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Q&A Sessions
Janet Robin: February 1 - 14, 2000
Section 3

I've never heard you live yet (though I hope to fairly soon), but just from listening to your studio tracks I can imagine that all of your songs translate really well to live performance. Do you mostly perform alone? I know you've had a band that you perform with sometimes -- how often do you get to perform with the whole ensemble? One of the things I thought was really effective about LB's live set was breaking up the performance between whole band numbers, and then some solo acoustic numbers he did alone -- do you do a mixed set like that? What is a typical live setlist of yours like? Do you stick to your own material, or do you do any covers live? (Les)

I do perform often solo, though that's because I tour solo-acoustic. However in town, I often play with the band. I have a show coming up with my 5 piece Feb. 26 here in LA.

Included are: drums, bass, guitar, and bg singer. The drummer and bass player are the same guys from the CD. I love playing solo and with the full band, just depends on the venue. I do mix it up a bit, half set acoustic with the band, then I have a solo piece alone on stage, and then band comes up for a few songs and I pick up my electric for the rest of the set.

I usually play about once a month with the full band while I'm in town. Though next month I have an acoustic show and full band show.

I don't do any covers, and usually stick to my own material. If I found a cool song to do a special way, I might spend the time working it up. Though, right now, I'm pretty much concentrating on presenting my own stuff.


After having been in several bands through the years, what motivated/inspired you to make the leap to solo artist? (Les)

Well, I think spending several years working in bands motivated me!


You've been asked if you'd ever work with Lindsey if he ever asked you . . . I'm wondering if the timing was right if you might ever consider asking him to make an appearance on any of your future albums? (Les)

Sure, I would love Lindsey to appear on a recording, if he was able and willing...It would just have to be the right timing.


You did an interview that I read a while back where you mentioned that you asked Lindsey for his opinions on some of your songs -- was that a nerve-wracking experience asking Lindsey for opinions? Is he supportive of your work? Is he aware that you count him as such a big influence? (Les)

I'm sure Lindsey knows he's an inspiration for me. I haven't really hid that. It wasn't nerve-wracking to ask him his opinions on my work. He's asked me before and has shared some ideas with me in the past. I think there's some mutual respect, and I embrace any opinions or ideas he may have on my music. Of course, I may not always agree, though, I let it sink-in and I know it only helps me to grow creatively.

He seems genuinely supportive of my work. One time he showed up at a show! I really appreciated that...We've talked about music and songwriting, etc... many times in the past, though, lately he's been pretty busy on his own, working on his upcoming release.


Thanks for so generously offering your time for our questions. I'll definitely be watching for your new album when it comes out. Best of luck to you! (Les)

Thanks!


First of all thanks so much for doing this Janet! I just got my copy of your CD and I'm listening to it as I'm typing this. So far it is *amazing*. I was wondering, what is your process for song writing? Every artist seems to have a different process of getting songs from a piece of paper to an album and I was wondering how you did it. Thanks again. (Ali, Montgomery Township, Pennsylvania, USA)

Thanks for your question...

see some previous answers for more details. Most of the time, I start with music or a guitar chord progression or finger-picking progression and work in a melody idea. Usually lyrics come last, though I sometime "stream of consciousness" belt out lyric ideas while I'm working on the music...


I had almost forgotten to ask you about blues and jazz in my last question, what do you think of any blues or jazz artists, new or old. I'm certainly into a lot of categories of music in general. (Jeff Baer, Thorofare, New Jersey, USA)

I like a lot of blues and jazz tho I don't listen on a reg. basis. I love Billie Holiday, I think she has an amazing voice. I love BB King, he's awesome on guitar. Robert Johnson, etc... I love bluegrass too. I like the fingerstyle of playing. There's a ton of amazing lesser known players out there like: DR Auten, Lawerence Juber, etc...


Also, had you ever been into the Peter Green era of the Mac. I had currently picked up Kenny Wayne Sheppard's new album 'Live On', and they do quite an energetic version of 'Oh Well'. (Jeff Baer)

I can't say I've ever been into the Peter Green era, though I do love that version of "Oh Well." A pleasure to answer your questions!


