Powerhouse vocalist and decorated instructor Janet Cull peels back the layers for her raw and riveting new album, Hear It
The best art is birthed from anguish, it has been said. Sunny skies and rainbows make for great top 40 hits and TV jingles. But the real music that resonates and cuts to the core is real, raw and rugged — a byproduct of the past and present hurdles of its author.
Janet Cull knows what it means to harness the hardships, as evident by her long-awaited studio album Hear It.
Soulful, powerful and stripped to the bone, the latest collection from one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s preeminent singer-songwriters and instructors is a captivating collection worthy of its owners’ undeniable talents.
“I mean, a lot has happened in the last five years for me. I’ve been adapting to a lot of changes … It’s always easier to write when life is sh**y,” Cull shares in a sit down with The Herald.
“When I was a teenager I was in a very abusive relationship, physically and emotionally. And I would write all the time. On my walls in my bedroom, like I was constantly writing.”
From the MusicNL winning Janet Cull Band, to her 2016 acclaimed studio effort Real Tough Love, Cull has undergone a metamorphosis as an artist that has seen the career artist embrace her own talents as a songwriter, while also leaning on the gifts of those friends in the industry she has occupied for over two decades.
“I’m surrounded by these amazing friends of mine who are unbelievable writers Mick Davis, Andrew LeDrew, Virginia Fudge, Steve Miller, Chris Kearsey, all of them. And I was like, I don’t need to do this, and then I ended up writing “Mommy’s Boy” (for Real Tough Love),” Cull recalls.
“People’s reaction to ‘Mommy’s Boy’ gave me confidence to start writing more. The writing just came when I was really sad. It was like therapy, really. I didn’t even realize I was writing songs for most of the tunes.”
Facing tumultuous personal and professional hardships, Cull harnessed her pain for Hear It, serving up her most stripped-down and human record to date.
“It was my escape, it was my release, and what I was feeling like,” Cull shares emphatically.
“Every word that’s written is exactly what was going on. So it’s really a little peek into my life in the last few years. I had to get it out somehow. I mean besides the partying I was doing, because that was not helping. Numbing yourself, it feels good at the time. The next day you’re so sketched out and you feel so sh***y and you’re just like, what? And then the cycle continues. So it was like all these things going on that caused all the friction in my relationship. But I was then doing it because of the friction. It was just a really bad time for me.
“The album is raw man, just complete raw emotion,” Cull adds. “I’m an emotional singer anyway if I’m singing someone else’s material. So singing on my own is a whole other level. I’m obsessed with this album. I love it so much.”
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SCHOOL OF ROCK
And while Cull continues to find solace and escapism in her music, her career path has also allowed her to help shape and sculpt the next wave of local artists in waiting.
Chiefly among those ventures is Cull’s work with School of Rock. Musical Director of the school’s house band, Cull raves of the talent and pure drive and grit of her students, many of whom punch far beyond their weight in terms of age and experience.
“I have no education in music. I’m self-taught, so I’m teaching in a completely different way than in a conservatory. I’m teaching the art of music and like expressing yourself and singing with emotion and man I’m telling you, my kids that I’m teaching right now would blow your mind,” Cull explains proudly.
“It’s so inspiring. They’re inspiring me because it’s like, oh my God. Rock and roll is not dead. There’s a bright future. But these kids, they’re so talented. It’s unbelievable.”
‘IT’S LITERALLY WHO I AM’
As the COVID-19 dog days burn out and Newfoundland and Labrador’s summer concert season kicks off in earnest, the island is brimming with talented locals. Cull herself takes aim at the late summer calendar, bringing a full-band performance of Hear It to the Holy Heart Theatre on August 14th.
“It’s like my heart, my soul, my pain, my love, everything. It’s literally who I am,” Cull shares of Heart It. “There’s nothing being covered up, no sugar coating anything. And it’s great because it’s helping me move forward. Brilliant, really. It really is, like the brilliance of art man. I’m like OK, I’m ready to soar man. I’m ready to soar. Let’s do this.”
Cull – backed by Brad Jefford, Mark Feener, Josh Ward, Nick Coultas-Clarke, Baraka Abayo, Alex Abbott, Crystal McCarthy, Aubree Lamb and a special guest – takes to the Holy Heart Theatre on August 14th. For more information and tickets visit holyheartthreatre.com and visit janetcull.com for more!