They’re a talented rock group from Orlando just bursting with potential and are on the cusp of releasing a fantastic new track “First To Fall.” The song features scorching guitar riffs, thunderous drums and rock solid bass, but is highlighted by the powerful soulful vocals from Janani. We’ll share the single right here on release day, Friday, February 3rd. In the meantime, let’s meet the band.
“I feel like the art of being a DJ is dead; no one cares anymore.” Tyler Szalkowski, State Champs
At this year’s Orlando Vans Warped Tour stop, we snuck backstage long enough to snag a few interviews with this year’s most compelling bands. Over the next five days, we’ll feature a different band from those sessions, starting with the red hot State Champs from Albany, NY.
Interview With American Idol’s Jax
I recently sat down with Jax, this year’s third place finisher in American Idol. She was extremely popular with the fans, has developed a penchant for delivering memorable edgy performances, and leads a dedicated group of committed fans, The Jax Pack.
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The Jax I got to know in our one-on-one conversation is the same compelling person you see on television. She’s a happy soul, who boasts an effervescent personality; and she absolutely drips with charisma. Jax has “IT.” She’s a performer destined for great things and a young woman with a tremendously bright future.
Jax comes across as a truly nice, caring and fun entertainer, and was a engaging throughout. It’s hard to capture charisma in an interview, but I can assure you that this talented young performer exudes a ton of it and is destined for great things.
Don’t forget to check out our fun 6 PAck interview with Jax published last week: RARA’s Six-Pack with Jax
Cretin: More often than not, I see you characterized as a pop singer but there’s definite classic rock ‘n roll influences. We’ve seen you sing Beatles tunes and more recently Janice Joplin; so who are the classic rock influences who have inspired you the most?
Jax: As far as modern rock influences, I’m really into Pink and Paramore as female artists, and I’m really into punk. The Pretty Reckless are really good.
Cretin: They’re great.
Jax: Yeah, seriously great. As far as my roots go, I’d have to say it goes back to Janice, Alanis Morissette, Joan Jett and Pat Benatar. I actually saw her twice and she was awesome.
Cretin: And Pat still sounds amazing today.
Jax: She is amazing and so is her husband (Neil Giraldo). Also, I’m really into Simon and Garfunkel; I saw Art Garfunkel live and it was awesome; it was killer. He was basically just sharing poetry and I love that kind of thing. He’s a lyrical influence and I think that Billy Joel is a lyrical influence. I really love everything, The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Elvis… I have pretty eclectic tastes. Pretty crazy, anything from show tunes to hard core punk.
Cretin: That’s a beautiful thing. It helps give you a broad spectrum of influences you can pull from. As a result, I think you bring a different voice and different approach when you cover a song. So, “Piece of My Heart” is an amazing song but hard to sing – yet you nailed it and made it your own. What was the thought process with selecting that song?
Jax: I grew up on Janice and it was an easy choice. It was an easy go-to because I was so comfortable with that. I’ve been singing that song since I was little, like at Stone Pony with a garage band when I was eleven. That song is so special to me. I feel like I have the ghost of Janice Joplin inside of me when I sing it. All the drunk men in the bars when I was too young to be playing in the bars were calling me Baby Janice growing up.
Cretin: You sang that song as part of a duet with Steven Tyler. Can you tell us about the kind of mentoring relationship you have developed with him?
Jax: He was really incredible to me this season. I never expected to work with Steven Tyler, and I was fan-girling so much when I first met Steven in Nashville. My body was frozen, but when the music came on and we started jamming, everything was forgotten and we were rocking out together. He has such a good energy and an amazing spirit and he really brings out the best in people. It never felt like work with Steven, it felt like we were hanging out, which was awesome. He’s really just a great person. Everybody who has met him doesn’t have one bad thing to say about him. He’s a rock star.
Cretin: My favorite performance of yours was Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang” and I’m a generation ahead of you and I’m almost too old to know Nancy Sinatra. I love what you did with it, and your voice is amazing, but how did you end up playing that?
Jax: I was always brainstorming about what I’d play if I made it that far and that one was always at the top of my lists, and I had heard so many versions. There’s a Cher version, and a Lady Gaga version which I have on vinyl. (this explains why I hadn’t heard any of the new versions). I was going to sing it more towards the Lady Gaga direction. That was the first week I worked with a mentor and we decided to break into some of the left of center stuff and take a risk on the show, and decided to do what everyone told us not to do and to push it so far left. I think we pulled it off, but it was a super big risk. I was so scared.
Cretin: Really a brave move, but I think it paid off. So, have you been doing any writing?
Jax: It’s funny, I wrote my entire life before American Idol, but during the taping I wrote like one verse. I had this little Yamaha keyboard with me, but it is so hard to write during the show because of the emotional stress, so many highs and lows. But when I left the show, I began to write again.
Cretin: How would you characterize this stuff that’s pouring out of your brain these days?
