Today we’d like to introduce you to Janell Crampton.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
One of the things my mom remembers most about my childhood was how I’d sing (and even dance) along with any movie I’d watch. There was this one number in “The Great Mouse Detective” where a girl mouse sings in an underground bar to all the mice convicts (movies were GREAT when I was a kid). It starts off sweet and innocent then builds up to a more sultry brassy style that includes some can-can like choreography. When I was 3 or 4 years old I was obsessed with this movie. I knew every word to this song and I’d perform it for my family as if I was the mouse in the bar singing to all her fans. As I got a little older, I carried this performance mentality to school. Whether I was singing to my class for show and tell (did anyone else do this?) or showing up to my younger sister’s kindergarten classroom on her birthday to sing to her, I was always looking for an opportunity to showcase my talents. Apparently there was no stage to small for me. (If you think I sang “Happy Birthday” you’d be wrong- Of COURSE I sang “You’re Still the One” by Shania Twain because that was one of my favorite songs at the time. I can still remember the confused/uninterested looks on those kids’ faces).
My mother is a huge contributing factor to my love of music. She is an incredible singer who could belt out all sorts of classics that ranged from: Alannis Morrisette’s “You Oughtta Know” to Journey’s “Separate Ways” all the way to “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. She would do so with her cover band “Blind Date” who played all over the Antelope Valley in the 90s-2000s. I’d tag along to all the band practices and kid friendly gigs (such as the AV Fair) while singing and dancing along. (AKA: jumping around and doing cartwheels) I was like some child groupie complete with colorful hair that I literally did myself with markers. (Oh yeah, I was SUPER cool.) When I reached age 11, I had learned the song “Everywhere” by Michelle Branch for the school talent show and eventually got to sing it with my mom’s band at one of her gigs. It was THE COOLEST moment ever to sing with a real live band and it was then that I finally got a real taste of performing on stage.
I started playing clarinet in 5th grade but it was in 6th grade that I met Ms. Angela Boone. She was the band teacher at New Vista Middle School and she changed my life. She was so supportive and believed in her students so much. She is the reason I know how music works and she gave me the opportunity to find the fun in making/listening to music without words. She instilled so much knowledge and encouraged her students to experiment with new instruments. I started learning the baritone saxophone in 7th grade and that thing was bigger than me! I LOVED this instrument and I adored the feeling of power it gave me when I played.
(*Sidenote: “Singing is like a super power.” My best friend Steven Hall says this a lot and I remind myself of it quite often- especially when I’m nervous. It’s one of the most accurate ways to describe the feeling of singing or playing an instrument can give you. I’m not your average sized girl and this resonates with me so much. Sometimes, I feel stereotyped by people who probably don’t expect me to actually be able to sing because I “don’t look the part”. Whenever I sing or play an instrument I feel like people notice me and think twice about their previous judgment. It’s kind of cool to have the ability to open people’s minds through music.)
I picked up my mom’s guitar in 2002; she taught me chord charts and my dad taught me “Hotel California”. It was then that I began the journey of teaching myself how to play. I was fortunate enough to have the basic needs like clothes, food and a roof over my head but I in no way grew up with a ton of money. We didn’t have much for extra things like music lessons so it was amazing to be able to learn about music in school. I’m a huge believer in keeping ALL art programs in schools because not everyone has access to these things. It made me passionate about something and gave me more motivation to get through school and life in general. This can be HUGE for someone struggling and it really was for me. In high school, I participated in marching band, wind ensemble, show choir, gospel choir, played in the pit for the school musicals and eventually hopped onstage for the musicals (which I would continue to do in the community theater scene for many years). High school and community theater gave me some of the best friends I’ve ever had- and still have to this day. (Including two of my current band mates)
Flash forward to 2014 after a couple of years of college, I moved in with my Aunt and Uncle. These two people gave me a space to create and a supportive environment. I would always share new songs with them and would look forward to the emotional response they’d get from it. It made me feel like my music meant something to someone else besides myself. I truly believe that I would never have written as much as I have without them. It was during this time that I wrote “Lighthouse” and it ended up being the title of my future E.P. I started attending/performing at local open mics/acoustic showcases to hone my skills as a singer/songwriter. I met many talented local musicians and was constantly inspired by all of them. In 2016, a group of us got together to collaborate on my song “Captivate” to play for our friend’s wedding. This same [insanely talented] group of guys joined me again later that year to perform at The Whiskey a Go-Go as an opener for Leif Garrett. That show will forever be in my memory and I’m still so grateful that I can say I played on The Whiskey stage.
