Jan Blaising has a new song out for Christmas, 'It Wasn't a Silent Night After All', and Louder Than The Music chatted with her to find out more about the song, her forthcoming EP, and to get an insight into her background which led to her becoming a recording artist.
For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in making music?
I grew up skipping rocks in Indiana - a preacher’s daughter with a bit of a rebel’s heart. I went to church every Sunday morning, so I heard the great hymns of faith, my Dad’s inspiring sermons, and I watched people up close as they followed God, faced life’s hardships, and cared about each other and the world. Growing up deeply in the church had a profound impact on me. Every Sunday (after Sunday School), I stood shoulder to shoulder in a congregation, hearing beautiful hymns sung in four-part harmony. I grew up hearing peoples’ souls singing.
This influence of the church - hearing about God’s love, expressing God’s love in real and tangible ways, hearing Scripture, my dad’s sermons, and the inspiring music - it was a really lucky thing. It became this “invisible backbone” in my life. I revolve around that faith in God.
That’s not to say it’s always been easy. I’ve had my share of challenges and quite a number of reasons to stop believing, to be honest, but in everything I go through, I know God is going through it with me. That may not make it go away, but it will make a way through.
I love your question about how I got involved in music, but I think for me, it’s really been the opposite - music got involved with me. Music found me. Not just in the church, and not just in years of piano lessons, but more intimately - God’s own special music found me at an early age. I cannot remember when I did not hear songs. Somehow, I’ve heard songs my whole life.
When I was little, my family used to drive to see my grandparents and they lived 2 hours away. On the drive back home, I’d sit in the back seat of our green station wagon, looking out the window, staring up at the stars in the night sky, and I would sing. And sing. And sing. We never turned the radio on. I would just sing us all home.
I wish I could say that I’ve always completely understood this gift, that I charged full-speed ahead with it in my career and I never looked back. But the truth is, hearing these songs was the truest thing I knew, and one of the most mysterious, almost scariest things I’d ever experienced because I knew they came from Somewhere Else. I also realized then that no one else around me - at least growing up - seemed to be hearing this type of thing - songs! So I wasn’t sure what to do with this gift.
But no matter what happened, I’d process life at the piano, I’d hear songs or snatches of songs, and then there would be this “give and take” as songs tried to be born. Sometimes I’d wake up with a song playing in my head, or sometimes I’d start hearing a song while I was driving or taking a walk. But whatever I’ve done up to now - teaching, law - I’ve always kept processing life at the piano, kept showing up and listening and hearing the songs, and kept taking notes and making recordings to capture them.
Then a few years ago, Something in me said, “Now!” So I started putting my songwriting on the front burner, so to speak. I believe God wants me to listen, and to show up, and to hear the songs God is singing over me and through me. I think God then wants me to do my part and craft the songs, usually with a co-writer, and to send them out into the world so the people God intended to hear them, can hear them, for whatever purposes God has in mind.
Tell us about your new single "It Wasn't a Silent Night After All" and what the inspiration behind it was?
This song was a true gift. I came home from a Christmas Eve service at our church, and Something was pushing me that I recognized as a “song nudge,” so I sat down at my piano in my living room, and this song just came out.
The idea of the song is that when God chose to enter the world and become human, God didn’t choose perfect circumstances - so the song tries to capture the difficulty and the hardship of that holy night - because if God didn’t choose perfect circumstances when God came to earth, then that means God can enter into our imperfect circumstances too.
I’d read some of Max Lucado’s books, and he has an amazing ability of portraying the human side of Jesus and other Biblical characters, so I was already curious about this idea. Then our pastor had just preached a “sermon” that was a first person narrative from Joseph’s point of view, and he’d dressed up like Joseph - wearing a beard, a long robe, complete with a stage set, props, the whole thing. His whole “sermon” was Joseph speaking about how deeply conflicted he was about what God was asking him to do (before the birth of Jesus), and how Joseph’s human side just didn’t want to do it, but then how he went ahead, trusted God, and did what God said anyway.
I’d been going through a hard time leading up to Christmas, and I was feeling that having a “perfect Christmas” just wasn’t going to happen and just wasn’t possible - and all of a sudden, that night after the Christmas Eve service, I realized that the first Christmas was anything but perfect. I realized that God chose the most unlikely people, in the most unlikely place, with the most unlikely worldy power when God came to earth as a baby on that holy night. And I realized if that first Christmas wasn’t about being perfect, then our Christmases, and our lives, don’t have to be perfect either for God to come - for God’s Love to come into to us too.
