“This popped up on my Spotify this morning and it made me think Janice could do that easy.”A friend (and head cheerleader)
I got that text with a link to a song in the beginning of March. At the time, I was consumed with my show, Scandusical, and all the time I’m crazy, so I thought to myself, “She wants to me to think I have options after my writing career tanks (…finishes tanking) but I’m not a producer.”
Meanwhile… my friend Daniel and I had a due date approaching for our YouTube channel, Cat Tetris. We had an episode and a song due. The episode would be easy enough, but the song… that was going to take time we probably weren’t going to be able to find since we were in thick of a show (shoutout again to Scandusical). So we decided to pull from the archives, which led to me dusting off a song we had written and recorded in 2018. A song I had produced three versions of. Even though I wasn’t a producer.
Also meanwhile… a former friend was releasing some songs. Put a pin in that.
And then the world shut down. The last time I was social without distancing, I was recording the cast of my show (oh hey there AGAIN, Scandusical) and I spent the first few days in quarantine working on a few of those tracks. And I don’t know what exactly it was about that moment that flipped the switch, but I was tweaking the timing of a section in one of the songs when I stopped and said out loud, “Hang on, I am a producer.”
The person who has overall creative and technical control of the entire recording project, and the individual recording sessions that are part of that project. He or she is present in the recording studio or at the location recording and works directly with the artist and engineer. The producer makes creative and aesthetic decisions that realize both the artist’s and label’s goals in the creation of musical content. (GRAMMY qualification definition of a producer)
I have been producing tracks for years. With varying levels of success, depending on how we’re defining success. For me, success has meant being able to do what I do faster and better: what used to take a week, and then days, now takes a day, sometimes only hours. It’s a gift. And I don’t say that to imply that I’m gifted, I am not – it is a gift of disposable income past that I have the equipment and software that I do and a gift of time that I have been able to learn how to use them. And I have been using and learning them for years now.
A few months ago at a MAESTRA meeting, the guest speaker told the story of when she wanted to transition from acting to directing and was tossing up how to go about it, another actor-turned-director gave her some advice: “Do what I did,” he said “just start telling people you’re a director.” Which kicked off a sidenote convo about the statistics that say when applying for jobs, women tend to apply when they feel they meet 100% of the criteria, whereas men will apply if they meet 60%. Whether it’s a lack of confidence or an overabundance of caution (#whynotboth), women tend to err on the side of counting themselves out before someone else can. And ain’t I a woman? It makes me think about that former friend of mine who has been releasing songs lately. Proudly and easily labeling himself a songwriter. And why not, if you look at the credits of his songs, they’ve all got him listed, almost exclusively as the lyricist and composer; but the gag is that I wrote most of his songs. Yes, technically (according to the contract we eventually settled on) they were “co-writes” but he wrote those songs the same way I have baked every cake I ever bought from Costco by saying “Make it about birthday.” And here’s the thing, I don’t even resent him his claim to be a songwriter. Honestly, God bless. I have always envied his confidence in claiming and proclaiming his talents. It has opened doors and made connections for him. Meanwhile…
I’ve had to have lengthy conversations with myself about every label I’ve eventually hesitantly given myself permission to use (writer/songwriter/singer), including now, finally music producer. I am a music producer. But this time is different, because this time worldwide is different and I ain’t got the time to ease into it, test it out and let it settle in. I’m not only calling myself a producer, I’m stepping out in it and claiming it. Loudly. Because remembering what life looked like six weeks ago seems unbelievable now and looking ahead six weeks is unimaginable. To say we all went on PAUSE is a little misleading, pause implies freezing something at a certain point then picking up again, when you’re ready, from that exact point. But this is not that. Not for me. If my life was a movie, before we paused it, it would have been a pretty average Black dramedy; but when it starts again… bruh, I don’t even know. Could be a heist movie, an apocalypse adventure, horror. An apocalypse horror. I don’t know. So I’m sending up my flares now.
As a veritable verified singer, songwriter and producer, I am crafting and releasing F This a trilogy of EPs. Each EP will have a title and theme that starts with F, will feature 5 original songs (and an introlude) and will be released on a Friday (Forgettery on 5/1, Fortuity 5/8 and Forgery on 5/15). All written and produced by me, to serve as receipts and a resume.
Because the things I have had no problem claiming to be (a receptionist, an admin assistant) have definitively well-actually’d me by definitely declaring me forever non-essential. And yes, when the time comes, I, along with 22 million+ other people will try to reclaim one of those titles for money’s sake (if money is still a thing after all this), but we’re going to have to rebuild the world anyway, so why not work towards the version where what we do to make a living and what we live to do are actually connected?
So this is me, putting myself out there, while locked away in here. In hope that someone out there will hear something that sparks joy for then and hopefully, sparks work and/or opportunities for me.
Tell your friends.
Janice Lagata was born in California, but born for New York. A writer, fighter, igniter and matron saint of cats; smirking is her favorite. She’s just a girl feeding herself to the world and asking it to love her – that’s a lyric from a song she wrote, you can probably find it and lots of other things she’s working on by asking the internets (insta/twitter/soundcloud/spotify/youtube/your mom) for @jani_the_cat.