I recorded an E.P. with No Exit Records in 2017 with the same band plus a couple of others (Wil Splinter, Marlon Dale Barnes Jr., Jake Minter, Kory Adams, Steven Hall, and Josh Bennett) These musicians helped make my songs come to life and it was then that I felt like “I could actually do this.” Last year in April 2018 I officially released my E.P. “Lighthouse” and later that June I released my single “The 49” (recorded at Valley Crest Recording). I know I’m not playing to the big crowds just yet (and I’m aware it’s a long shot) but knowing my music is out there for ANYONE to hear is insane to me.
In the last few years, I’ve been working with a smaller group of musicians. All four of us went to the same high school and I’ve been friends with my vocalist Steven Hall and percussionist Marlon Dale Barnes Jr. since 2004. We never met our bassist Servio Maldonado until a friend suggested I reach out to him after mentioning being on the hunt for a bass player just last year. It has been so exciting getting to know each other as musicians (and friends) and I really enjoy playing with them because they care about music in the same way that I do. We’ve been playing gigs as often as we can all over the Antelope Valley and Los Angeles area. I look forward to seeing us grow and as for the future, I plan to get a full-length album in the works within the next year. Little Janell would be doing cartwheels if she knew she’d have a band AND original music recorded for all to hear.
Please tell us about your art.
I am a singer/songwriter. I sing/play guitar and I write my own songs that stem from real life. Some are based on actual situations I’ve experienced and others voice my opinion about the things I feel powerless to control. When I go through something really hard or even really amazing, I write so I can process and move forward. Writing music is basically the healthiest way I know how to deal with this thing we call life.
I wrote one of my songs “The 49” in 2016 after the shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL. When I heard the news, I was beside myself. I was so heartbroken to know that someone decided they had the right to take the lives of 49 people. I had no idea how to cope and so I picked up my guitar. I started trying to write about the event specifically but it never felt authentic. I finally started to write it in my perspective and it became a declaration to not live in fear. I needed to thank the people in my life who taught me to be unconditionally myself, no matter what sexuality and I needed to voice that this shooting was wrong. This is not what humans are supposed to do here on this earth. We were not put here to decide how other people live.
The message I hope to give to anyone listening to my music is that we have to start feeling again. I’m afraid that due to the growth of technology, many people have become more numb to the things around them- it’s extremely easy to stay distracted these days. My hope is that when I play my music I can create an experience that makes people wake up even if just for a moment. Music for me has always been about how it makes you feel and so I ultimately strive to convey that we are in this together. We have to be.
Choosing a creative or artistic path comes with many financial challenges. Any advice for those struggling to focus on their artwork due to financial concerns?
It was hard to come up with advice for this all too common hurdle because I personally struggle with this daily. I’m always concerned I don’t consistently create enough and it’s a constant battle. As for staying focused, I definitely would suggest approaching it like a job/homework/etc. and literally blocking out time and space for practice/writing/brainstorming.
I am lucky enough to have a support system of family and friends- especially my grandmother, without whom I’d be lost. She is one of the most caring, strong, selfless people I know and I am endlessly grateful to have her in my corner. Whether it’s emotional or financial, anything helps. Just knowing there are people who have your back and believe in you and your craft provides a substantial amount of relief and is incredibly motivating. These people lift me up, love me unconditionally and offer whatever form of support they can without hesitation.
In my experience, if you ignore your needs altogether it can lead to a fruitless outcome. Be sure to admit when you need help but be accountable for the things you can handle on your own. I think it’s about striking that balance between helping others (be it an ear or a shoulder to cry on) and taking care of yourself physically and emotionally. I am still navigating everything but I try to do what I’m capable of as far as repaying my loved ones.
How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
You can find all of my music on any streaming platform! (iTunes, Spotify, Google, etc.)
I have mostly been using Instagram to keep people updated on my upcoming shows so definitely follow me at: Instagram.com/JanellCrampton to stay in the loop on my upcoming adventures!
There are a few different ways to support my work but the best way to support is to attend any shows/buy music. Sharing my music/show announcements/page on social media is super helpful as well because it throws the net out to a wider range of people.
- Instagram: instagram.com/janellcrampton
- Facebook: facebook.com/janellcramptonmusic
- Other: https://open.spotify.com/artist/2euRdAqDq14eIVIQZ6cVtN
Hannah Smith, Amy Bullock