Many people want to sing like Aretha Franklin or Patti LaBelle. Singer Janna Long, however, is one of the few women who actually can. Janna began listening to female diva vocalists at three years old and continued to be influenced by powerful vocals as she grew up. She would listen, wondering how they do “that” with their voices.
After one listen to her self-titled solo debut, Janna, it’s clear she’s figured "that" out.
Janna grew up a preacher’s kid in Baltimore, birthplace of another diva, Billie Holiday. Like her hometown, Janna's family appreciated the power of music, including mainstream music, which is where she initially found her inspiration. She knew she always wanted to be a singer and began singing professionally right after college, spending her musical career to date as a member of a group. She has now taken her God-given vocal talent and coupled it with fulfilling a lifelong dream of making her own album. And she's done it with a skill and passion that proclaim Janna worthy to be in the same company of the great female divas that have inspired her.
Blessed with a voice and a look that could all but assure her of mainstream accolades, Janna has chosen something different for her self-titled debut. Superficial lyrics attached to a great beat do not appeal to her. Instead, she wants her music to encourage and inspire listeners. For Janna that means singing about her Creator. “A lot of artists sing about love and relationships,” Janna says. “Those are great, but I miss hearing songs that are blatantly about the Gospel. Music has power to heal and bring joy, and I always said if I ever got the chance to make my own record, I’d want to sing that kind of music."
To help her, Janna called on some of the top producers in the business. Brown Bannister (Amy Grant, Steven Curtis Chapman, CeCe Winans), Mark Hammond (Anointed, Jump5) and Mookie (TobyMac, Lamar Campbell) all came together to lend their diverse talents to this project. Their collaboration contribute to a tightly produced but electrifying collection of music that will appeal to anyone who loves great songs sung by a truly great singer.
As part of the Grammy-nominated and Dove Award-winning pop quartet Avalon for the past twelve years, Janna has already experienced success as an artist. But, she, like her fellow group members, is able to only express one-fourth of herself because of creative compromises that come with being part of a group. Creating a solo project allowed Janna to reveal her unique heart so hand-picking each song concentrating on authentic lyrics became a huge priority. Musically, Janna uses her unmistakable voice to let her old-school gospel influences come belting through with a high voltage urban pop beat.
This album, Janna says, is a direct expression of her. “I wanted songs that were bold with the Gospel but also have music that’s straightforward with my faith,” she said. “There are aspects that will appeal to someone who doesn’t have a relationship with Christ, but I hope the majority of it will drive people to a deeper walk with Christ.”
From the powerful "Call" to the soaring ballad "More" to the lighthearted and upbeat "Superman," Janna is soulful and soul-filled throughout. One song, “Nothing is Impossible,” became personally applicable in Janna’s life as she was forced to record the bulk of her album with a severely broken ankle suffered after a fall while running through an airport. “I found myself needing to hear the words of that song,” she remembers. “I never had anything in my life happen that made me so dependent on other people. I found God speaking to me in ways I might not have heard otherwise.”
Her first radio single, "Greater Is He," is a reaffirmation of her relationship with Christ. She says it’s about reminding people about the nature of the God we all serve. No matter how crazy life gets, we can take a song like this and encourage each other. “I want to encourage others as well as myself to pursue a deeper relationship with God. Nothing is too big for God, no matter what you are going through.”
Janna also performs her rendition of the Dove Award-winning song "In Christ Alone" first released by Michael English and a song she considers one of the most beautiful songs she has ever heard. “This song is very much about giving glory back to God,” she says. “The only reason any of us have anything is because of the Lord. People always ask me if there is one song I wish I’d written and this was always it.”
Though she doesn't consider herself a songwriter, Janna did contribute to "What Would I Do?" a song written by Janna, Narada Michael Walden and her executive producer Grant Cunningham, who died not long after the song was written. Cunningham had been a mentor and friend to Janna and the song is a bittersweet addition to the record. "While the song is primarily about how much we need God, when I sing, 'What Would I Do,' I can't help but think about all that Grant has contributed to my career as an artist and to my personal spiritual growth. His death has left a huge void in my life and in the lives of so many."
Janna’s husband of two years, Greg Long, makes an appearance on this album. Greg, who is also a recording artist, backs Janna up vocally on "Superman." Aside from this musical collaboration, Janna says she and Greg are opting to keep work separate from their relationship. The great part of being married to an artist is that we have a good understanding of what the other does. We both know what life is like on the road, for instance. But, we also celebrate each other's individual achievements."
Janna has the highest of hopes that she and her husband will be celebrating the success of her solo record, and more importantly, the impact it will have on all those who listen. She says, "I want this to be an album people can listen to now and 10 years from now, a record that can inspire and bring joy and hope in all seasons of life."