Janiva Magness on Touring with a NutriBullet and a Memorable First Gig Singing with an Elvis Impersonator

June 7, 2016

Tell us about your tour vehicle.

A Ford E 350 XLT van.  They are the best and a work horse if you have to be in a van and not a bus.  It’s somewhat customized in that it’s got 4 bucket seats and a bench seat to sleep as needed.  But buckets give us some illusion of autonomy whilst flying 80 mph down the highway week after week.  It has 237,000 miles on it and yes I bought it new.  Those are all my miles.  Just put a new transmission and all round brakes on it.  It’s a great ride and I take super good care of it – so it has been good to us.

How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?

Health food stores and markets.  I normally eat pretty healthy but the road has its dietary challenges no doubt.  I also usually carry good food supply with me somewhat.  Sometimes I bring a Nutribullet and make smoothies every day.  Pain in the ass but worth it.

How many strings (or drums and cymbals) do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?

I don’t play those instruments so it’s pretty much an affordable zero.  Mics and in ear monitor system is what costs me but yearly it’s affordable as it’s a low maintenance type item really.

Where do you rehearse?

For the last 25 years I have used mostly the same space at west LA rehearsal studios and it’s a great space with good gear.  It’s important to be comfortable in a reasonable sounding room when rehearsing.  I also like the staff a lot there.  Super competent.  It’s like a second home after all these years.

Once a few years back we had cause to rehearse a new album in Florida where we were starting that tour.  We ended up rehearsing in a pretty small space that was painted bright Kermit the Frog green and had a weird sound system. Hahaha.  After about 10 days of 6 hr a day rehearsals, I felt like I had been hit with a taser after that.  It’s funny now.  Not so much then!  The room size, the color, the lighting and sound… Exhausting!

What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?

Well – it was a bit on the dark side…kinda Tom Waits-ey.  It was called “Kick That Dog.”

Kick that dog at my door

Loneliness is barking

Eating life’s garbage in an alley…

Describe your first gig.

John Stafford Big Band.  I was 19 years old and it was a 16 piece brass band with 3 female singers and an Elvis impersonator.  We did disco, r & b, Andrew Sisters and, of course, Elvis tunes.  Something for everybody!

What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?

Dog sitting/house sitting.  My favorite was being an assistant engineer in a recording studio.

How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?

However the amount of work has gotten thinner all around in the music business and it is harder to get as the competition field has changed.  Everybody is squeezed these days; no one has enough work.  It seems the bigger bands are playing the smaller venues so everyone feels that.

What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?

I really don’t know… it’s an interesting and strange time in the business.  My hope is to work less and make more but that may simply be a dream.

I am doing all I can to create alternate revenue streams creatively so I am not reliant so much on the touring element of my income.  Songwriting, writing a book are all things that I am hoping will help me with that.  Maybe I will walk some dogs… 😉


Janiva Magness’ new album, Love Wins Again, released April 8, 2016 on Fathead Records/Blue Élan Records, is yet another evolutionary step for the soulful, elegant, award-winning singer-songwriter. Its 11 core songs and two bonus tracks are built on a sonically sophisticated architecture that’s in full service of Magness’ remarkably flexible and generous voice — which can flow smoothly as champagne or churn up gravel on command. Love Wins Again shatters genre barriers by enshrining elements of Americana, soul, rock, pop, country and blues. The album’s title is a mantra that resonates throughout: the concept of love as a physical, psychic and spiritual force that has the strength to conquer negativity, sadness and personal demons.

Love Wins Again marks Magness’ fifth collaboration with four-time Grammy nominated producer Dave Darling, whose credits include Glen Campbell, Brian Setzer, Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx, John Waite and Stray Cats, and whose instincts compel Magness to tap her deepest creative powers and lead her songs to unpredictable places. He has become her key songwriting foil and is the primary architect of the album’s gorgeous textural sound, which blends acoustic and electric instruments, flourishes of Latin percussion, horns and an enlightened approach to the studio to create perfect settings for her vocal prowess. More than just expert range and craft, Magness’ voice rings with sincerity. With songs like “Love Wins Again,” “Doorway” and “Say You Will,” Magness has proven that she is an accomplished storyteller and diviner or the heart, whose songs reveal life’s potent truths.

Magness has been nominated for 25 Blues Music Awards and follows the legendary Koko Taylor as the second woman to win the highly coveted B.B. King Entertainer of the Year award.

Connect with Magness online and on the road.