It may be odd to some to see boxing gloves slung over the shoulder of Janiva Magness on the cover of her latest album, titled Love Wins Again. But when she explains it, it all makes perfect sense.
“It’s exactly why you think,” she laughs. “It’s a fight. Life is a battle. Sometimes love is a battle. And that’s not just romantic love. It’s true and funny.”
It is, and it’s good to hear Magness not just delivering another stellar album, but doing it from a place of peace in her life. If anyone deserves some light, it’s the Detroit native, who has seen the darkness for several of her 59 years. Anyone who has listened to her music or heard her tell her story will be aware of those dark times, which included the suicide of both parents and multiple stays in foster care, just to name a few. But these days, things are looking up, with several life-altering good things taking place in 2015.
“That was the wildest rollercoaster ride,” she said. “I continued to tour on the strength of Original, which was the record I released in 2014. I finished a memoir which I’ve been working on for three-plus years, and as the result of the memoir, a musical got launched. I’m in negotiations for both of those as far as financing. Then I recorded another record, found an imprint deal with another label, and got married.”
“Are you tired yet?”
That’s a far cry from what she wrote on her blog a while back, as she spoke of the idea of a “normal” life. That’s never been the reality for Magness and probably never will be. But could she pull off the 9 to 5, dinner, some television, some reading and going to bed life?
“I doubt that very seriously for very long,” she said. “I could do just about anything for a while, but then I’m either thinking I gotta get a gun, point it at me, point it at somebody else, I’ve gotta do something. I would only be able to handle that temporarily. I look at the country, and it is absolutely a wonderful place to visit, but I can’t live there. It’s too quiet for me. I need some concrete, I need to hear a bus going by, I need to hear the trash truck or the neighbors making too much noise.”
And she needs to play her music for the people, which she will do in New York City on April 30 when she hits The Cutting Room. She admits that the upcoming book and musical projects could allow her to spend less time on the road and enjoy married life, but there’s always that idea that music is her way to deal with the past, celebrate the present and look forward to the future. And going back isn’t easy, as she found out while writing her memoir.
“It was incredibly difficult, and I had to continue over the course of those three-plus years to work on it in fits and starts,” she said. “I had to do it in that way because it was too painful and because I do have PTSD, and it’s very real and several times it put me in that state, which is pretty uncomfortable. The lemonade out of that is that I used to live in that state all the time and I hardly ever visit there anymore. I’m not setting up house in that internal space anymore, and I lived there for a very, very long time. So that’s wonderful. But the writing was hard.”
So it may be the million dollar question – why do it?
“Because it’s the only way to make it make sense,” she said. “Viktor Frankl said ‘that which is to give light must endure burning.’ I aspire to that. He gives me hope. So if it’s not to help someone else, what the f**k was going on? I refuse for that to be my destiny. I’m going to fight that fate and really win the battle and have a good life.”
Sounds like she’s on the right track. As for the whole love being a fight thing, when the 12 rounds are over, is it worth it?
“Yes, hands down, absolutely, two hundred percent,” she said. “When I consider the alternative, and I’ve spent a lot of time with my focus on that alternative in the early part of my life, in other words, get me out of here, I want out of this, take me out of this ring. And that’s such an incredibly difficult place to be in a person’s mind and a person’s heart. So I’d rather be in the ring, and I’m grateful. As big of a word as gratitude is, it kind of doesn’t touch it for me. Where I’m at today is ‘bring it on.’ It really is a great life.”
Janiva Magness plays The Cutting Room in NYC on Saturday, April 30. For tickets, click here