Last Saturday, January 25th, I was able to meet up with Janae Sturma and conduct my first interview since the wife was home with our new born. This is not quite Tom Brokaw type work, but pretty close! 🙂
Where did you go to college and was it anything music related?
I started at USD with vocal performance. I was hoping to do a music business program, and I talked to one of the uppers there and they said, yep, we’re going to be rolling one out in the next year. You should stick with music so you don’t get behind in theory or anything like that. The spring semester came and I said, okay, didn’t really want to go for vocal performance because if I ever strained a vocal cord or did anything like that, that would be my degree, I wouldn’t have a degree to fall back on. My parents kind of pressed that idea, as long as you have a degree, you’ll be fine. Well, it’s kind of changed. You can’t just have an undergrad degree anymore, but more on that later. So the spring semester came and I’m asking why like, Hey, so when is this music business program? He said, what are you talking about? Who told you that? And I said, you did! He replied, I don’t know what you’re talking about. So I stopped doing vocal performance and I went undeclared and I eventually switched to psychology and now I have an undergrad in psychology. Then as I was saying before, you can do pretty much anything with psychology, such as starting at entry level positions, but if you want to do something specialized, you need grad school. I ended up going to grad school for special education. I have a masters in multi categorical special education, K through 12. I’m at Lifescape now, teach at Lifescape with transition students, they’re 18 to 21 year olds.
So then after college, you moved to Sioux falls?
I moved around a bit, so I didn’t go to undergrad in grad school, like the typical individual, I transferred to SDSU, went there and spent a year in Brookings, moved to Sioux Falls and would commute as needed and graduated there. In the meantime, I had spent a semester in Nashville doing a stats class online, so I got to do some writers’ rounds and that kind of thing and did some nannying. After I graduated, I worked for a couple of different companies specializing with students with special needs and really liked working with them. Then I moved to Chicago for a few years and music kind of took a backseat. I was just kind of exploring some other things. Went to grad school there for a little bit, did a couple different writers nights, that kind of thing. Then right before my nephew was born, I moved back. So after three years, I moved back, started doing music again. I was managing a boutique for a little while, managing retail place at the mall, and it wasn’t really as fulfilling as I wanted it to be, so I went back to grad school, still kept on doing music. So music has always been a constant, but I started singing when I was in public when I was like a sophomore in high school, and I’ve written my own songs. It was just like pretty much one of the constants in my life that I could fall back on, if I was going through anything I could just write about it, it’s always been a relief for me.
Second part to that question I had was, have you been singing since school?
I was singing before I could talk. My mom said I was just standing up in my crib singing “la la la” and I never shut up I guess!
What is like the busiest time for you?
Summertime is definitely, I think the busiest. A lot of people that don’t normally have patios open, will open them during the summer. I’ll play at the Minnehaha Country Club and they’ll have Patio music in addition to music in the dining room. I think it’s just busier for patios and bars in the summer. There’s weddings… there’s all sorts of things! Company parties and anniversaries…
How many shows a week do you play during the summertime? Two to Three a week?
I’ve cut back from doing that many since I’m teaching full time and we don’t have summer breaks or anything, but, maybe four days in a row or five days in a row has been the busiest.
Your shows are usually what, three hours?
Three sometimes four…
That doesn’t interfere with work?
Well… It’s funny you should mention that. I get really tired. So I graduated from grad school this past May. So I’ve done like full time work and stuff, but it hasn’t been as… I wouldn’t say demanding as a position that I’m in now. So when I started this job, I cut back a lot on music. I didn’t play it at all until October and then I really missed it. So I started introducing it more, trying to play more. So yes, it’s exhausting, but it’s emotionally worth it.
Do you do anything besides the local establishments such as weddings or private parties?
Yes, I actually really like doing private parties. Weddings as well. I have gotten away from funerals for a little bit. I used to do funerals, a couple of funerals, back in high school. I sing in church too. I have done the National Anthem, anything that there’s music. I have done the Skyforce, Stampede, and the Storm. I haven’t done Canaries.
How nerve wracking is that?! I mean maybe you’re used to it, but when you’re doing the National Anthem, you have nothing in front of you and nowhere to hide!
It is the worst! (said….semi jokingly) ????
You have, what, 6,000 people staring at you? Something like that?