In Bob Welch's Q/A he shed some light on the pressure record co execs put on artists to come up with the hits! How do you balance following your vision for a CD with the economic reality of making money for the label your on?? Do you feel the pressure to go commercial? (Andy, Reston, Virginia, USA)

This a good and important question.

There are definite pressures to come up with hits when you're on a major label. I'm on my own independent, so I can do whatever the hell I want. Such is the luxury of that path, though in order to get any attention from a larger label, they will be listening for "hits." I've struggled a bit with this. The larger labels have more muscle to get the record out on a larger basis. I won't deny that I wouldn't want that. Though, for now, I do what I can on my own.

I tend to write somewhat commercially-type sounding "pop" tunes anyway, but that's not enough these days, the larger labels like to fit you in a certain "category" so they know how/where to market you.

It kinda sucks, cuz that really limits your audience and crams your creativity down. The record biz is BIG money and that's all they care about. Music/creativity and performance, etc... has gone out the door. Though, the labels tend to forget that the audience and music fans have the last word. You can only shove a certain amount of crap down peoples throat till they can't take it anymore and demand something more of quality.

I'm hoping that with the internet and different age groups coming into money power will make a big impact on new music. Perhaps the bigger record labels will have to take notice of this demand and start listening to what people really want from their music. It's a big hope, but I have some nonetheless.

Regardless, I'm thankful to at least have a vehicle to get my music out.... run my own record label, produce, write, and present songs and records the way I feel best...and then with the internet and hardworking touring, I can bring my music to you!!!

jrobin3_1

Hello Janet~I saw you on tour with OTC in Cleveland and it's the best show I ever saw (and I have seen a lot). I remember you vividly. Anyway, When you were on tour with OTC what were the band's eating habits like? Besides the ol' deli tray....did you do a lot of fast food and junk food or perhaps nicer restaurants? Or perhaps you like to eat healthy? (Ernie Fuhr, Rockford, Illinois, USA)

Hi there!

I try really hard to eat healthy on the road, it's the one thing that can really help keep you healthy and strong. I don't eat at fast food, and didn't eat at too many nice restaurants, though I would splurge sometimes. Lindsey was generous many times and took the entire band out for a bonding dinner!

Most times I just managed to get a salad somewhere or healthy sandwich/pasta close by. I definitely stayed away from the backstage-deli-trays!


Second question: Who was the percussionist in the OTC tour? (The guy with the goatee) Oh he was such a madman! I'll bet he was fun to work with, right? What's he doing now? (Ernie)

The percussionist you're talking about is Michael Tempo, and yes he is a madman! (in a good way of course :) He's an excellent musician. I think he's playing a lot of sessions lately, though I'm sure he's on and off the road too with other artists, I haven't really spoke with him in a long time...But whatever he's doing, he's doing it crazy!


Hi Janet! Thank you for doing this Q&A. On to the questions...When did you become involved in producing your own work? Did you begin recording yourself at a young age? (Tracy G., Stockbridge, Georgia, USA)

I started do production stuff on my own work from the very beginning, upon working at home on my recording equipment. I didn't do any pro recording till I was in my former band, but when I was young, I used to mess around with two tape players and things like that.


And along that vein, when did you begin writing your own songs? (Tracy G.)

Hmm, well I remember writing songs when I was pretty young maybe around age 10, I did do a little demo tape of my tunes when I was 14.


Do you consider yourself a poet as well as a musician? (Tracy G.)

I don't consider myself a poet. I definitely think more along the lines of a musician.


Did you write any of the songs for Precious Metal? (Tracy G.)

Yes, I did do a lot of the writing along with the singer (Leslie). We did a lot of writing together for the band. She's actually a great pop writer, and I'm sure to have been influenced by her.


And did you get an opportunity to participate in the production of that album? (Tracy G.)

We actually did 3 albums together, I did participate a little on the first 2, but the last one I was much more involved in guitar production and bg vocal ideas, etc..We worked with producers that were relatively open to band members having production ideas, which was great!


I read from a previous answer that you got a chance to spend some time with Lindsey in his studio. Did you manage to pick up any tips from him during your brief visit? (Tracy G.)

