Student Profile: Jana Gallagher
Jana Gallagher is an 18 year old first-year RMIT University student currently studying a Bachelor of Arts Music Industry. She is planning on releasing her first EP towards the end of this year and I had the pleasure of sitting down and talking to her about family, feelings, influences, songwriting, social media and the future.
How did you initially get into music?
Since I was little, my parents made it a point to always play music around the house and expose me to their music. It was a part of my life growing up and has always been an important aspect of my childhood. They sent me to piano, violin and singing lessons at a young age. I began piano exams from Grade 2 and I hated it. I remember my Mum would have a schedule where I needed to practice for half an hour everyday when I got back from school, and I despised it because she made it seem like a chore. The thing I liked about the exams was that they were character building so aside from my initial dislike, I learnt a lot of lessons during the many years that I studied music.
Would you say music is an important aspect of your life and does your family have a musical background?
I think that music is a part of everyones life but more so mine because my parents are very musical. For instance my Dad plays piano and used to write songs and my Mum sings. My mum used to partake in signing competitions and her mother, my grandmother, used to be a singing teacher. I never met her but everyone says that I’m really similar to her. Apparently she was a badass like me.
What’s the relationship that you have with your parents and your music?
I sort of keep my musical creativity separate from my parents, because I associate piano and singing exams with them, and having to read sheet music. However, they have obviously had an influence on my love of music. Songwriting is my own little thing that I like to keep to myself but of course they support me. They’ll sit down and listen to a song that I’ve wrote and they’ll tell me whether its good or bad and give contrastive criticism, since they both have musical knowledge. So I guess in a way they have influenced my music.
What made you realise that this was something that you wanted to do as a career?
When it comes to songwriting, its really therapeutic for me. Whenever I’m sad or happy, whatever emotions I’m feeling, I’ll write it down in my songbook and then eventually go back to it and start writing and build on my ideas. I think this is largely due to the fact that when I was younger I had issues explaining how I felt, but once I began putting my feelings into words and expressing my emotions, that changed. The first song that I wrote was when I was 14, and I was upset at something. I don’t remember exactly what it was about but I remember it felt really good to let it all out. It wasn’t a finished song, it was like a half done song. But my real first song is called ‘The Invisible Woman’, and I wrote it because I was having trouble at school with being bullied. I know it sounds cliche but it’s basically me talking about how I felt invisible. The song ended up being a sad song the whole way through, however two years later, come Year 12, I was a lot happier about the way I was going in school so I decided to go back to the song and I changed the bridge and the ending to sound happier, compared than the original. Its saying that the ‘The Invisible Woman’ is no longer invisible. I’m lucky enough to be able to show my growth as a person through music and songwriting is just another way that I am able to express this.
Who are your music influences and how have they shaped your sound and you as an artist?
Adele is a major influence in my music. The main reason is the vocal aspect of her as a performer, as I’ve always admired how she’s so strong vocally. Because of her, in my own voice I’ve tried to get that strength in my lower register, and I was never able to do that before. I also really love that she has sort of developed her own genre. It’s those types of ballads. She puts so much raw emotion into her music and that definitely influences me so much. Music is to be heard and to be felt.
Taylor Swift has also really impacted me as an artist. I was 9 years old when I went to her 2008 Fearless concert. I literally walked away from that show and turned to my Mum and said “I want to be a singer.” So it was just seeing her on stage, because she was young at that time, I think she was 19, and as a 9 year old watching her perform I thought “I can do that”.
When did you want to start making progress on your EP apart from songwriting?
I wanted to start my EP throughout Year 12, but my Dad said that I needed to focus on my studies. However he also told me that he wanted me to keep writing songs about experiences that I had, and that I should wait until the end of my first year at university because I’d have so many new experiences and opportunities. I’m glad that I listened to his advice because I didn’t begin the EP at the start of the year. I had a list of songs that I wanted to produce but thats all changed now, because I’ve just written new songs and I feel like I’m a different person now then I was back then.