You know, you see all those YouTube videos where people are slipping on the ice and forgetting the words. And that is like my greatest fear regarding performing. Otherwise I have a keyboard, I can kind of hide behind that, and I have a microphone that’s stationary and the iPad up there. When you’re singing National Anthem, everyone is quiet and a lot of times my gigs are like background noise. I’ve accepted that. I’m fine with it. The National Anthem, everyone is quiet, so any little slip up…
You never take an iPad with you with the lyrics?
You can’t do that! Oh man. My mom is always praying for me. I know that. I usually bring a little cheat sheet with me just in my hand but I haven’t had to use it yet (knocks on wood). It doesn’t matter if it’s a high school Baseball game or something for the Governor or something… I sang when the President came to Aberdeen when I was in high school and I think I had the words in front of me then just in case, cause I was on the radio and people filled Northern University, but it’s still… Oh, it’s nerve wracking!
How do you decide on what to play? Do you go to your show with a set list, or do you take requests?
I do take requests. I love doing requests. I have an iPad with a couple programs on it, so songs that I’ve previously purchased and downloaded, other ones that I purchased. I have a program that I can just bring up songs if I’m familiar with them, and they do the chord progression. Luckily, I’ve been playing piano since I was in third grade, so I can just kind of fiddle around with it and hopefully make it sound decent. But yeah, I love playing, especially stuff from the 90’s. I do play a lot of ballads. I try to read the crowd a little bit. Some places I’ll play a little bit faster paced music and then at the country club, I’ll play songs that are little bit more mellow, just based on the demographic in that area.
So what is the weirdest request you’ve had?
I get Free Bird a lot and I think people are trying to be funny, cause there’s like no singing. It’s like, how long was that song? Like 17 minutes? It’s an insanely long song! I have a friend that always request Kid Rock, anything Kid Rock. He pretends he is a huge Kid Rock fan. I think he’s just trying to annoy me. I’m not against Kid Rock, I am just unfamiliar with a lot of his material.
What would you say your dream venue would be? It doesn’t even have to be Sioux falls. If you ever were given the opportunity, do you have a dream venue you’ve always wanted to play? Or maybe it’d be better for the question if it was in South Dakota. Is there like a place that you’ve always wanted to, that you’ve never had?
No, actually… I’ve never really thought about it. Is that weird?
Not at all – In previous interviews when we talked to Goodroad, they performed at The District and they perform at the Denny Sanford Premier Center. Those are two bigger places in Sioux Falls or maybe even the Corn Palace.
I’ve actually played at the Corn Palace for a talent show. I played at The District. I opened up for Daya and I also opened for Scotty McCreery and Kat Perkins, that was a fun, fun gig! The Premier Center would be fun, if I ever go back to playing my original stuff.
When you do your shows, is it mostly covers, mostly originals or is 50/50?
It’s mostly covers. I think that’s what most of the music people that go out, like to hear. Before when it was latitude 44 , before Fernson, and before it was Books n Brews, they had some nights where they would bring you on. I had a band for a little while and I had the drummer for a little while and we did a show and everyone that was in that venue just sat and listened and it was awesome. I got to play a lot of what I had written.
Have you ever made a CD?
Yes I have! I’ve recorded a few times. I recorded one in high school when I was 16 or 17. Then I had a few guys that were playing with me in a band and we recorded a few songs as well. I recorded a couple in Nashville and then I recorded a few when I was out in Los Angeles, and Matt Bump recorded a couple for me right when I moved back from Chicago. I haven’t since then.
Do you ever bring your CD’s to shows and sell them?
Nooooo. (laughter) I haven’t mass produced any, well the only one I mass produced, it should have been produced much less and that was the one on from when I was 16 and there’s still people that are like, I still listen to your CD, and I’m like, please don’t! ????
Do you plan on making another CD in the future?
I would love to. Obviously, it takes money and resources, there’s just so much more that goes into it. If I wanted to actually make a product that I’m super proud of and want other people to hear, I know there’s a lot of talent around Sioux Falls that could make that happen, but it hasn’t been on my priority list as of lately. I think first I would need to get a collection of songs that I’m really confident in and before taking the steps to find musicians to play on the tracks and finding a producer to do it in the studio.
Do you want to stay in Sioux falls or do you ever think about leaving to like build your music career?
