Janine has all the momentum she needs. Less than a week ago, the recording artist—formerly Janine and the Mixtape—uploaded a photo to Instagram with the caption, “Ready to start the next album.” It’s a normal sentiment for any artist to share, but for Janine, who just released her first album, “99,” in May, it’s another reminder that she’s not losing steam anytime soon.
Crediting artists such as Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, and the Spice Girls as inspirations, the New Zealand native attracted a dedicated following thanks to the sultry, entrancing sound and vulnerable lyrics on her debut EP, “Dark Mind,” which she both wrote and produced. The EP quickly rose to number two on the iTunes R&B charts after its 2013 release. Since then, she’s carried a balanced, but ambiguous blend of soul, beats, and synths into her equally heady second EP, “XXEP,” and her album.
Fresh off the release of “99,” Aaptiv caught up with Janine to talk about what influences her R&B style, how she uses her platform for good, and the personal experiences that inspire her songs. Read on for more, then head to the Aaptiv app and take “Never Too Late,” an outdoor running class set to a playlist curated by Janine.
What was it like growing up in New Zealand and wanting to be a singer?
“Well, it’s a lot smaller here and we’re very humble here, which is great generally. It’s not always great for trying to shine and grow, though. So I knew I wanted to break out of that a bit. I guess everything we experience influences us somehow so I’m sure some of my upbringing has inspired me in some ways as an artist. But I listened to mostly American music growing up so that is probably what impacted me the most musically.”
Your style leans more R&B than anything else. Who are some of your biggest influences and inspirations in that area?
“Mariah Carey was one of the first artists I listened to growing up. I loved her immediately. Her voice and melodies are incredible. But, thinking back, I had a punk phase, I loved indie music, I loved folk music. I listened to a bunch of different pop. What I’ve realized, though, is that most of my favorite artists then had some kind of R&B influence. Mariah’s melodies are pretty R&B-focused. I listened to the Backstreet Boys who also have some R&B style to their songs. I guess I just realized at a certain age that there’s something about this style that makes me feel something.”
Do you have any dream collaborations?
“I would love to work with Drake, obviously. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I’d love to work with Timbaland on production. Then, there are so many singers that would be incredible to work with: Frank Ocean, Miguel, Sam Smith, and Adele. I think Rihanna is awesome, too. And Cardi B! I love her attitude. I’d love to work with her.”
You wrote and produced your “Dark Mind” EP. Is production something that you’re interested in pursuing parallel to your singing and writing?
“My production initially stemmed out of need. I couldn’t really find someone who would really capture what I was looking for. So, I got into learning and I really started to appreciate great producers. It’s something I feel like it’s important to understand, but it’s definitely secondary to my singing. I would like to develop my skills, but there are so many people who are much better at this than me and I’d love to just collaborate with them so I can focus on singing and writing.”
Your album “99” seems to focus a lot on relationships and various forms of love. Are there any real-life stories behind the songs that you can share?
“Totally. It’s really about my life and that things I experienced. “Hold On” is about my current boyfriend. When I met him a couple of years ago, he was working super hard and had that same kind of grind that I had at the time—working full-time and trying to chase the dream at the same time. I hadn’t seen that grind in someone in a while and the song is really about how much I appreciated that and how I want to take care of him and be with him.
“Too Late” is about a long-term relationship I had with someone who I think is really great, but it didn’t work out. It’s basically me saying ‘hey, I let you go and it didn’t work out very nicely, but you’re awesome.’ I don’t think people say that kind of thing enough—everyone’s either in love or out of love and it’s someone else’s fault. I’m not saying I would change things if I could do it again, but it’s just acknowledging that he was a good person.”
There’s a lot going on socially and politically around our world. As an artist, do you feel any draw to incorporate important messages or even activism in your work?
“Well, the song “Wrong Thing” on the album sounds like it’s about a relationship, but it’s actually about equality and finding justice amidst all of this mess. I wrote right it around a time when there was a lot of protesting around the deaths of minorities going on and with Black Lives Matters in mind.
“I feel like with a platform comes a responsibility. I think you need to open up a conversation. I feel like I’ve been given a voice and platform and I do feel like I should use it. All of this has to be for something greater than yourself.”
What’s next for you?
“I’m definitely working on a tour. I don’t have any dates locked down, but that’s something that’s coming. I came off the road and now I can’t wait to get back into it. I’m also already planning my next album. I grew a lot between my EP and my album and now I feel like I’ve grown a lot since this album even. I’ve been listening to more music to better understand what sound I want to make next. I’ve been working on my voice a lot so it’s much better than it used to be. Generally, I have a new perspective on a lot of things. I’m more confident. So, I’m ready to fit all these little pieces together and build the next project.”
Want to hear more of Janine’s music? Check out “Stretch It Better,” another new Aaptiv stretching class set to an all-Janine playlist.