Introducing Jana, RMIT’s very own pop princess
Melbourne is renowned for being Australia’s music capital city. With a large amount of university students choosing to pursue a career in music, it is common to encounter aspiring musicians among Melbourne’s youth. RMIT University offers a Music Industry course, a broad alternative to other specialised courses and diplomas provided in private institutions that focuses instead on all aspects of the music industry, such as production, management, licensing and performance to name a few. Having experienced the course and getting to know the people studying it first hand, I have come to the realisation that majority of the students tend to have a preference for indie, rock, metal or other alternative genres. In a crowd so focused on alternative music, Jana Gallagher is a particular student that stands out for her passion for pop. I had the chance to interview her and find out just what it is about the genre that drives and inspires this ambitious young artist.
Hey Jana, thanks for talking to me. I know you’re currently working on some music, so what are your upcoming plans for it?
“My upcoming plans are to hopefully release my EP in the next few months.”
Awesome, best of luck with that. What inspired you to pursue music as a career?
“I’ve always thought about song writing as therapeutic. If I was ever sad, happy or nervous I’d write down what I was feeling and somehow turn it into a song. It’s where I put all of my emotions so I’d say it’s a big passion of mine. I guess I’m just always happy when I’m singing or playing the piano so it would be amazing to actually make a career out of it.”
And how long have you been doing music for?
“Ever since my parents forced me to take piano lessons in year 1! I then started singing lessons and wrote my first song at around 14 years old.”
Do you have any early memories of your first performance?
“Aaah, I have the worst memory, but I remember my first performance where I played piano and sang at the same time. I was about 12 and I was so nervous because there is a real art to it. You’ve got to focus on what your fingers are doing and also remember lyrics and the actual melody.”
There definitely is a real art to it. Especially when you’re singing and performing at the same time. Speaking of instruments, you play the piano, but is there something about being a singer that attracts you more than playing as part of a back up band?
“I’m an attention hog, I love being adored, simple as that. Plus I love the connection that you get to the audience as a singer, like you can make eye contact with them and when you sing, it’s like you are having a one way conversation with a bunch of people.”
I get that, it feels very personal to make that connection with a singer. Who is your biggest inspiration musically?
“Taylor Swift definitely. Her music is so fantastic lyrically and musically. I like the idea of telling a story through lyrics and I guess Taylor has really taught me a lot when it comes to that. To be fair, I went to one of her concerts when I was 9 and walked away saying ‘I want to be a singer’, so she has a special place in my heart considering she’s the reason why I want to pursue this crazy dream.”
That’s so sweet! What is it about the pop genre that appeals to you?
“I like how versatile it is, I get that it can be super mainstream, but it also is changing constantly. Each time that the top 40 changes, different styles and artists are introduced and I like how there are just no limits and no rules when it comes to what pop music is. I also just love all the current popular artists, like I could probably list the whole top 40 for you right now.”
That is very true, but since pop is basically the most mainstream and popular genre, how do you plan on standing out as an artist when there are already so many musicians taking up the spotlight?
“Well I’d like to think that my songs are relatable. I tend to stay away from mainstream topics such as love and heartbreak. And I tell stories in each song. I literally wrote a song explaining why I’m single to sing to my extended family so they would stop asking me about my love life. It’s called ‘The Man in the Piano’, I know that sounds weird but when I was little I used to think that there was a little man in my piano who would press the keys while I was playing. So the song is me explaining how the man in the piano is the only man I need, a.k.a music is the only thing I need. So yeah, I guess I just try and incorporate interesting concepts lyrically without being too weird, I think. Hopefully one day people will appreciate that… or just remember it…”
That’s actually super cool, I really love the meaning behind that. A lot of people believe that pop music only exists to be commercially successful and therefore the music produced is not meaningful. What do you have to say to that?
“I think that that is very subjective. I mean, you could have a pop artist releasing a song that’s purely for commercial reasons, but then you can have listeners maybe relating that very same song to their life, therefore making it meaningful. No one can really determine whether a song is meaningful to the artist that releases it because they don’t know whats going on in the artist’s mind. That’s the thing about musical creativity, questions constantly go unanswered and creativity can’t always be explained, and it’s not meant to, it’s meant to be felt. I guess most music on the top charts are only there for commercial success, but whether they are meaningful is up to each and every listener to determine. You can’t really just place the genre of pop music in a box.”
Definitely not. Sadly, there is a lot of elitism and superiority complexes amongst music fans, I myself used to be a fan of commercial pop for many years before I found rock music and I remember encountering a lot of people who put me down for listening to pop music. Have you experienced these behaviours? How do you react to these judgements?
“Yes, oh my god! It has been ridiculous. Especially coming from a course where the majority of people prefer indie or rock music! Sometimes in class I’ll mention an artist on the charts and everyone including the lecturer will give me blank stares. Like, c’mon guys, the majority of the world and all of my friends know about this! How can’t you?! I always feel like the odd one out, that’s for sure. I guess in Australia and especially Melbourne we have such a strong indie/rock scene and I’m completely supportive of that. But when people tell me my music taste is trash I just say ‘you like what you like, and I’ll like what I like.’”
For sure, that’s the best way to go about with it. And what is your opinion on this existing judgement amongst music genres?
“My opinion is that it is soooo unnecessary. Music is beautiful and yes, there are many different kinds, so people need to get the hell over the fact that someone else might like something a bit different.”
Do you have a message for any younger kids who dream of becoming musicians?
“Keep dreaming and keep working hard! If you want to do something then for God’s sake, don’t hold back! But also if you want to follow the musician career path, make sure to have a backup career or job just in case it doesn’t work out. Because even though it sucks, we can’t always control our futures, especially in an industry that is constantly changing.”
Speaking to Jana not only answered all of my questions, but allowed me to realise that the divisive nature and judgemental attitudes of some music fans who enjoy different genres is something that needs to be stamped out. After all, music is the one thing that unites all listeners, why on earth should we also let it alienate us from each other?
Jana’s EP, The Invisible Woman, is set to be released in the coming months. It will be available on Apple Music and Spotify.