There’s something to be said about creativity and being out of one’s comfort zone… It works.
On the road, away from family, writing with other people—any change in environment causes a shift in perspective, a imaginative spark. For Ian Janes, all the places, experiences, reflections of the past several years have culminated in a tapestry of tales on his fifth album Episode 5, a collection of 11 tracks, each an episodic caption of the artist’s life and reflections in its many phases.
A follow up to Jane’s 2017 release Yes Man, Episode 5 is less an album of songs the Canadian singer-songwriter initially wrote for other people and more introspective, and inquisitive. Swerving through a mix of pop-charged jazz and blues, and some things seeped in soul, Episode 5 inevitably reveals Janes’ varied musical sides. Layered in analog and digitized arrangements, instrumentally, the album crosses the old and the modern, melding synth and guitar, drum machines, horns, and analog keyboard, Episode 5 maneuvers through times, spaces, and genres.
Always enjoying the ritualistic moments sitting and voraciously reading through a vinyl record—and Janes being a carpenter by trade and craving something more tactile—accompanying Episode 5 is a book (with included CD) documenting the making of the album with behind the scenes photos, anecdotes, and lyrics all tied to the project.
“Given that everybody spent the last year living through their computer and not going to shows, maybe I can present this record in a way that would give people a version of that experience,” shares Janes. “I’ve found a way to really engage the audience by telling them more about writing the song and why I wrote it or how I wrote it, so this book invites them into the process of creating the songs.”
He adds, “I wanted something that was just as thoughtfully put together as music and the songs, something that documents the process of making the record. It captures sitting on the floor and reading through the liner notes of an album but expands on it, utilizing the convenience of having it all on your phone and taking it anywhere you go.”
Self-produced at his home studio in Nova Scotia, Episode 5 was recorded in different increments in Nashville and Austin, Texas and mostly written by Janes, with several tracks co-written with Stone Aielli, Zak Lloyd, and Mikey Reaves. Rounding out the core band, Janes enlisted drummers Nick Buda (Taylor Swift, Dolly Parton) and Brannen Temple Jr. (Gary Clark Jr., Chaka Khan), and bassist Nicholas D’Amato, along with keyboardist Glenn Patscha, trumpeter Brad Mason,and singers Zamani and Owen ‘O’Sound’ Lee.
Episode 5 moves through different moments in Janes’ time, from the bluesier smoke of opening “Amnesia” and a funk-fused “Shouldn’t Be Calling You,” a song about someone who is “careening towards a disaster but is kind of enjoying the ride… someone hooked on the thrill of the forbidden,” shares Janes, divulging more story behind each track in the book. Initially written with a ’70s California country AM radio feel, Janes transformed “The Love You Need” into a more soulful 1960s ballad. Picking up on a more ’80s pop tilt with “Going Through the Emotions,” the reflective “Cost of Livin'” and heavier horns of “Never No,” “Vital Signs,” co-written with Lloyd offers an uptempo break before the stripped down close of “Sleepless.”
“For me it was about coming up with something that wasn’t one dimensional but not jarringly different,” shares Janes. “I write with country artists that I love, and write lots of different music, so it was important to make this feel like a good expression of my identity as an artist. Obviously, each record we do, we’re hoping to reach a broader audience… I wanted someone hearing this for the first time to say ‘I know who Ian Janes is.’”
Joking about his third person reference, it’s more about expressing his truest self as an artist. “I’m a massive Ray Charles fan and if you ask anyone what Ray Charles does, regardless of the song, he conveyed his artistry and who he was with every record in such a broad variety of genres,” says Janes.
“If a song doesn’t make you feel or want to share it, then chances are it’s not the one,” he adds. “Some songs you want to cry, other songs make you want to drive your car and uptempo songs make you want to dance. Everything is feel. It has to do something to you that you can’t describe, and if you want to show it to someone, because that’s essentially what releasing a song is, that’s the basic litmus test. Also, I’m the one that’s got to love it.”
Janes continues, “You’re not really giving of who you are, if you’re not giving something that you feel proud of, and that you feel is a true reflection of who you are and what you want to be putting out into the world.”