The Cincinnati Enquirer
Friday, July 18, 2003
Music is her passion
By Jim Knippenberg
Don't even think of telling Jane French that it's impossible to launch a national recording career from Cincinnati.
She'll shake her head wildly, sending a zillion blond curls flying in a zillion directions, and tell you: "It's harder here because you can't be getting in their faces every day. But it can be done."
She should know: That's her singing "Breathe," the main title theme to the NBC soap Passions. That's her singing "Noel" on the NBC Celebrity Christmas CD (NBC Records, $9.96), sharing the bill with the likes of Jay Leno, Bebe Neuwirth, John Lithgow, Sean Hayes and Katie Sagal.
And that's her singing, not to mention writing or co-writing, the 10 songs on "Euphoria" (Jane French Music; $14.99), her solo CD that will debut at a release party Saturday.
"Granted, I did it in a roundabout way and maybe had to work harder than some others, but I did it," says the 33-year-old who grew up in Montgomery, graduated from Sycamore High School and now lives in Montgomery with her husband and 12-year-old son.
And yeah, believe her when she says "roundabout way." The long and winding road dates back to when she was 7 doing voice-overs for Kenner Toys and singing Play-Doh and Sit-n-Spin jingles on TV commercials.
Started with voice-overs
"My older brother was doing the voice-overs before me, but his voice changed, so I stepped in and just kept doing them."
Now fast forward 20 years: "A producer I worked with back then, his name's John Henry, called out of the blue. He was composing for P&G soaps and wanted me to do a demo for him. I did, and he said he wanted to produce me so we began shopping songs.
"A while later, he got a job composing for Passions. He called and this time told me they didn't have a theme song yet, and suggested I write and submit one. I knew absolutely nothing about it, but I did it anyway. They accepted 'Breathe' in June of 1999.
"All the other soaps have instrumental theme songs, but Passions is different. I think they took my song because it's upbeat and it's young-sounding, just like Passions. They tell me it's the fastest growing soap in the 18 and up demographic."
"Breathe" has been so good to French she's been made an unofficial cast member. She has joined them in New York and Orlando for FanFests, those shows where soap casts show up to meet their loyal fans. She also spends time hanging out with McKenzie Westmore (Sheridan) whenever the two are in the same city.
French Emmy nomination
"Breathe" also got French a 2000 Emmy nomination for best new song and "Of course I went to Hollywood for the show. What a blast - a new dress, lots of makeup; I live for that stuff. But I didn't win."
She didn't design her own dress either, but she could have. After high school she studied fashion design at UC's College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, but after two years switched to communications "because I wasn't very good at pattern-making. DAAP was a great experience, but I always wanted to sing and thought this was where I belonged."
Not that she hadn't done plenty of singing already - a high school band called Frame of Mind, a college band called Avatar, dozens of high school and community theater productions.
"I studied piano, but I always resisted the urge to study voice, and in the end, it was the right choice. People always told me that if I wanted to sing pop, I needed to retain my own individual style. If I took voice lessons the teachers would want me to sound like everyone else."
Critics have compared her style to Sheryl Crow and Sarah McLachlan, but her voice sounds like neither. What she sounds like on her piano-driven, generally acoustic pop ballads is Jane French singing in her very own breathy alto.
Her soft pop style could easily cross over into adult contemporary or even contemporary Christian, but probably won't because most of the lyrics are too, well, edgy.
"They came out edgy because life - not my life or anyone else's - is perfect. Things happen in life, good things and bad things and things you don't understand, and that comes out in the music."
There'll be more of it coming out in more music, she promises. "I just wrote two country songs with a collaborator in L.A. that we're trying to get to Tim McGraw. I like country music because it's a chance to tell a story. I love writing music, and country is a good place for writers.
"My next CD may have some country on it. Really, I don't know what the music will be. Only that it will be better than the last one, and the one after that will be better than the first two."
In the meantime, she hopes to sing more around town, meet more people, network and steam right ahead, making a bigger and bigger dent.
Until then, she has her soap music: "Imagine," a song she wrote about Passions' Luis/Sheridan/Antonio love triangle, was played on the show not long ago; her "Cross My Heart" was played for Charity and Miguel on the same show.
And yeah, she does watch the show. "Every chance I get and that's usually a couple of times a week. For the first year, I watched every day. It really freaked me out to hear my own voice up there."