Jax: I think my writing after the show might have matured a little bit, in a sense relationship wise; relationships in general, in how I feel, and how I trust and don’t trust. The entire experience, I felt like I grew 12 years being on the show. I still feel I have so much to tell and I met so many incredible people. There’s so much to write about still.
Cretin: You love performing, and you’re about to head out on a 37 city tour which is really cool for us because the first seven nights are here in Florida (See full tour listing below). This will be a bit different than the Idol routine where you’re playing for the judges every night. Are you anticipating anything new heading out on a more traditional tour? Different city, different crowd every night…
Jax: Yeah, because I’ve been in touch with people all over the country throughout this season on social media (and she is one of the best performers I have ever seen as far as social interactions with her fans). I’ve gotten really close with the Jax Pack, my fans. It’s all kinds of weirdness, and it’s beautiful and it’s awesome. And, I’m really excited to meet them in person finally. I remember after performing with Steven the finality of being eliminated. In any other circumstance, I would have been shaking, almost peeing my pants that I was singing with Steven Tyler. But after not having that pressure, there was not one nerve that I felt on stage. It felt more like a party.
Cretin: I also grew up in Jersey, so I’m curious to learn what effect, if any, has growing up in NJ had on your musical style?
Jax: Well, we have Bruce and Bon Jovi and there are so many amazing people who grew up in the New Jersey area, and especially in New York. New York City is like the center of all art, and music and entertainment. I grew up in New York originally and moved to New Jersey
Just then, she noticed that a fan was stalking the outside of her house. She handled it with a laugh, ducked behind a curtain and we carried on.
Jax: I grew up with a bunch of different types of music because my parents always had me listening to the most amazing stuff. They introduced me to The Beatles and to everyone. Growing up in New York, I spent a lot of time in the City and the studio and that influenced me musically in a big way. And I hope to be in Nashville or LA at some point to experience those musical cities.
I wrapped up the interview with a quick rapid response segment, which we ran as a teaser last week. You can check that out here, just do us a favor and Like our page while you visit: RARA’s Six-Pack with Jax.
Cretin: I really appreciate your time. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you a little better and I look forward to seeing you perform live.
Jax: Thank you so much, it was really nice talking to you.
I have to be honest and share that I came into the interview impressed with Jax the singer, but knowing precious little about Jax the person. I am walking away thoroughly impressed with this grounded and talented young lady. She’s a good person with a keen sense of humor and a bright future ahead of her.
Okay, well if you made it this far in the article, you are obviously a rock music fanatic like the Rock And Roll Animals at RARAsFarm. Do us a big favor and like our Facebook page for future updates, rock news and photos. Thanks and please spread the word to other intelligent, creative, beautiful music fans like you 🙂
American Idol Live Tour Dates
7/7/15 Clearwater, FL Ruth Eckerd Hall
7/8/15 Sarasota, FL Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
7/9/15 Melbourne, FL King Center for the Performing Arts
7/11/15 Orlando, FL Hard Rock Live
7/12/15 Ft. Myers, FL Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall
7/14/15 Fort Lauderdale, FL Parker Playhouse
7/15/15 Jacksonville, FL Florida Theater
7/17/15 Nashville, TN Ryman Auditorium
7/18/15 Louisville, KY The Kentucky Center – Whitney Hall
7/19/15 Durham, NC Durham Performing Arts Center
7/21/15 Richmond, VA Carpenter Theater
7/22/15 Morristown, NJ Mayo Performing Arts Center
7/24/15 Chautauqua, NY Chautauqua Institution Amphitheatre
7/25/15 Bethlehem, PA Sands Bethlehem Event Center
7/28/15 Worcester, MA The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts
7/29/15 Hampton Beach, NH Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom
7/30/15 Portland, ME Maine State Pier
8/1/15 Atlantic City, NJ Caesars Atlantic City – Circus Maximus
8/2/15 Red Bank, NJ Count Basie Theatre
8/3/15 Providence, RI Veterans Memorial Auditorium
8/5/15 New York, NY Beacon Theatre
8/7/15 Detroit, MI MotorCity Casino Hotel
8/8/15 Chicago, IL Chicago Theatre
8/9/15 Indianapolis, IN Murat Theatre
8/10/15 St. Louis, MO Peabody Opera House
8/12/15 Grand Prairie, TX Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie
8/13/15 Houston, TX Bayou Music Center
8/14/15 San Antonio, TX Majestic Theatre
8/16/15 Mesa, AZ Mesa Arts Center
8/18/15 San Diego, CA Humphrey’s
8/20/15 Los Angeles, CA Orpheum Theatre
8/21/15 Reno, NV Silver Legacy Resort and Casino
8/22/15 Santa Rosa, CA Wells Fargo Center For The Arts
8/23/15 San Francisco, CA Warfield Theater
8/25/15 Seattle, WA McCaw Hall
8/27/15 Saratoga, CA The Mountain Winery
8/28/15 Riverside, CA Fox Performing Arts Center