I’m getting old. I’m here because my family. I try to be realistic here. If music could be my career, solely my career. Yeah, that’d be amazing, but I also have a passion for what I do now, which is helping children with special needs, and I also understand that music is a gift, so it needs to be shared. So I think that is why I try to do both right now. If it escalated to more where there were other options, then I would explore those, but there are no options for that right now. I really haven’t been exploring them.
Who and/or what has inspired you to be a musician?
I have a strong faith life. I think a lot of that is just internal too. I don’t know if I have one musical influence, but my family always encouraged me to sing and come to my shows and supported me that way. It’s really an amazing feeling, especially in high school, to be able to express myself in a certain way. I think it’s just because I went to a Catholic high school and definitely, my faith played a part of what your vocation is and what you should be doing. If you have a gift, use it, and I think just the joy that I receive from singing and playing, and the fact that my parents encouraged me and supported me by putting me in piano lessons and listening to my songs. My friends really supported me as well, I just got a lot of encouragement from it. People would just tell me, keep, keep going, keep going, keep going. I didn’t get a lot of negative feedback from it, which I think could have been really crushing!
Do you have a favorite musician or band?
I like stuff that I can sing to, artists such as Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris as of late. I really enjoy with what they have to say and how they write and they’re singer songwriters. I grew up listening to LeAnn Rimes and I think because she was super young, I think she was 14 when she won her first Grammy. I was a big fan of hers and it just seemed like there’s someone I related to a little bit more.
They’re different. They’re definitely fun! I think all, all the shows are fun though, but it’s nice to have another person along or two people along for request shows or that type of thing because if you don’t know the song, it is likely that they will, and then just kind of feed off each other’s personalities.
Did you know any of the local singers before you performed in Sioux Falls?
I knew Micah, of him mostly, when I was at SDSU. Elizabeth and I met later on and became closer friends probably two years ago-ish. Most musicians kind of have an idea who the other people are just because we see each other’s names, even if I don’t know them personally, I’ve heard of them.
Do you book all of your shows or do you have someone who helps with it or do people contact you?
Kind of both ways. I think a lot of times people will hear at different venues and then reach out. I just got an email from a lady who asked me to do her daughter’s wedding. Then I am playing at Wine Time on Main, and I think that came from another one of my gigs were Bob Novak heard me and thought I’d be a good fit for his wine bar. Then I sang a song one time with a fellow musician at Copper Lounge, and that’s kind of what got me into Stogeez & Bin 201 and Elizabeth was booking for R Wine Bar and JJ’s, and that’s how I got in there. I kind of stepped back from a couple of the places just because I don’t have the time that I can devote to music as I once used to, but I think it just depends on the people hearing you or hear of you… but I’ve definitely done that part, where before I was getting this many gigs, like when I had just moved back from Chicago, where I was reaching out to people saying, hey, can I play here?
I’ll wrap up the interview by getting somewhat personal. What do you do when you’re not singing?
I spend time with my family. I have two nieces and a nephew who I adore. My dog, Finley, she’s a little Golden Doodle, a little monster. My parents just moved to town. My brother is here as well. I teach at Lifescape. I have a great friend support system, so I like spending time with my friends. I love to hike. I don’t travel as much as I would like to. I think just because I play gigs on the weekends and I work during the week, so it’d be difficult. I do enjoy traveling and like to do it more. I like to go for walks and get together with friends on the patio and…. Gosh, I sound super boring. (laughing)
What’s your favorite movie?
(without hesitation) Christmas Vacation, National Lampoon’s.
Are you a big sports person and do you have a favorite sports team?
Chicago Bears (sadly, without hesitation)
I am a Broncos Fan…
It’s okay. We don’t play each other that much.
I know once every 4 years.
Right. Well, we have the same colors. Orange is very good color.
When’s your next show?
Next weekend I will be at the Minnehaha Country Club and then a weekend after that I will be at Wine Time on Main. February 13th I’m doing Valentine’s day for Tinner’s, February 14th I’ll be back at the Minnehaha Country Club and February 15th I will be at Remedy.
Be sure to catch all of Janae’s upcoming performance by following us on Facebook! You can also follow Janae on her Facebook page! You can also check out some of her videos she has made on her YouTube channel.