Actually, my recent visit was a social call. But back when we were doing more work with him the band got the chance to track in his studio and work on ideas. It was great fun. I can't say anything in particular that I picked up from LB, except general recording ideas and things of that nature. I did notice that he does a lot of direct recording from guitar to maybe a pedal straight to tape. I thought that was pretty cool. He does a lot of experimentation with sounds till he finds the exact one he's searching for.


I always have to include a *fluff* question, so...how did a mini-toy accordion end up on your record? Thank you :) (Tracy G.)

Hey! I love this question!

I bought this mini-toy accordion in a mall where this guy was selling them while he was walking around. I knew I'd eventually find some use for it! I just thought it was great sounding, so when we cut "Open the Door" (the track), Mark (my co-producer) and myself thought it would fit perfectly in the tune, cuz it's such a wacked out song!

Just to note: Those of you who have purchased the disc: Don't forget to let it run out all the way to the end, so you can hear the 'munchkins' & toy accordion on "Open the Door!"


Hi Janet. I have some general questions about the Cradle band. I thought you all were an incredible and interesting group together - multi-gender, multi-racial, so many guitars, 3 percussionists, so many vocalists, and so much great energy. All during the Cradle tour, and long after, Lindsey talked in the press repeatedly about how much he loved you guys. He seemed excited by the talent and everybody's "hungry" attitudes and just generally enjoyed everybody and was thrilled with how it all came together. I think a lot of people who've seen those shows noticed how joyful Lindsey was onstage with you all. From your perspective, was it a tight-knit group? (Les, San Diego, California, USA)

Well, I don't know if we were any more of a tight-knit group than any other band. We definitely had a bond on and somewhat off-stage too.


Generally, do you think it increases your excitement or increases the bonding experience, if you call it that, to be involved in a band that is more challenging/experimental like that one was? (Les)

Yes, definitely, I think there has to be some kind of bond between musician's in a band. Otherwise, everyone is just playing for themselves, and that sort of thing doesn't work well when you're playing with other instruments, unless you're solo up there.

It's definitely more challenging to be in band like LB's. It was challenging for me as a guitarist to play with sooooo many other guitars in the band. Challenging, but ultimately, exciting and exceptional. I've never heard of or been in a band that had 5 guitars, let alone 2 percussionists!

It seemed at times to be somewhat of a rock orchestra, which would make sense for Lindsey, as he really enjoys hearing all of his parts he's created. He was able to accomplish that by putting together a larger band.

It taught me a lot about instrumentation and how/when/ and when not to play. I came from a hard-rock band that played all the time, we couldn't shut up! With Lindsey's project, I learned about dynamic's, arrangement, harmony, etc... all very important things to know as a musician and songwriter.


For Lindsey, growth and experimenting and challenging himself seems to be so important -- is that an attitude you share? (Les)

Yes, definitely as you can see from my answer above....If you're not continuously challenging yourself as an artist and as a person, you're not growing and you're not getting all you can outta life! It's great to learn new things that excite and motivate you.


You mentioned that you keep in touch with Liza Carbe and I noticed that Scott Breadman made an appearance on your album -- do you still have any contact with the other members of that band? By the way, do you happen to know the name of the solo album Liza released, and when it was released? (Les)

Yes, I do keep in contact with some. On and off at times, yet we talk occasionally. I've been in contact with Liza lately because she's helped loan me some recording equipment for my upcoming CD! She has a CD out called: 'Little Megan's Diary', I think it came out sometime in 1998- and the name of her project is Book of Storms. Her and her boyfriend are in the band together. Amongst doing their own project, they've also gotten into doing a lot of production for other artists and run a recording studio for those projects.

Scott Breadman or ("Bready" as I call him) and I keep in contact as much as possible... he travels a lot and works with many other musicians, I'm lucky he's graced my work with his talent! He recently did some work on some demo's of mine. Awesome percussionist.


I know Lindsey and Steve Ross had some previous associations -- do you know if any other members of the band knew each other or worked together before working together on Lindsey's project? (Les)

Liza and I were the only ones that knew of each other, to my knowledge. When I was in my former band, we actually auditioned Liza for our band at one point! I think Neale had known Lindsey a little thru Richard Dashut. Richard Dashut and Neale met in England at some point.


