When Britney Jane was 26 years old, she packed up from Virginia with $187 to her name and moved out to Denver with just her dog and her Jeep. Three years later, she's become a regular presence in the city's music scene, with the soulful R&B group the Lee Clark Allen Band and her own solo project.
Westword caught up with Jane ahead of the shows to talk about her move, the Lee Clark Allen Band, and her journey toward becoming a working musician.
Westword: Was music behind your move to Colorado?
Britney Jane: That was one of the things I told myself why I’m moving: Since I’m going to be in a whole new environment, that will give me a chance to focus on my singing. It helps being a part of the [Lee Clark Allen] band and learning so much. This is my time to focus on what I want to do.
Can you tell us a bit about the Lee Clark Allen Band and other music projects you’re involved with?
We do blues, jazz, R&B, soul, a mixture of things — and we sometimes will take covers and change them up, but a lot of the time, the music we perform are originals.
I worked with Donny Blot, who is a Denver and Florida artist, and now I’m focusing on developing myself as an artist, creating my own project with the struggles I’ve gone through within the last year, because I was in a tough situation/relationship. I feel as women we lose ourselves. Because we give so much, we don’t give enough to ourselves. That’s why me working and focusing on my own project is huge, because I get to tell my own story.
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The guitar player from the band, Gabe O’Hara, is super amazing, so we are in the process of working on originals together, and by middle of the year, I want to have my official EP. And I have the idea of where I want it to go.
What style of music do you gravitate toward? What musicians have you been jamming to?
Honestly, if it has a good beat and a good melody, I’m like, "Oh, I love it." But I’d say more like the acoustic R&B, some soul, some pop. But right now, I’m really on the acoustic R&B.
For musicians, one is Eryn Kane. I look to her so much for inspiration because she started off as a background singer, and now she is doing her own music, and that could be me. That could so easily happen. Lately I’ve been trying to listen to more jazz, because a lot of the music back then you can easily transform into something more updated today.
How do you prepare for performances?
A lot of rehearsals and trying not to stress out too much [laughs].
But I’m allowing myself to let things flow. I think it’s important to show my voice and give the audience a different variety of music. Even though it’s a Valentine’s Day event, I really want to show my voice, from the deep quiet to the high-pitch soulful.
Do you have a certain process for writing music?
Sometimes — this happens at work — I have a thought in my head, and, oh my gosh, I need to pull up Microsoft Word and start typing, and it’s more thoughts all together at once, of melodies and words, and then I’ll take certain parts out and put it into a song.
It’s easier with a melody, which is why I love playing with Gabe, because he just strums something, and I’m like, "Wait, I love that." And we talk about that idea and where we would go with a melody.
Are there any local musicians you admire or would like to collaborate with?
I would like to collaborate with Zanib. I love how she is so true to herself and what she represents. Especially as a young woman in the music scene here in Denver, she talks about peace and positive energy, which I love and want to be around. I admire her.
What kind of energy do you think your music creates?
I want it to create a sense of feeling like you’re enough. It can be relatable for a man and a woman, but I’m mainly speaking to women, because I feel we question if we are enough, with looks, personality, or whatever is what you want to do. I want to show: You are worth so much.
I feel like in the mainstream music industry, women sometimes get painted as a caricature, to fit a certain box.
That’s the thing. I want people to feel like they can relate to me. I’m not perfect, my hair looks crazy sometimes [laughs], and you know, so many flaws. We look at ourselves in the mirror, like, "Man, I hate this; I hate that." Because of the worldly views, it’s portrayed that you have to be or look a certain way to succeed in this industry or feel like you’re enough. But I want people to feel like, "You know what? I love everything about who I am, and I wouldn’t change a single thing." And that’s the theme I want for my EP.
If you weren’t creating music, what do you think you would be creating?
That’s tough. I don’t know. I probably would be stuck with the mentality of building someone else’s dream. And right now, yes, I work, but I know this isn’t where I’m going to be the rest of my life. Music is it. That’s my passion, my baby, but sometimes when we’ve given up on our dream, we stay in our nine-to-five and build someone else’s. And I’m not about to do that.
Where is a place you go to find inspiration?
So, I’m a Virgo [laughs], and Virgos are known to really think a lot, and I think all the time, and when I’m sitting in my little studio apartment and in my feelings, I’ll listen to a song, and it will take me back to this past year, and I would say I’m my own inspiration right now because of where I am today. I am a much stronger young woman.
I think about a year ago where I was in my life, and I felt really broken and worthless, and that’s why I so badly want to share my story through my music, because now I have the opportunity to do so. Maybe I could share about this situation or how could I influence or have people relate to what I’ve gone through in my life?
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Do you have a favorite memory of music?
There was one time my dad, who passed away when I was nineteen — he was my biggest fan, and when I was twelve or thirteen, I kept bugging him to buy me a karaoke machine, and he kept saying no because he thought I wouldn’t use it. And one year he surprised me with the karaoke machine, and I would sing every day and night.
“If I had known you’d use it this much, I wouldn’t have bought it!” he joked, and I still have it. It’s in pieces from moving, but having that machine really created so many thoughts and dreams in my head of being a singer and performer. And my dad, my parents were pretty old-school, always had the good music, like Marvin Gaye, Jackie Wilson, Billie Holiday —and I would love playing those vinyls, and we would sit there together and listen. He knew I really I loved music, and we shared that together, and even though he’s no longer around, he’s still with me, and I know he’d be proud.