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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Janiva Magness Got Through the Death and Loss of 2011 with This Year's Stronger For It

Posted By on Thu, Aug 2, 2012 at 5:12 AM

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You also co-wrote three songs for the album, collaborating with David. "I Won't Cry" is especially powerful. Can you tell me about writing with him?

We don't have a set way of doing it. Sometimes there'd be a lyric or a part of a lyric that I'd written, sometimes it's lyrics we had written together. I might come to him with an idea and he'd finish it. We'll bat it back and forth until we were happy with it. I'm pretty new at the craft of songwriting. Dave is an old sage at it. I'm lucky to be working with him.

I'd like to take you back a bit: You've talked about having your life changed at an Otis Rush concert. What do you remember most about that night?

It terrified me. I was so young and disconnected at that point in my life. That's a common experience for foster youth, that feeling that you're out there floating with no tether. That was my life at that time. I felt such a deep connection with what Otis was doing. It riveted me. It was like a giant lightning rod. It devastated me. I didn't really understand the experience. I cried and cried in the back of the club for most of the show. When I left the club at two in the morning, I knew that whatever it was, that thing that happened between me and Otis was deeply personal, and I was going to seek that out. I didn't understand it until years later. It changed my experience of the world. It made me want something.

I don't know how to articulate to you without going into the experience of a foster child, to be that youth, to be so disconnected. You're just existing. The world isn't safe enough to want anything, so you don't. You're just there. Otis just cracked that wide open for me.

You've been very active in foster care charity work. How does that fit into your music?

I am a deeply honored, for six years, to be spokesperson for National Foster Care Month, which is technically the month of May, but we celebrate it all year long. I'm also an ambassador for Foster Care Alumni of America. Both of those are huge honors and responsibilities. My job is to do as much as I can and as often as I can to encourage and inspire people to step forward for youth at risk, by talking about my experiences in foster care.

Now, I have all the Jerry Springer stories you need. Most foster care youth do. I'm only interested in talking about that window of time in my life, because I got lucky at the end. I found the right fit in a foster parent. That was a game changer for me. This woman stood up for me when I couldn't stand up for myself. That changed everything. It didn't just change one thing in the life of a kid who was in trouble. It changed everything. Once again, it changed the way I viewed the world, the way I experienced life. We need more good people to step forward. Fostering isn't right for everyone, but it's right for a lot of people. And there are a lot of other things you can do to change the life of a child. It isn't just fostering. If people want to learn more they can go to my Website, or to fostercare month.org or fostercarealumni.org.

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me.

You're welcome. One more thing, if that's OK. You can do with it what you will.

I lost a dear friend last night, a friend who was a blues DJ for many years, and a long time supporter of mine. Bluesman B Griffin, a DJ on KBXR, 102.3 in Columbia, Missouri. We lost him last night very unexpectedly. I'll be dedicating shows to him, and the show in St. Louis will be dedicated to him as well.

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