The vast majority of the reviews I've seen for those Cradle shows all over the country were really glowing. Did you guys pay attention to the reviews of your shows? As a solo artist, how much do you pay attention to reviews? Sorry for so many questions at once. But again, thanks so much for your time! (Les)

I'm not sure if LB ever read the reviews, but I definitely did and I think most of the band did.

I read reviews on my own work, as far as paying attention? Well, I just read them and decide what to let sink in, if possible! I think the fans are the best reviewers.


"Open the Door" is a pretty enthralling work, & covers some very interesting ground stylistically. Would you say you are as fascinated by the artistic possibilities of the studio & all its technology, somewhat the way Buckingham is? (David, Los Angeles, California, USA)

Actually, I've just completed a small home studio here which I will use on my forthcoming CD. It would be nice to have all the latest gear, but what I'll be using here should suit my needs up until mixing time, which then I will probably have to go to another studio. I like working in house for overdubs. There's a lot you can use in one's house and experiment with different sounding rooms and mic placement. Plus you feel more comfortable experimenting in your own home.

As far as what I would get to complete a more state of the art studio: Pro Tools computer set-up is the latest in digital recording. I'll be using ADAT's for my recording, still digital, but not quite the same editing capabilities. I would probably also have a 2" machine for analog recording so that I could retain some analog "warmth" on certain tracks, especially drums and bass. I think a combo like that would be great to have: a bit of the old with the new.

I'd also love to have a few more vintage amps and vintage guitars to choose from, as well as vintage effect pedals. I really enjoy dialing up a "the" sound I'm looking for, and using the old guitar pedals is great fun.


If you had the chance to build a high-tech studio at your residence (like the Slope), what sorts of unusual equipment (VSOs, for example) might you want to use -- even if purely for the sake of experimentation? (David)

I'm definitely fascinated by a lot of new technology, but perhaps not as much as Lindsey is. I'm not a major tech person, and generally I like more organic sounds, though on my CD we were able to get some cool guitar sounds via certain effect pedals of that sort and amplifier tweaking.


Are you a big fan of Peter Green (or any of the other past Mac guitarists)? (David)

I'm not totally familiar with Peter Green's work, aside from "Oh Well," I got into FM when Lindsey and Stevie joined, mostly because I think I was just more exposed to that era.


You mentioned in an earlier response that you generally give solo shows. But say you decided to put a full-fledged band together some day for touring behind an album of yours, what sort of an instrumental lineup might you go for? (David)

Actually, I do play quite often with my full band, I just don't tour with them because it's quite expensive to bring a full band on the road as an indep endent. Here in town, I generally play with another guitarist, bass, & drums. I switch off between acoustic and electric, depending on the song. Sometimes I have a female background singer/percussionist as I will coming up soon at The Mint.

Given the opportunity to bring a band on the road: I probably wouldn't change much as far as the line-up. I might add one more guitarist to cover some of the other parts, and possibly another bg singer who plays keys. I don't have a lot of keys on my material, but I do have some on this new CD.


Any particular instruments you'd emphasize or downplay, or leave out altogether? (David)

Well, I'm sure to emphasize the guitars, being a guitarist myself... I think it would be great to showcase a lot of guitar stuff live.

Thanks, Janet, for hanging out with us here at the Penguin for a couple of weeks! (David)

My pleasure!

jrobin3_2


I have Open The Door which I'm enjoying very much, and I especially like Formosa Cafe. I would love to have the lyrics. Is there a reason they aren't included either in the liner notes or on your web site? Thanks. (Barbara, Houston, Texas, USA)

Hi there!

I'm glad you enjoy the CD! I would have loved to have put the lyrics in, but decided to just make a 4-panel CD booklet for the first disc. Depending on the fees next time around, I will probably do a much larger booklet and try to include the lyrics for the new CD.

That's a great idea to have them on my website! I didn't think of that.... I will definitely get my webmaster to handle that, thanks for the idea!


