Janelle Phillips EP: LIONESS Interview

Janelle Phillips CD Release Lioness

If you love reggae music and haven’t heard of Janelle Phillips yet, there’s a good chance you will soon. Lots of us are already aware of the gold that E.N Young of Tribal Seeds continuously spins out of his studios, and this is yet another amazing artist he has taken under his wing at the label ‘Roots Musician Records’.

To me, in my limited interactions so far with Janelle, it’s crystal clear that:

A. She is an insanely passionate and driven person, and

B. She has a soul-touchingly gorgeous and powerful voice that rings out like the sound of freedom

I absolutely love when artists release new albums. It’s an emotional, exciting, uplifting, sometimes scary and crazy-beautiful time in an artist’s life when they’re really putting themselves out there for everyone to hear. If you’ve already seen her ridiculously good covers on Youtube then you sort of know what to expect (if not see them here) and are as psyched about this as us at Hill Kid.

The sheer enthusiasm and vigor for life that Janelle puts into everything she does is truly poetic, and I’m beyond stoked I was able to speak with her and have her work with us to get an awesome interview (including her spirit animal and working with E.N Young)! Hope you enjoy!



Janelle Phillips and E.N Young and Leilani Wolfgramm

HK: What is it like working with E.N Young from Tribal Seeds and how did you get to know him before recording with him?

JP: After being featured on brother Gary Dread’s track, “Divine,” I was referred to E.N Young from Tribal Seeds as the producer and mentor I needed to get to the next level. I began to research and find out how I could get in contact with him. After a few months of discussing music with E.N we were able to make an agreement and I was signed under Roots Musician Records Label.

Recording with E.N Young was one of the most memorable and exciting experiences of my life. Imperial sounds became my dream studio as soon as I learned about his producing and the artists that were coming in and out of there. The songs on my debut album were all written on my ukulele, Luna, and I presented E.N with phone recordings that were taken in a small bathroom (acoustics). He chose LIONESS as the first song he wanted to work with, and said that was the right name for the album. I spent four 8hr days with E.N as we both manifested these visions and brought my dream to life. I was so blessed to watch this Wiseman get to work as he played on his keyboard with different sounds, played live drums, and brought the trance of the melodica. He put in all of his effort and love into each song as if it was his own. I was blown away how without words he brought the music to each song as I had envisioned it. He asked for my opinion on every move and when the music was set, we recorded vocals, and brought each song to life. E.N shared so much musical knowledge, stories, and positive ways to better the health, well- being, and conscious state of mind. He has since then been giving me strength and confidence in my work. I appreciate and have so much love for him and his family. This was definitely more than a recording session, it was a chapter of my evolution.

HK: Who’s your biggest influence?
JP: Matisyahu and Trevor Hall are my biggest influences. Their music has changed my ways of thinking and inspired me to write music, to sing, to praise and I find a way to connect with my spiritual being. They have such a positive message and present awareness… it’s so beautiful. When I listen to them sing, I am able to meditate and be taken to another level. I want to create that experience for someone else.
HK: What’s your favorite album?
 Janelle Phillips CD Release Lioness
JP: Definitely going to be The Dirty Heads, “Any Port in a Storm,” and  Slightly Stoopid’s, “Closer to the Sun” and “Chronchitis.”  I listened to these albums every day for about two years while skating to school and work. I don’t think I’d be where I am today if I hadn’t discovered these two amazing bands.

