: My other albums had been directed by other people and for me to make this album is a fight that I had to put up. I felt like it was most important for me to be honest and real, put something new out there, rather than lie about where I was in my life for the benefit of the person I was working with.”
Tracked primarily with her full band at Longview Farm Studios in idyllic North Brookfield, MA, Janita took every opportunity to move away from her R&B reputation and towards an edgier sound that reflected her newfound love of Radiohead, Tom Waits and PJ Harvey. One chancy tack was to record her vocals live with the band – a move that proved to have both benefits and setbacks.
“At the point where I realized I wanted to do everything with a live band in a room, that’s when it started coming back to that soul thing,” she explains. “It went from alternative rock, back to what was natural for me. At Longview Studios we recorded everything in the whole room with the band, and I actually sang at the same time as the band.
“The reason we ended up redoing the vocals was that everything came through my mic, so it didn’t work out. It does lend a consistent sound to the record, while two songs ended up being produced separately, ‘Haunted’ and ‘Out to Get You’. If they jump out, that’s a good thing.
“I was aware that recording the vocals live with the band might not work, but I felt it was important to go back to the way that people used to make records. We didn’t even use a click, which sometimes was interesting. It made it a different kind of recording session — had I not been singing, the energy would have been completely different. They were able to play off of me, and grow quieter or louder naturally.”
Mix. Master. More.
Siegel’s credits include Lauryn Hill, Whitney Houston, and Joss Stone along with Taking Back Sunday and Smashing Pumpkins. His production of the starkly confessional driver “Haunted” and tensely artful “Out to Get You”, along with subsequent mixing of the album, helped Haunted to take another turn.