From Variety.com, Posted: Wed., Jun. 28, 2000
NBC launches record label
Jane French to be first artist
By MICHAEL SCHNEIDER
NBC has officially launched the music label imprint NBC Records, signing singer/songwriter Jane French as its first artist.
Longtime Capitol Records exec Kim Niemi, who joined NBC Enterprises as veepee of music business development last December, will head the label along with NBC Enterprises exec VP Jerry Petry. NBC Records has yet to sign on with a distribution partner.
French sings the main title theme to the NBC daytime drama "Passions." The theme song, "Breathe," was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award last month.
NBC Records will sell "Breathe" online this fall. The Peacock will also invoke some synergy by featuring French performing on "Passions." The network will also place French songs on other NBC series.
Other upcoming NBC Records releases include "Today Show Presents: The Best of the Summer Concert Series, Vol. 1" and an NBC Celebrity Christmas CD (along with EMI Special Markets and Metacom Music).
Prior to NBC Records' formation, NBC Enterprises produced "Saturday Night Live" CD s with DreamWorks Records, and "The 60s" and "The 70s" soundtracks with Mercury Records.
NBC, of course, is no stranger to the music biz: Back when the network was owned by RCA, the Peacock's corporate siblings included RCA Records.
From TV GUIDE:
GUILTY PLEASURE - Whether NBC's soap opera Passions is a guilty pleasure or just plain guilty is a can of Sturm and Drang we won't open now, but we can't deny the flu-like catchiness of its theme song, "Breathe" (not to be confused with Faith Hill's hit). Singer-songwriter Jane French (above), an unknown when NBC chose her pop ballad last year, is working on a CD for 2001. Which should be about the time we get "Breathe" out of our heads.
Also from TV GUIDE:
FRENCH CONNECTION - We'd bet the bank that Passions has a lock on two Emmys - one for its opening-title sequence, the other for its love theme, "Breathe," a song so fresh and alluring we could hear it a million times. "Breathe" is such a hit with young viewers that NBC is making plans to release it as a single, and there is also much curiousity about Jane French (right), the unknown who cowrote and sings the song. "'Breathe' was submitted to NBC on spec," says French, 24, a Columbus, Ohio, resident who is currently scouting a record deal of her own. "I didn't know if they'd even consider it, because soap themes today are all instrumental." French got her start as a tyke singing jingles for PlayDoh and other products put out by Cincinnati-based Kenner Toys, and she has no urge to roam. "People think I'm crazy trying to get a career started from Ohio. But, thanks to Passions, I've probably exceeded most singers my age who move to L.A. So, for now, I'm staying put."
From SOAP OPERA DIGEST (October 31, 2000):
STILL BREATHING - If you're a PASSIONS fan, you've probably been humming its catchy theme song, "Breathe," for the past year - and "Sing Along" readers have been begging for information about how to buy it for just as long. Now it's finally available on CD, along with another song by singer/songwriter Jane French. "When I tell people that I do the song, they start singing it. To me, it's so strange that people know it and remember it!" laughs French, who has been performing since she was a child. At age 8, she was a singer on commercials for Kenner Toys, where she was the voice of Play-Doh and worked with Producer John Henry. In 1998, she re-teamed with Henry to begin work on a solo album, and around the same time, he got a job as a composer at PASSIONS.
"He said, 'I don't think they have theme song yet. Why don't you try to write a few songs, and we'll just submit them if we can, but don't count on it because it's a long shot,'" French recalls. "All I knew about the show was the name of it and that it was a daytime drama. So I took the word 'passions,' and the song just kind of came out of me. When people have a passion for something, it's kind of what keeps them going, what keeps them alive. I just started singing it one night - the whole first line just came as it was."
"Breathe," with music provided by Henry, was the only song French submitted, but it was the only one she needed. Placed over images of Harmony, the yourhful, energetic tune fit the fledgling show perfectly.
NBC was so happy with French's work, the network made a video for "Breathe" (which was shown after the show on September 28) and released it on a CD in regular and acoustic versions along with another song, "Chant."
"The weird thing is that when I found out I got the theme song, it was June 1, 1999, and i signed my deal with NBC on June 1, 2000," smiles French, who didn't take any time to exhale before beginning work on her first full-length solo CD, which should be out early next year.
For now, though, she's thrilled that PASSIONS fans can get what they've been clamoring for. "There is actually a second verse to that song, which I'm glad that people will finally be able to hear," she grins.