HK: We know you work hard toward your passion, how do you get by as you begin your music career?
JP: It was really just this goal of being able to sing and share the music I love. I’ve always been very assertive and gone for things that seem impossible. I literally make “to-do-lists”, brainstorm, and map out my goals almost on a daily to weekly basis so that i clear my mind and get to where I need to. I love this reggae community because no matter who you reach out to, you always get some sort of help or advice to move to that next level. Financially it has been extremely hard to get to where I am now, but I have been blessed with people who have put in time, effort, and even money so that I can reach my next point. It’s really amazing to see people believe in me. My album is not even out yet and I have immense support and family already!!
HK: Where are you originally from?
JP: I was born and raised in Escondido, Ca. An inland town in San Diego with very hot weather year round. I am about 30-40 minutes to the beach, to Downtown San Diego. Too specific or not enough (laughs)?
HK: What was the hardest time you ever had that music got you through?
JP: Every day. It’s hard to explain, but I have gone through so many hardships, and even though sometimes I feel like I’m about to hit rock bottom, it doesn’t phase me. I feel like Jah knows what he puts me through, whether to learn a lesson, become stronger, or to change my path. I leave my worries to Him. Listening to Bob Marley has gotten me through these tough times. Reggae is so positive and uplifting, but it really is also “a Poor Man’s Music”… it comes out of sad times and poverty. Darkness to light. We go through a lot of trials and obstacles everyday and reggae gives us hope. Reggae is Hope. 
HK: What do you do daily to spread good vibes to the world?
JP: As humans we all make mistakes and have weaknesses, but everyday I try to correct that. I try to be kind and giving to everyone. Bring happiness to my friends and family and at work.  Sometimes its hard because not everyone is in that same mindset, but I’ve learned to not take negative energy in. Everyone is going through a different struggle, and sometimes we get bottled up and explode. I am really trying to work on my inner peace and putting forth positivity on a daily. I really want to help and make a positive impact in the world to where people remember my name. I want to become a teacher and travel to third world countries, and I feel like the path through reggae music is guiding me in the right direction.
HK: What’s your favorite part about your debut album?
JP: I love that each song displays a different style of reggae music–it doesn’t all sound the same. I am also very proud of my album cover. It was a spontaneous pose, and I feel like it really is an amazing piece of art. I can see me qualities; I see exactly who I am in that photo. Another favorite part of this debut album is that I am attending festivals and shows, and having people that I look up to musically recognize me and congratulate me on the hard work I’ve been putting into it. This CD is like a medal or trophy. It makes me feel so happy about myself and what I write about. To see everyone on social media supporting, sharing and spreading the message–it is so wonderful.
HK: What’s the coolest story of your life?
JP: I don’t know what to choose for this question, but I think my career in reggae music is such a cool story. I can’t believe it sometimes, it’s so surreal .
HK: If everything were perfect what would your life look like?
JP: The laws of the earth are ying and yang. For every good there’s bad, for every negative there’s positive. So, in my opinion, nothing is or can ever be perfect. But it can sure come close to it. I think that happiness is the most important goal in everyone’s life. Materialism, money, fame, none of that can give you happiness. Learning to love yourself, being with your family, really surrounding yourself with good people. I guess a wonderful happy life for me would be living on the coast in a foreign country, playing my ukulele for my friends and family around the camp fire, barbequing, and hearing the waves of the ocean crash. Getting up for work the next day, walking through a neighborhood and saying hello to my community. I wouldn’t mind living in really humble housing, just that we were free and happy, feeling the rays of the sun.
HK: Marley loves spirit animals… What’s yours?
JP: I really connect with the Lion. The physical and spiritual form of a Lion is so impacting. I remember being at the wild animal park before the recording of my album, and just standing there looking at the empty exhibit. I waited so long until finally the lioness walked out and laid down right in front of me. I observed her every feature. I stood there admiring her beauty, and then the lion began to walk out, and she rose up and sat down, stared at him until he laid down and then she did too. At that moment I felt such an empowering feeling that came across me. The nobility and respect from one animal to another. Lions are a symbolism of The Almighty. The also give me the mental power to have control of my emotions, strength, and physical capability. I feel so happy when I see a picture or drawing of one. They remind me of Africa, and the safari, and the sounds of African drumming. They remind me of a kingdom. The remind me of Jah.
 Janelle Phillips with uke
HK: What’s your favorite non musical hobby?
JP: I really enjoy going to the gym, yoga, meditating, and hiking. Finding healthy eating habits and trying new foods too. I was really dedicated to it before my album, but with all this hustle I haven’t had any time to and am out of shape. When I say out of shape, I mean the well- being of my soul and mind. Being active really gets oxygen through your body, so that you can think clearly and feel healthy. For the past few years I’ve been reading and researching about temples. Buddhism and Hinduism really call my name and I love the atmosphere. I just love finding ways to connect with the Earth and Jah’s Love, His creation is so immense and grand, what better hobby than to explore the beauty He placed us in?

No doubt hearing new music is something that myself and the amazing people in the reggae community thrive on–it’s awesome to hear someone really bear their heart and soul for the first time.
Janelle’s ‘Lioness’ is out now, so make sure to download the newest album from Roots Musician Records and tell us what you think in the comments! Buy it here
Brendan and the Hill Kid Fam! ^


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