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Jan Johnston

Jan Johnston


She's worked with BT, Chicane, and Oakenfold. Had tracks featured in movies like American Pie and Hackers 2. Yet, strange though it may sound, Jan's current story kicks off a few years ago in a bargain bin in Manchester.

January 95: BT (Brian Transeau) is over from the US doing some studio work and is busy rifling through the city's Bluezone second hand record shop. Picking up a vinyl copy of "Paris", with a b-side of "The Prayer" (which he later sampled and with Taylor produced "Calling Your Name"). Impressed by the face on the sleeve, he promptly buys it (for 50p no less!)

You know what DJs are like. Nine months later, he's finally listened to it. "This voice came out and I just fell on the floor. I simply had to track this woman down and work with her." It was, however, another nine months before he managed to contact the elusive songstress. Jan says: "Brian was over in Manchester for one day only. He asked if I was free, we hit the studio, and laid down "Remember", our first collaboration, which was later used in Hackers 2." 

Everyone loved it. Offers flooded in, and, as well as immediately flying over to LA to work on new material, Jan was soon lending her distinctive vocals to a plethora of other artists: Chicane on "Love Will Come", "Take Me By the Hand", by Victor Imbres' Submerge project and Freefall's number one club hit "Skydive". On top of this, she and BT did a sell-out 30-date tour of the States from San Francisco to Florida. Which is how she captured the eagle eyes – and ears – of a certain well-known DJ:

"Paul (Oakenfold) pulled me aside one night after the show and whispered in my ear, "I want to sign you." I was initially a bit cautious because I'm more singer-songwriter than dance diva, but he assured me I'd have free reign. And I obviously had a lot of respect for his reputation in the industry." Jan signed to Perfecto in Summer 99. Relocating to LA to record with US producer Jamie Myerson, they worked on and recorded Jan's debut album in the first six months of last year.

A subtle marriage of Jan's open lyrics and Jamie's quietly understated production, the forthcoming album "Emerging" is testament to the strength of traditional songwriting that can and still exists within a dance sensibility: "I can't bear the idea of not communicating something to my audience. I love combining dance influences beats and breaks here and there with everything I've experienced over the years in relationships and life generally. I want to pull people's emotions, make them feel what I feel. If they do, then I've succeeded."

Tracks range from the painful experience of a relationship breakdown in the epic "No Excuses" through to the nascent sense of finding inner peace in title track "Emerging"; along the way Jan also covers the Carpenters' classic "Superstar" ("purely to put myself up against a great artist!") and ends with the pensive prayer to a higher being, "God's Plan." First single "Flesh", released April 9, is, as its title suggests, a paean to somewhat more biblical pleasures, in the less holy sense of the word!

Born and bred in the gray swathes of Salford, Jan was intent on doing the right thing by her parents and getting a job in the local bank, despite a natural vocal ability. Yet instincts can only be suppressed for so long, and soon she'd formed a duo called JJ, flirting with chart success after the band was signed to Sony. Following their subsequent departure from the label, Jan was signed as a solo artist to A&M, where she released a handful of singles, including the aforementioned "Calling Your Name", as well as a critically- acclaimed album "Naked But for the Lilies." Which is where BT comes in, which brings us up to the present. Heck, she even featured on his latest club smash "Mercury and Solace". 

# 1. Jan on life: "I think I'm a genuine gypsy. Most people couldn't bear to stand on quicksand. I seem to relish getting up to my chin and then crawling out again. I've been floating for years now, and even sold my house to pursue this dream. I know it will happen. You have to fight in life."

# 2. Jan on her music: "It's like Joni Mitchell and George Michael rubbing up against 4 Hero and Ricky Lee Jones." You can't say fairer than that.

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