Hello Janet. I just want to say that I think it's so cool that you're a female guitarist. It's nice to see that women aren't afraid to play what are thought of as "male" instruments. I myself am a trumpet player and I sometimes find it hard to deal with the discrimination. Have you ever experienced anything like this? (Janine, Maryland)

I have experience not being "taken" serious as a guitarist in the past, but more recently it's been much better I think because I've built up a bit of a rep. It was really bad in the 80's and early 90's, but after the alternative explosion more women were in bands and got to be more of a staple. There's also a lot more women instrumentalists around now, so it's not totally weird to see a girl up there jamming. Of course, R n R is still a male dominated biz, women have made great in-roads, but still have a ways to go.


I know you mentioned that LB was specifically looking for a female guitarist, but did you feel that he treated you as an equal? (Janine)

He definitely treated me as an equal, though there were more guys in the band, so at times I think Liza and myself felt a little excluded, but that's pretty normal in any group situation. There were times Lindsey and myself would sit down and play and sing, etc... and there was no problem of a male-female control thing going on at all. He was extremely respectful as a person, and usually just caught up in the moment of creating.


Also, did you notice if LB ever experienced any stage fright or have you yourself? If so, how do you deal with it? Thank you so much. (Janine)

I'm sure LB had a little stage fright at some shows, but I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. He's a total pro and seems to always rise to the occasion.

I've had some in the past, but once on stage it usually starts to fade away. Just prior to going on, I just try to relax and take a breath. I like to have my guitar in my hands, so I can warm-up a bit.

Good luck with your trumpet playing!


Hi Janet. Thanks for taking the time to answer all these questions. I'm sorry I was not able to see you play live in 93 but have seen several of the OOTC tour shows on video and it seems that the entire band is having a fun time on stage. At the same time I'm sure it was a lot of work. It's great that Lindsey's band included two female guitarists. You did an awesome job. Thanks for including your picture of Nancy Wilson, you and Lindsey to your bio page. I always thought Nancy was an excellent guitar player an thought her and Lindsey would sound fantastic together. Did the three of you ever get a change to jam or do you know if Lindsey and Nancy ever worked together? (Dani, Florida, USA)

No, unfortunately we didn't get the chance to work together, the three of us, or just Lindsey and Nancy, though Nancy is a big fan and was really happy to see the live show.


Also I'm curious if you used any Ovations for any of your work? You didn't mentioned them when asked about your guitars in a prior question. (Dani)

No, I haven't used Ovations before. I think some sound great, but I'm not a big fan of the plastic backs used in construction of the guitar.


I love Ovations and was curious why you didn't seem to like them that much esp. since you had mentioned Nancy Wilson sound several times. Again thanks for your time. (Dani)

Yes, I believe Nancy has used them a lot in the past, though has since changed to using a lot of Takamine's and I believe she also has Taylors and Martins. I once saw her guitar collection at her house and it was quite complete!


You said one of your previous answers that Lindsey didn't usually travel with the band. (Jeff, San Mateo, California, USA)

Actually, he did travel with the band often, just not on the overnight long trips. He often road on the band bus during the regular day trips from city to city.


Can you tell us how he did travel ? Plane or did he have his own bus, if so who rode with him ?? (Jeff)

When he didn't ride with us, he usually flew with the road manager. There were times that he took the entire band with him for plane trips, just to save our strength, if it was a really long overnighter on the road. Very cool, I thought!


Did you ever get the chance to meet any of Lindsey's family ?? And do you know if any of them make an appearance in the "Countdown" video? (Jeff)

Yes, I did meet one of his brother's and also his late brother's wife (sister-law) and his niece's and nephew's, quickly backstage at a show.

I don't think any of them made an appearance in that video, but my memory fades on the video, and I don't remember much from it.


Is your song "Brother" a true story ?? (R.N., Los Angeles, California, USA)

Hey there! You must have heard that song at a live show!

Yes, it is a true story. My brother got me into music and guitar playing, etc... Now he lives here in town as a successful dentist with 3 kids & wife! He comes to shows as often as possible, and of course, requests that song!

Thanks for your question!


Curiosity Question: In one of your answers you said Lindsey once had a cat..was it grey and named "Eddie" ??? (R.N.)

Although we're not answering personal questions about Lindsey here on the Penguin: He did have a cat named "Eddie," though I think he's gone into cat heaven.


