Room for interpretation

PT singer leaves meaning of songs up to the listener

Posted 9/11/19

When Janna Marit writes the lyrics for her original music, which she describes as circusy cabaret with a splash of folk, she tends to be a bit mysterious with her meaning.

“It is not frivolous,” she said. “My songs tend to be whimsical but have depth and are saying something, albeit sometimes in an obscure way.”

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Room for interpretation

PT singer leaves meaning of songs up to the listener

Posted

When Janna Marit writes the lyrics for her original music, which she describes as circusy cabaret with a splash of folk, she tends to be a bit mysterious with her meaning.

“It is not frivolous,” she said. “My songs tend to be whimsical but have depth and are saying something, albeit sometimes in an obscure way.”

Marit, of Port Townsend, said she is attracted to songwriters who write in such a manner.

“I have always liked when their lyrics are not obscure but a little more poetic and not saying something so clear and direct like you would if you were in a conversation.”

Janna Marit and Friends — which includes guest musicians David Michael on harp, Matt Sircely on mandolin and fiddle, and Zach Parker on guitar — perform at 7 p.m. Sept. 13 at Northwind Arts Center, 701 Water Street. The concert is the latest in the Northwind Songs series.

“Janna Marit is a shape-shifter, full of surprises,” said Matt Miner, series producer. “The first time I heard her she was part of the supporting cast singing subtle harmony in Simon Lynge’s band. The next time she was making a statement with her own originals, and the third time she was honoring earlier generations with her renditions of jazz standards.”

The supporting musicians are some of the best players in Port Townsend, Miner said.

“Each alone is worth the price of admission.”

Sircely said he has enjoyed performing with the new quartet, which is making its public debut during this concert.

“The songs have so much imagination which is also embedded in the arrangements and so it is really fun to make them come to life. I play mandolin and fiddle and sometimes I am playing viola parts. Other times I am trying to mimic the sound of a toy piano.”

Parker, surrounded by world class musicians, said he is excited to play with the group.

“It was scary at first, but once I heard the four of us together, it was a really nice sound. I was thinking about how to describe these songs the other night and what I came up with was both vibrant and haunting. My part is to not get in the way and help fill out the harmony and not be conspicuous or mess up.”

Marit said the group will play her original music, covers, and originals written by the other members.

“There will be some songs people will know and maybe a few people won’t know across the eras. It will be a little bit eclectic and really fun. It is sounding really good. It is cool, all those layers. I love interesting instrumentation.”

Musical lineage

Marit comes from a musical and artistic family, her father’s side being strongly musical and her mother’s consisting of many visual and performing artists, she said.

Marit’s paternal grandfather was inducted into the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the age of sixteen, and her father was a trumpet player who performed with spoken word artist Hue Romney, who later took on the moniker “Wavy Gravy.”

Marit said she feels very blessed to have captured her father’s horn playing on two songs on her first album, “Blush in Blue,” before he passed away in 2009 after a battle with lung cancer. He was also a guitar player, and gave Janna her first lessons on guitar at age 24 when she decided she wanted to be able to accompany herself singing.

He passed down his first guitar, a 1958 Swedish-made classical Goya, to Marit his youngest child. This is the guitar she still uses for performing.

“He was very supportive of me writing songs and making music,” Marit said. “I’m so grateful that in spite of his advanced illness, that he was still able to play and record some parts for my album. That contribution is incredibly special and will last a long long time. He had gorgeous tone when he was healthy, and the sounds of his horn playing are an indelible part of my memory of childhood.”

Marit said her mother’s lineage consists of many visual and performing artists, imbuing her with a love of theatre and painting.

Marit said her love of singing became evident at age 18 when, as she recalls, she had a job delivering flowers around Cape Cod. She took advantage of hours of solo driving, and sang her heart out at top volume, leaning towards old standards and jazz songs. This led to voice lessons, eventually the move to Los Angeles to acting school, and more musical study.

But it was an intense personal trauma that really turned the tables. Being an extremely shy child, Marit said she avoided most opportunities to sing in front of anyone but family and close friends. But at the age of 30, while visiting her parents in Maine, a house fire broke out from a faulty heating system.

Marit woke to a house full of smoke. She had to navigate her way downstairs and through several rooms to get outside.

Marit said she had a “mortality moment” in the thick of the smoke, knowing she very well might not make it out alive.

Having been faced with the real prospect of death was a life-changing and awakening experience, she said she came out of it with an attitude of “you are alive now, there is no tomorrow,” and with that she returned to California, sought out opportunities, and put herself on the stage. Soon after she began to write her own songs.

During this time, she met and married Simon Lynge.

Marit said they hit it off immediately and still love singing and performing with each other.

“Usually I perform with my husband,” Marit said. “He usually accompanies me on shows, and I sing with him, but he is heading to Denmark and will be playing Copenhagen that night.”

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