30 Mar 2013
March 30, 2013

Queer Voices: An Interview With Janis Ian

March 30, 2013

by Logan Lynn.

I caught up with music industry veteran singer, songwriter, author, (and pioneer of the high-profile celebrity come-out) Janis Ian this week for QBlog in advance of her April 5th performance at The Alberta Rose Theatre in Portland.

In her fifth decade of writing songs and performing, Janis just this year won her second Grammy Award. She has been nominated 9 times over the years in 8 categories. Her 2013 Grammy was for Best Spoken Word Album for her audio book “Society’s Child”, and her competition in the category was former President Bill Clinton, First Lady Michelle Obama, Ellen DeGeneres, and Rachel Maddow…no big deal. When asked about the big win, Janis calls it a “stunning upset” and goes on to say “There must be a joke in here somewhere. An ex-president, a First Lady and three lesbians go into a bar…”

Check out some of my chat with Janis Ian below the video, and get your tickets to see her this coming Friday at The Alberta Rose Theatre HERE. You won’t regret it!

WATCH: Janis Ian Performing “At Seventeen” Live (1976)

Logan Lynn: Hi Janis. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. Your show at The Alberta Rose Theatre is coming up next week. Can you tell me a little bit about what’s in store for us with this performance?

Janis Ian: A bit of old, a bit of new. My friend Diana Jones will be opening as well as joining me on a few songs and a couple of guitar solos, too! I’ll be covering “Society’s Child” of course, and “At 17”. And it’s always tempting to do “I Got You, Babe…”.

Logan Lynn: Oh my God, Janis. I can’t wait! It’s such a treat that we get to see you next week! Speaking of “At Seventeen”, many people know you today in part because of the success of that song. How did having such a huge hit record so early in your career affect you as an artist?

Janis Ian: I don’t think having a hit record has very much to do with artistic growth – it eats up time, but it also buys you time, and access.

Logan Lynn: That sounds about right…and as history has shown, with access comes controversy…to which you are no stranger. Over the years you have tackled issues of race, sexuality, and politics through your work and personal life. How has being yourself publicly changed over the years?

Janis Ian: I’m not sure that it’s ever possible to “be yourself” publicly; usually I just hope to be the best of myself!

Logan Lynn: Amen to that! Do you feel like it is easier to speak your mind these days or has the digital age brought with it a new set of challenges?

Janis Ian: It’s never really occurred to me not to be forthright, so the digital age hasn’t affected it – except in terms of paparazzi, who don’t have to worry about film cost any more!

Logan Lynn: Well, at least from the outside looking in, being forthright seems to have really worked for you. While we are on the subject of being forthright, you were one of the first celebrities to publicly come out many moons ago, and you and your partner were wed in 2003 in Canada, the only place where same-sex marriage was legal at the time. How do you see the current marriage equality fight playing out in the states? Are you hopeful?

Janis Ian: I’m always hopeful. I have a Pollyanna attitude toward life. I’m not sure the Supreme Court will endorse – effectively – gay marriage at this juncture; it’s a huge, huge shift, and they’re not known for that. But I firmly believe it will happen in my lifetime.

Logan Lynn: Always hopeful? That’s amazing! I must learn this practice immediately…and I think you are right that we will both get to see it happen when it does. Before we go, do you have any advice to LGBTQ performers just starting out?

Janis Ian: The same advice I’d give any performer just starting out:

1. Trust no one. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t jump into things with your whole heart and soul, but be aware that anyone can go rogue. Keep that in mind when you’re signing a blank check to your lover or manager or whoever. At the end of the day, it’s just you and music left standing.

2. Listen to everyone, because you can learn a lot that way. And sometimes you might even find out you’re wrong! But trust your instincts. Again, at the end of the day, it’s your face on the CD cover, your name that will be associated with it. Everyone else can walk away. You can’t.


More on Janis Ian HERE.  

See Janis Ian live with special guest Diana Jones at The Alberta Rose Theatre on Friday, April 5th in Portland. $20 Advance | $25 At the Door. Tickets available HERE.



Queer Voices is a virtual space within QBlog where all kinds of lived experiences, ideas, and dreams from the LGBTQ and Allied community are featured. This space is all of ours. We aim for diversity in the thoughts, opinions, and subject matter expressed through the Queer Voices program. You may not agree with everything you read, but our hope is to provide a platform for the diversity of our community to thrive and interact.  The views expressed here are those of the author.

If you are interested in writing for QBlog’s Queer Voices program, please send an email with a sample of your work to QBlog@pdxQcenter.org