F This (Meanwhile…)

“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.

F This cover image

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.

Four Hundred o’Clock

I threw away 15 copies of my book last week. They got caught up in one of my pandemic purges. (Note: Time has lost all form and structure, when I say “last week” it could be referring to any span of time including yesterday, a month ago or this morning.) They were proof copies that got caught in the middle of my process: perfectly fine except for missing a few lines in one poem that I changed at the last minute. For months they had been stacked in a corner of my closet while I wrestled with what to do with them. Wrestling that had become increasingly more complicated as I’ve become increasingly more ambivalent about my book in general. I love it. And I’m proud of it. But I’ve also outgrown parts of it. Because my religious state, much like this quarantine situation, is nothing I could have ever seen coming. Most Christians won’t be in church this Easter Sunday, due to the ‘rona; I won’t be there due to deconstruction. Not this weekend. Not ever again. But this blog isn’t about that. This is about versions of books that I have thrown away. Including the Bible. Metaphorically. No physical copies of the Bible have been harmed in this transition, but the way I read it has been trashed (or become trash, depending on your view), but again, this is not exactly about that. This is about a piece of that book that made it into my book: a passage from Genesis 15.

13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.

That’s a passage that jumped out at me in November of 2016 and had me very intrigued about 2020. Because, as I noted on the very next page in my book – In other news, the slave trade in America began in approximately 1620. Approximately four hundred years ago. Hmm.

And however you read (or don’t read) the Bible, if nothing else, it is a book about life and people, that reinforces several universal truths, including this one: Nothing lasts forever. Every life eventually ends. And every empire falls. Every empire. And despite everything American Exceptionalism would like us to believe, The United States of America is no exception. This is an empire in decline. As it should be. Literally: America is collapsing on what America was built on – cruel capitalism.

At it roots, America is a nation that has always valued profit over people. From the colonizers who killed, raped and tortured to steal land from indigenous people, to the slaveholders who tortured, raped and killed to drive the workforce that built this economy – cruelty has always been the not-so-secret ingredient. And over time, as the recipes have changed to become a little more sophisticated, the cruelty remains. Deep-rooted in every one of our systems. Name an American system that doesn’t profit, not just at the cost of people, but at their expense. I’ll wait.

Actually, I won’t. I’ve got nothing but time and I ain’t got the time for that. Because it’s 2020, it’s four hundred o’clock and the empire is falling. Right on time.

Whether observing Passover or Easter this week, thoughts of before-and-after are all around us. Major events that split time to show us the seams of the systems we live in. And give us the opportunity to lean into the breaking point, let the unraveling finish and choose something different. Which is scary. Both Passover and Easter are marked with death and darkness, loss and confusion, empires going overboard to retain power, reinforce the structures and revert to status-quo; and bedeviled people who are comfortable with the devils that they know. We know our systems don’t work, but they’re all we’ve ever known, so we’ve clung to them. Trying to make the best of them, when we could be doing so much better. We can do better. And I hope we do. Because the other option is that things stay the same by getting worse.

“And afterward they will come out with great possessions.”

You know what I just realized? (As I was trying to end this post on a not-completely dystopian note…) When the Israelites left Egypt, as the story goes, they took a lot of stuff – silver and gold and treasure and such – but even if they had left completely empty-handed, they still would have left with great possessions. And when Jesus did what He did, whether you believe it was to free people spiritually from sin, psychologically from an empire and/or theologically from a religion, He also left with great possessions. Because it wasn’t things that they removed from the system to render it worthless; it was themselves. We are the greatest possessions. Our greatest possessions. And we deserve a nation that honors that. With liberty and with justice. For all. But for real, with real things like liberal and just access to healthcare, housing and safety.

So while we’re all staying inside, I hope we all decide to take ourselves out. To accept the inevitable discomfort of the end of an empire, but also look with hope to what the future could hold. The new world we could build. A better version of this book we’ve been writing. It’s time.


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.

ps… you can also read her book, The Divide (aka the book she spent this entire post trashing).

From A Distance

** What follows is actually an email I sent to my Scandusical cast and crew, but it got me thinking about getting back on my blogging hustle, so… it’s here now.**

hey y’all.

Just checking in. Wanted to see how everyone is doing and also wondering if anyone can answer a question for me: HOW IS IT STILL MARCH?! I know projections for when the social distance phase of this pandemic will end are hazy at best, but I feel like finally ending this month would be a step in the right direction. Fingers crossed April actually arrives tomorrow.

If a month could ever be sued for whiplash, March 2020 would be tied up in court forever (aka approximately three March 2020s). We went from Scandusical Grand Opening to Grand Closing; from “It’s just like the flu, right?” to “Don’t bring that evil to my doorstep!” and from “We’re number one!” to “We are now number one in Coronavirus infections.” God bless America. And that was all on a general social and societal levels that don’t even come close to touching on the ways all of this has affected each of us individually. Some of us have lost jobs, income, days of health and the peace of mind associated with all of the above. If any of us have somehow walked unscathed thus far, please – teach us your ways! (Or take us to your secret compound on Mars)

And in classic March 2020 fashion – there is no end in sight. But we do know that it will end. One day, one way or another, this part of life as we now know it will be over. And we’ll move on into the unknown of the next phase. And I won’t even try to pretend to imagine what that’s going to look like. Nothing is sound. And everything is unpredictable. The only thing we have any real control over is what we’re going to do in the minute after this one. And maybe you’ve been better about using all the quarantine minutes we’ve had so far, but I’ll admit I haven’t gotten much done. The entire world grinding to a PAUSE kinda threw me off my game. And that’s okay. Some people have already started doing amazing things in this time, with this time; and some of us have just been resting/gearing up. Being an artist simultaneously feels like the most important thing in world and the most frivolous, but I guess it always feels like that. And I know it’s all I’ve got to offer at this point. 

So wherever you are on the spectrum of napping to knocking it out of the park, binging Hulu to being all you can be – it’s alright and you’re doing exactly what you need to be doing right now. No one can pour from an empty cup. And the world’s not going anywhere… literally. So when you’re ready – you do whatever it is you need/want to do.

And please, keep your Scandusical fam posted. Let us know how you’re doing, what you’re working on and how we can help! Because we’re all in this social distance together.

Love you guys. Miss you guys. Forever obsessed with you.

xx jani


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.