WBM: As many of your songs already demonstrate, there are plenty of issues that you feel strongly about. Beyond sex trafficking, what are some of the immediate causes that you connect to?
JANIE: Clearly I’m drawn to stories of pain and abuse that can lead to issues such as trafficking. I’m particularly interested in the relationships with men and women–all types, familial, romantic–how it can lead to a break down in self-esteem on both parts to cause a myriad of dysfunctional issues. My husband mentors young men and I enjoy working with women to try to understand and begin to bring healing in a lot of those areas. I also try to get insight on the male side by reading books and sitting in on meetings designed for men and behavioral issues.
WBM: How do you find yourself impacted, emotionally and otherwise, on a daily basis by these issues?
JANIE: Through research, I’ve learned a lot of incredibly disturbing things and it can make you sick to your stomach if you don’t have a strong support network or spiritual foundation. My faith and my activist community help me push through it because we all want to try to understand even an inkling of why people behave they way they do.
WBM: Do you ever find yourself feeling incapable of function, or helpless? How do you get through these feelings that inevitably come when you learn about the reality of people’s decisions and the global consequences?
JANIE: It’s very common to get overwhelmed when you learn of all the suffering and injustices that exist. What keeps me going is knowing that I’m part of a collective movement of people who care, and by uniting together we are actually making a dent in this issue. We often talk about being that “one voice”. Maybe it feels small to just be one voice, but together with thousands, or even millions we are actually making strides.
Specifically with the issue of trafficking we’re seeing real change – laws being made from our governments and leaders, training among law enforcement to spot a suspicious situation and do something about it, education to prevent incidents, aftercare programs for former victims. And it’s all happening because we’re seeing cities, governments and jurisdictions becoming a model of what’s successful in their community to in turn bring that to others. You can’t deny that that’s progress.
WBM: When comparing some of the initiatives from individuals and on a larger scale, what are some of the things that you feel have to happen to further the overarching cause you are working for?
JANIE: There are a few things. On a cultural and societal level, a major shift needs to happen in the culture of sex in general. This perpetuation of violence against women and children, which in turn cycles out more violence in all the sexes as adults desperately needs to change. What’s scary is that we’re seeing even women and children turn on each other in more extreme cases with abuse or trafficking.
What needs to happen next is to cripple demand. The sex industry is apparently number two in the world only behind the drug trade. People keep the business alive because there is so much demand for paid sex, which fuels the sex slave trade. On a practical level with aid, one of the biggest issues anti-trafficking organizations face is having enough funding to do their work. The current abolitionist compilation I’m working on is with a wonderful team of individuals who believe in combining the creative power of the arts to further the cause against trafficking. Once our music compilation is finished and released, 100% of the sales and proceeds will go back to three organizations fighting it: Restore NYC, Nomi Network, and World Vision. The more it sells, the more they will be able to do.
WMB: On a lighter note, who are some of your favourite musical collaborations, and how those meetings/projects actually come to be?
JANIE: Every album or compilation I’ve worked on has been a great collaboration. On Roots, I worked with Matt Stanfield in Nashville, whose sound I had loved from previous artists. Working with the guys at Area Studio (B Houston Perry, Ruben Royster, Ayinde Al-Amin and Justin Mullinix of Generator Sound Studios) was also a great stretching experience for me creatively. My current project for an abolitionist music compilation called Exposing Darkness has been loads of hard work, but stimulating and rewarding. Justin Mullinix is helping me record a brand new track that will be added along with multiple other great artists.
WBM: Dream collaborations?
JANIE: I have several favorite bands that I listen to on a regular basis…any of the members with whom I’d be thrilled to work. Metric, Civil Twilight, and MuteMath. It would be the ultimate dream if any of them could contribute to the abolitionist project I’m working on right now, actually.
WBM: You sing in French! Was there a big reason behind including that one song, “Crépuscule”, on this album? It has a very French-pop sound: are you directly inspired by French, or any other European, music?
JANIE: Learning the French language was one of the things that got me through middle and high school, along with music and my faith. I went on an exchange program to Brittany, France during my sophomore year, and was so hooked on the culture that it never left me. My host sister introduced me to artists like MC Solaar, and Francis Cabrel. I came back fluent in the language and won multiple state competitions, but have had to work on practicing as it’s gotten rusty over the years. I love Europe in general – I’ve also been to the UK, Italy, the Netherlands. I’m so drawn to the culture, the weather and atmosphere, the music even…I’m a fan of a lot of British artists as well. I guess you could say I’m also an ambassador of cultures.
WBM: It may seem like an obvious question, but it’s still interesting to hear from you: why do you choose to sing about these issues? What drives you, as opposed to keeping it solely within your personal bubble of relationships and struggles?
JANIE: For as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt like an alien of sorts. I never fit in with my peers in school, never fit within my model minority culture as an Asian-American, didn’t often fit into whatever church group I was involved with, even felt alien among certain artist types. But ultimately I would connect with other people who struggled with feeling different, no matter what their background or experience. I’ve come to embrace the fact that I can be an ambassador of sorts, to bring that sort of tension out in the open with my music.
WBM: What else do you have brewing?
JANIE: This abolitionist compilation has been a major focus the past few months. It’s called Exposing Darkness: Artists Bringing Trafficking to Light. After being involved in anti-trafficking work for several years, it’s been a dream of mine to partner with other abolitionist musicians and anti-trafficking organizations to jointly release a project that reflects all of our hearts on this issue. It will be released as part of the Price of Life NYC Invitational in October 2013, which will draw thousands of college students from multiple college campuses in that area to take part in fighting trafficking. It’s a great way to continue in that collective community to spread awareness on the issue and get people involved.
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