Memorable song legends have taken center stage in 2015 with the Amy Winehouse film documentary ‘Amy,’ ‘Straight Outta Compton’ about rap group N.W.A. and the ‘Cobain: Montage of Heck’ documentary about Kurt Cobain, but none depicted raw emotion with a seething wail quite like Janis Joplin.
The Regent Theatre in Arlington, Massachusetts will debut the film documentary, ‘Janis: Little Girl Blue’ from Friday, January 8 through Thursday, January 14! Opening night will feature a special performance by Kate Russo as she sings some of Janis Joplin’s biggest hits with her band, ‘Piece of My Pearl’ on Friday, January 8. Pre-show appetizers by Blue Ribbon BBQ will be served and Tim Jackson, Kate Russo, and Robin Lane will host a post show discussion. The evening starts at 7:30 p.m. Click here for tickets!
Singer-songwriter Kate Russo talks about her first time listening to Janis Joplin’s music, her own songwriting, and her upcoming performance at the Regent Theatre located at 7 Medford Street in Arlington, Massachusetts. Click here for more on Kate Russo’s music.
Jeanne Denizard: Tell me about what the music scene was like when Janis Joplin made her debut to the world. Janis Joplin’s voice was so distinct and unmistakable that it must have been a surprise to the music scene.
Kate Russo: My mother and father were buying Beatles records when Janis Joplin was hitting the scene! I was born the year after Janis died. However, most of my favorite “pop” music has always been classic rock. When I first heard Janis as a young child, I was frightened of her sonic sound, power, and a yowl that could really make you feel! I can only imagine how exciting it would be for an entire generation to have mass exposure to Janis and Big Brother and The Holding Company! Those were what I call the days of “golden radio”.
JD: How has your music evolved over the years and how did Janis influence your music? I understand you will perform her songs with your band, ‘Piece of My Pearl’ on opening night of the film, “Janis: Little Girl Blue” at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, Massachusetts on Friday, January 8.
KR: I’ve grown as a singer-songwriter and have been compared to Janis many times, which I used to question! Now I see people love the special quality Janis had and appreciate another artist who is putting it all out there just like Janis.
I truly relate her in my tribute band, ‘Piece of My Pearl.’ For years, fans and other artists asked if I would do a tribute act to Janis, but doing a dress up act or imitating anyone isn’t for me, including Janis. Especially after touring solo and with Big Brother and the Holding Company (BBHC) and other acts, it could never work for me to do any kind of cover or tribute show. I am simply too much of an original artist, but my Big Brothers have slowed down with touring, even though they are still rocking it at over 70. There has been a sad lack of Janis music in a live setting especially on the East Coast, since they are Bay Area boys. I always did a few covers, which are my own versions based on the arrangements I did for years with BBHC in my solo shows.
Finally, I caved in about two years ago and performed a few select shows with this new act I put together with some musician friends, calling it “Piece of My Pearl.” I sing my favorite songs from the touring I did with BBHC, and perform some of my favorite later Pearl stuff like “Crybaby,” adding lead rock electric violin, my special one-of-a-kind niche in BBHC! If the show warrants it, my specialty is ‘Ball and Chain.’ I have kindly been included in a bunch of press about BBHC because that’s how awesome they are. They really took a chance with me as lead violin in place of lead guitar, and it was a blast! People and fans really dug it, and that style is absolutely up my alley! As a violinist, my biggest influences are Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Albert King, Duane Allman, etc. I add some of my stories and insights at ‘Piece of My Pearl’ shows, and pay special tribute to BBHC and of course, Janis!
At the Regent show, I will do an absolutely one-of-a-kind special solo show. I can’t imagine Janis standing alone with a guitar, but I will do my best to fill gigantic shoes with a short set of my favorite songs that I can do for Janis. Janis is really not a stand-still-with-a-guitar kind of girl!
JD: What do you think sets Janis Joplin apart from other performers and what is the best reason people should watch this film?
KR: What sets Janis apart is difficult to express in words. I love words as a songwriter, but what Janis had was simply raw emotion! Her vocals had such exquisite colors and how do you express that in words? Her sound could be bawdy and intimate with harmonic overtones and distortion other singers try to affect themselves to an unflattering result. Her emotion, timbre, variety of inflection, and the ability to flit between personality changes as a singer and performer is incredible. Can’t buy it, earn it, learn it, or grow into it. It just IS. It’s a God-given gift. Luckily, this gift was captured as audio and some video for the world and different generations to share.
I have been waiting to see this film because it shows rare footage of these legends, exposing Janis to her fans and the world as never before. I saw the trailer and almost cried when Janis kissed Sam! So thankful Amy Berg has done this film! Dave Getz told me how cool it is and that they will be airing interviews with Dave, Amy, and others for PBS ‘American Masters’ series in May.
JD: What are your future plans? Are you working on any new projects or tours coming up?
KR: I have been gearing up for a new recording and will be in the studio for the next few cold months! I’d like to do more blues/rock festivals and theatres this summer in America and Europe if the fates allow! That is where ‘Piece of My Pearl’ shines brightest! Looking forward to some great shows in MA/RI, and am trying to get my Big Brothers in BBHC to come to New England in the spring or summer for some shows together. The last show we did was Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, the incredible memorial concert for Sam Andrew in March. It was a gigantic stage filled with BBHC alumnus with a theatre full of music lovers! The audience is still there for Janis and her music. Be on the lookout for new solo material by Kate Russo and hopefully a recording of ‘Piece of My Pearl’ too!
Directed by Oscar-nominated Amy Berg, see ‘Janis: Little Girl Blue’ at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, Massachusetts from Friday, January 8 through Thursday, January 14. Click here for tickets to opening night and for more information on other upcoming Regent Theatre events.