Days later, I brought the song to my co-writer, Nancy Beaudette, an amazing songwriter, and we ran with it, and she helped me craft the song. We later recorded it in Tyler, Texas at Rosewood Studios with the help of Connie Mims Pinkerton, another very skilled and talented songwriter, and some very gifted artists and supportive engineers. (Connie brought in a manger scene so we would stay inspired - on message.) Somehow, the Interlude “arrived” the day before we recorded. The song has beautiful strings parts inspired by gifted Milo Deering, and David DeShazio added his beautiful bass part, and Nate Coon added expressive drums. It just all came together beautifully.
We’re just finishing up a lyric video, so hopefully by the time you read this, the video for the song, It Wasn’t a Silent Night After All, will be widely available.
My hope is that this song will be a message to people that if God can choose the most unlikely people, in the most unlikely place, with the most unlikely worldly power when God chose to come to earth, then maybe God can come to your life -- no matter what is going on, and no matter how far from perfect it may be. Maybe it can be a reminder that God didn’t come for perfect. God came in person - to real people and for all people, to show us how much He Loves us, and to save us with that Love.
Listen to Jan's song "It Wasn't a Silent Night After All" on her website janblaising.com...
You also have a new EP, "Faith, Hope and Love", coming soon, what more can you tell us about that?
I hesitate to say “my EP” - because God seems to start the ideas and there’s so much collaboration that goes into it - but this EP, entitled, "Faith, Hope and Love", is a collection of songs by my co-writer, Nancy Beaudette, and I, that hopefully will inspire a deeper faith, a greater hope, and a truer sense of God’s love in listeners’ hearts and minds. We didn’t set out to write about “faith, hope and love” - it just happened. After the songs were written, we realized they shared a common theme. Faith. Hope. Love.
Essentially, the EP’s songs inspire us to believe: 1) God loves us like a Father rocking His child ("Cradled By the Moon"); 2) God’s love can transform us ("Mountaintops and Oceans"); 3) God can do anything, and we call those miracles - but even when we don’t get the miracle we wanted, with God’s help, love can be the miracle ("I’ll Believe in Miracles"); 4) God always leads with love, saying, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” ("Straight to Love"); 5) God chose the most unlikely people, in the most unlikely place, with what seemed like the most unlikely worldly power when God came to earth as a baby on that holy night ("It Wasn’t a Silent Night After All"); and 6) God can give us an irrepressible hope and can send us help when life is difficult and hard ("Hope Is the Thing").
This debut EP, Faith, Hope and Love, is scheduled for release early in the new year (2021). My hope and my prayer are that these songs - wherever they find their “homes” - will bring God’s truths to people both inside and outside the church, and will draw people closer to God.
What message would you like people to take from your music?
The main message is God loves you. The message is because God loves you, God is with you. Because God loves you, God is always at work in ways you may not realize to transform people or a situation. Because God loves you, when you pray for a miracle, with God’s help, sometimes love can be the miracle. Because God loves you as you are, God chose the most unlikely people and circumstances when God came to earth. And because God loves you, God’s love and grace can give you hope - even in the middle of life’s storms.
Because songs in this EP are aimed for people both inside and outside the church, they contain the message of God’s love without using some of the words we might typically use in church, so they can reach a broader, wider audience. My hope and my prayer are that these songs will find their intended “homes,” and their intended listeners and audiences, with the message God wants them to hear.
How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?
I would say my style is eclectic. My upcoming EP, "Faith, Hope and Love", has a variety of styles - “Worship, Christian Inspirational, Sync, and Christian Country.” The songs in my EP have been described as “warm, lovely, uplifting anthems” for the spirit, with bold melodies, inspiring and driving Choruses with memorable “hooks” that linger in the hearts, minds, and souls of listeners long after they’re heard. But driving everything is the message: God loves you.
If I had to describe my style of music in my upcoming EP, in more detail, it would be something broad, like: “Worship” (a presentational Christmas song); “Christian Inspirational” (a storytelling song about my Mom’s faith); “Christian Inspirational or Sync” (a song about how God is like a crescent moon, cradling you in His arms, and a more theatrical sounding song about believing in miracles, and how sometimes love can be the miracle); and bit of “Christian Country” (a song about hope based upon Emily Dickinson’s famous poem, "Hope Is the Thing With Feathers". I would say, this EP has this bandwidth of styles: “Christian Worship, Christian Inspirational, Sync - possibly movies or theater, and a bit of Christian Country.”