Hi Janet! Let me join with the others in thanking you for taking the time to answer our questions. I'm also glad to hear that you've been able to maintain a connection with Lindsey, or as we affectionately refer to him, "the man" :-) On with my questions ... how did you come up with the name Little Sister Records for your independent label... (Terry, Baltimore, Maryland, USA)

My brother, who originally got me into music would call me his little sister, even now!


...and does this mean you're sworn off the commercial "machinery" (as Lindsey has so often referred to it) for good, or would you consider going through a major label at some point? (Terry)

I haven't sworn off major labels, but I am weary. It would have to be a label that was well aware of my independent workings and we would have to have equal respect for each other. Perhaps we could even do a distribution or licensing deal thru my label. I would entertain many ideas only because I don't have a problem with getting my music out to a larger audience. I just would want to try and reach an agreement with a label where the machine didn't completely clobber me. That could be a dream though....


I've just read an article on Aimee Mann in the latest issue of Rolling Stone, and it seems she's managing to do both, having just released her 3rd solo record on her own label, SuperEgo, while riding the wave of success her songs are currently enjoying on the Magnolia soundtrack. (Terry)

Yes, definitely a way to go. I have my own label and could keep that going whilst doing work for another label or another project. There's a lot more options for artists these days, especially with the internet.


Has your family been supportive of your career? How many siblings to you have, and are you the youngest? (Terry)

My family has been extremely supportive of my career and I think it would have been difficult to continue without that support.

I have 2 brothers, and I'm the youngest.


I know you've experienced the band situation before, but if you were approached today by an established act, and asked to join their band as an equal member (a la Buckingham/Nicks joining Fleetwood Mac), would you consider it? (Terry)

Sure, I would definitely consider it, if it was an established act I think I could add too/and be a part of. Perhaps I could still have my own solo career as well. I think there's a lot of options, but depending on the act, I would definitely consider it.


Do you have any other interests besides music? Where do you hope to be in 5, 10 or 15 years from now? (Terry)

I don't have too many other interests besides music- songwriting, production, and performing.

It's hard to say exactly where I hope to be in the next years: I definitely hope to be performing continuously through out my career. I would like to be in a situation of making a record every 2 years and touring in support for a year, and so forth. I'd love to be in a 'round' like that, so that I was really building a strong career and catalog of songs. I see that as a major goal.


Are you familiar with Lindsey's solo Go Insane album? What do you think of it? (Terry)

I'm sorry to say I'm not that familiar with that record. Of course I'm familiar with Go Insane, the song. I've been told to definitely get this one, however, which I plan doing asap.


He tends to draw a lot from his own personal experiences, and has said that he never really considered himself a great writer of lyrics (although I beg to differ ;). What do you rely on as inspiration for your lyrics? Do you consider the lyrics as important as the music, and does writing come easy to you? (Terry)

I definitely think lyrics are the hardest for me as well. I struggle with the lyrics. I rely on personal experiences as well as friends and past experiences. I also like developing stories on my own. I do think lyrics are very important in a song, though I tend to think that it's the melody and music that stands out to me the most as a musician and listener.


You mentioned that you like to tour solo for the most part...how did you pull your band together for your album? Is it a different process when you decide to tour with a band? (Tracy G., Stockbridge, Georgia, USA)

Actually, I only tour solo as it's very expensive to bring a full band on the road, as an independent artist. Given my choice, I would love to bring the full band!

I play here in Los Angeles as often as possible, so my band out here is pretty much the same guys over and over. I had already been playing live with them when I decided to do the record, so they were well prepared to go in the studio.

If I was able to bring the same guys that played on the record out on the road, I probably would choose that route...


Closing Comments:

I would like to thank Marty, Lisa, and everyone at The Penguin for inviting me on the Question and Answer Series. I also would like to thank the great fans of music that I was able to communicate with! It was informative and great fun to to hear comments and tidbits about working with Lindsey Buckingham, as well as comments and critiques of my own present work. Thank you for all the incredible support and positive feedback!

It was my pleasure to be a guest here on The Penguin. I hope I was able to shed a little light on the workings of a touring musician, music biz, and the creative side to music. I hope to keep in contact, and especially hope to see you all on the road!

Again- thanks to everyone for your great questions, comments, and most excellent enthusiasm about the one thing we all share in common: the love of music!

cheers & smiles,
Janet Robin

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