Picking a Fight for the Spotlight

This article primarily concerns one Tanya Janca. That said, the temptation to begin this piece with a self-reflexive anecdote is a little too much … I have, in the past, dabbled with the idea of focusing my life on making music, but I never followed through. Only a couple of times have I played anywhere for anything more than a few beers. I love to play guitar. I love to write songs. I love the rush of a show where I rocked. I have felt the subtle hubris when someone told me they really liked one of my songs. But I never felt like it was my place. More to the point, I just don’t have a head for the practicum of being a musician. One day I decided it was not a place in which I wanted to make a space for myself. (20-somethings who play guitar are a dime a dozen and maybe the narcissist in me wanted to be worth more than 83 cents. I figure 20-something writers are worth approximately 85 cents). Tanya Janca is someone who is trying to carve out for herself just such a space.

To describe someone’s sound, you perpetually encounter the dubious question: “What does she sound like?” Dubious, because it begs the use of “who,” not “what.” To answer the explicit query, hyphenating half a dozen words together to fit her onto the selves at music stores (eg. Pop-punk-folk-femme-rock) may do the job. As for “who,” Tanya has been compared to the likes of Any DiFranco and Joni Mitchell. This piece may not be good grounds for basing musical judgement, but check her out at any given downloading sight.

Tanya Janca sings Tanya Janca’s songs. She made them. They may in the end, make her; it depends on which you encounter first. I have known her since high school; back when we used to jam in the corridors until a teacher would move us along. That was six years ago. She has grown a great deal as a musician and a person since then.

It is convention in music journalism to provide anecdotal evidence of what it’s like to be young, beautiful, and an aspiring musician in our nation’s capital. Musicians, after all, are as much about myth as they are music. I do not believe it possible to grow up these days without the romanticized image of the young up-and-comer waiting for her break. Back-breaking hours of washing dishes or some other menial work to fund a few precious moments on stage. All for the hope of a high powered and adventurous record executive listening to a certain radio station at a preposterously opportune time. He will fall in love with her voice. The mythology of Rock and Roll.

Tanya has not worked a really menial job since high school. One could argue that telemarketing is at most debasing, but not menial. Menial starts at minimum wage and involves a lot of standing. Maybe having a computer science diploma in Ottawa after the high-tech industry bottomed out and working at the service desk at a nigh-end Mac retailer could be considered ignoble. At any rate, she has a nice apartment in a decent neighborhood. Not quite the mythical musician you expect to hear about. Tanya Janca- the Musician is, after all, a real person. She hasn’t been able to rewrite herself into a rock and roll narrative. You have to make it before you can do that. But she is starting.

Rock and roll myth manufacturing aside, Tanya has been seeing an increasing amount of success lately. In the last year she caught the eye of the manager of Ottawa-based, Zaphod Beeblebrox’s who has booked Tanya to open for the likes of Carole Pope, Julie Dorion (formerly of Eric’s Trip), and Andy Stochansky (who used to play in Any DiFranco’s band). But being discovered by a bar owner is different from the big breaks that make people. The pendulum has yet to swing her way and she has yet to headline.

Discography-wise, Tanya has a small collection of demos and is currently recording a new album at Atomic Studios in Ottawa. She figures it will take four to six months. Like anything, Tanya’s music requires an increasingly significant investment of time and money if it is to progress to the next level. Gone are the days of fooling around in the basement with a computer and microphone, throwing something together in an afternoon. Forgotten, too, are the church halls, gymnasiums and open stages. She is on to bigger and better things. She is part of the scene now.

However, being part of the scene is not success. The music business is competitive and ruthless and there are elements of it that the hopeful star has yet to face. She has yet to acquire a lawyer and manager, and sign on to a music label. She has neve3r had to face a tyrannical producer. The conflict between Tanya Janca’s day job fixing I-Macs and Tanya Janca the musician’s aspirations has not required her to make the choice of one over the other. She is still oddly virginal, wide-eyed and hopeful in this respect.

In fact, she may be like a lot of aspiring musicians we’ve never heard of, at least not yet. If men who play guitar are a dime a dozen then it has to be the same for women. The annals of history may get a cushy job, settle into the 9 to 5 and face the ultimate hell of the up-and-comer: obscurity. Or Tanya Janca the musician may win a Juno.