Milo Deering, an unbelievably gifted musician, played the beautiful, moving stringed instruments in the songs on my upcoming EP - all acoustic and electric guitars, violins, violas, cellos, mandolins, and a lap steel. Maybe it was our breadth as songwriters or Milo’s breadth (from classical guitar to rock band), or that fact that we recorded the songs in Texas - but somehow all these influences contributed to the variety of styles you’ll hear on my upcoming EP.
My influences musically are: Sara Groves, Audrey Assad, JJ Heller, Carrie Newcomer, and my long-time influences are James Taylor, Carole King, and Beth Nielsen Chapman.
I would also say the world of classical music has been a strong influence, and movies and musical theatre have also been influences.
But I truly believe that sometimes, if you scratch down deep, you might just find a hymn playing softly underneath some of my songs - almost like a silent track, quietly humming.
If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?
I’d be delighted to work with any accomplished songwriter who writes to bring more of God’s Love and Light to the world - especially those who have God’s heart of compassion for their listeners and what they can face in their daily lives.
But if I had one shot - if I could work with any songwriter - it would be James Taylor.
Why? Because James Taylor just has this way of inviting you to pull up a chair and listen, because he knows something important, and he thinks you’re important enough to share it with you. Gently. Generously. Graciously.
I also love his spunky, spirited singing, how his melodies sing - almost by themselves - and tell you what the song is about, his tight harmonies, and how he adores a good message - even if you have to figure it out just a bit. I think James Taylor writes about things that matter. While he doesn’t mention God - when he’s in the groove of his best songs - it’s almost as if he does.
James doesn’t know it, but I’ve been secretly singing “back-up” for him for years while driving my car around Indiana. (Maybe it’s all of our country roads.) Anyway, it would be amazing to have the chance to work with him, and to observe his songwriting process, because his songs just seems to spring from his soul to yours.
How would you define success in your career as an artist?
Success, to me, is the straightest line from God’s heart to my mine (or to my mouth and my hands on the piano), and then the straightest line to the hearts of the listeners that God intends to hear the songs.
Success is also staying true to what is “given” to me, but it’s also “reaching way out” for the pitch like you do in baseball (sometimes it’s so “high and outside,” that I almost fall on my face), but then somehow I reach it. During the co-writing and production phases, success is staying true to the initial inspiration, while also accepting the unfolding inspiration(s), as you craft the song, and as others contribute to the production of the song. Above all, success is to always to keep the message in mind, and the listeners God intends to hear it, so listeners are moved in the ways God wants them to be moved. That is success.
What is your favorite album of all time?
Carole King’s, "Tapestry", and James Taylor’s, "Sweet Baby James" - they seem to be on the same wavelength and they’ve stood the test of time.
You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your phone. What track is it?
It would be James Taylor singing, "Up on the Roof!" (by Carole King and Gerry Goffen).
What does the next year hold for you?
I’ll be releasing another new single, "Mountaintops and Oceans", in the first of the year. This song recently won an “Outstanding Achievement” award in the “Great American Song Contest” in the “Christian/Inspirational” category (moonlitpond.com or greatamericansong.com Raves & Reviews). This song is about my Mom’s faith, and my co-writer sent it in without me knowing about it, and I was so excited when she told me it had won an award!
After releasing the single, "Mountaintops and Oceans", I’ll then be releasing my full EP, "Faith, Hope and Love", early in the new year - a collection of songs that I hope appeals to people both inside and outside the church. I feel that is where God is calling me to write now. To hear, finish, and send out songs that resonate with people already in the church, but also songs for people who may not go to church, but who also hunger for God and want to hear what God might be saying to them.
While I didn’t set out to write songs on these themes, they just sort of emerged as I was listening and as my co-writer, Nancy Beaudette, and I worked on them. Finally, we realized that these songs all centered around these three powerful ideas. Faith. Hope. Love.
My hopes and my prayers for these songs - for "It Wasn’t a Silent Night After All" being released now at Christmas, and for my full EP, "Faith, Hope and Love", in the coming year - are that they will find their intended “homes,” and that God will be powerfully at work in that process, so that these songs will truly help the people God intends for them to help. I know they helped me writing them.
For more information on Jan Blaising and her songwriting, skip on over to janblaising.com for music, videos, and her latest blog, and follow Jan on Instagram , Facebook (Jan Blaising Music), and iTunes (upcoming).