I’ve started producing with a student that is in my course. We’ve done two songs together however they’re not finished. One of them was ‘The Invisible Woman’ which is just a piano ballad but I’m thinking of having an acoustic version and a pop version. The other song is called ‘Getaway’ and it’s about a friendship break up, because I think that friends can break your heart as well. But the song is really irate because I was expressing how I felt about my ex-bestfriend. The lyrics for the chorus are “Lightning will strike and I wont be there to pick up the pieces, because I have crossed the bridge over to the other side. I’ve escaped from your selfish life. I’ve made my getaway.” Aside from that, I have been going into the studio myself and sort of bringing more into that song. I’ve added electric guitar, drums and bass beats and I have kind of modelled it off Taylor Swift’s song ‘Better than revenge’, which is a very wrathful song.
Have you had any difficulties so far?
My producer was going through a tough time in her life so we had to stop working together and couldn’t really finish what we had started. I have been using the studio’s at RMIT and have been working with another student who’s also in the same course. He’s using Abelton Live whereas I was Logic before, so its going to be interesting to see whether the final result will sound different since we’re using different editing programs. It has definitely been a learning curve for me, due to the fact that I had no prior experience with the programs. This was my first time using DAW’s and I was learning as I was going, it wasn’t easy. But it wasn’t hard considering I had the basic knowledge of GarageBand, which I always used to use.
How have you found the RMIT music facilities to use?
I love the studios at RMIT. It excites me as a musician to be in a studio, and whats good about the RMIT studios is that they are underground, away from everyone and everything and there are 4 seperate studios so it’s not like everyone is fighting for one space. It’s a very welcoming environment which I really enjoy working in.
What made you start your Instagram page?
I started my Instagram page with the thought that if I wanted to release my music in the next few months, I want to be able to release it to a wide audience. Because nowadays, we live in an age where anyone can make music from anywhere and release it wherever, and if you don’t have a massive following, you’re not going to be heard. I know it sounds so terrible and superficial, but unfortunately it’s true and it’s something that I’m learning in the course as well. It’s not the same as it was back in the day where you would send a CD to a record label and expect them to do all the work. Now you have to do the work by yourself.
I did a lot of research last year on the influence of social media and what the best approach would be for me personally, because all of my favourite artists such as Shawn Mendes, Justin Bieber and Alessia Cara were all discovered online and all had a certain amount of followers, as in they had an established following/fanbase. For instance Shawn Mendes started on Vine, he had millions of followers and Andrew Gertler from Island Records reached out to him and essentially kick-started his career. So having a following, who’s listening and how many people are listening does matter.
My Instagram bio literally says “Send me a picture and I’ll complement you”, and you’d be surprised by how many people actually respond. I get hundreds of pictures and then I start little conversations with them and they’ll ask “What do you do?” and I’ll reply “Oh I write songs!” And I’ll sort of explain to them how I’m releasing an EP soon and they’ll be like “Cool! I’ll get on it.” Thats pretty much the reception I’ve gotten so far. I’ve also released a preview of the album cover on my social media and so many people responded to that. It’s all about connections. You’ve got to be nice for starters but you just have to explain what you’re doing to people.
Do you think about the future and have you considered any other avenues if music doesn’t work out?
Ever since I told my parents that I wanted to follow a career in music, they told me that I needed to have a back-up plan. And even if my main hobby wasn’t music, I know I’d be doing law anyway. So I thought I have this big crazy dream of being a songwriter, I’m going to follow it because following your dreams is important, but I’m going to make sure that I have a career or job to fall back on because I never want to get to the point where I’m waitressing because I can’t do anything else and music isn’t working. I never want to get to that point. So I definitely think it’s important to have a back-up, because right now I’m doing a music degree and straight after I finish this, I will do a masters in law.
This being your first year of uni, you’re employed, you’re working on your EP, how have you found juggling work, career, music and a social life?
I’m so happy. I’ve been going at my own pace all year and I’ve sort of let go, I’ve grown up, I’ve met amazing people and I have actually surprisingly juggled everything pretty well considering I’m usually not the type of person that can do that. I’m still learning how to go at my own pace and especially with the EP, I make it a point to not make it a chore. I’m taking it slow.
Is there a possible release date for the EP?
It’s still early stages. I mean who knows, I might get into the studio with this new producer and have it finished in two days. The thing is you can’t tell when it comes to music. I’m not putting a time limit on myself. But it will be in the next few months.