Interview: Janet Gardner discusses departure from Vixen, solo career and new music
Photo courtesy: Sleepless Mind Entertainment and used with permission

When vocalist/guitarist Janet Gardner announced that her departure from Vixen this past January, it came as a bit of a surprise. After all the band, known for hits like “Edge of A Broken Heart,” “Cryin’” and “Rev It Up,” had just completed another successful year of touring as well as releasing a new live album - the aptly titled, ‘Live Fire.’

For Gardner, the decision to leave didn’t come easy. Following her marriage to guitarist Justin James and the release of her acclaimed self-titled solo album, the blonde songstress spent the beginning of 2018 being rushed into emergency surgery to relieve a subdural hematoma. Her recovery was quickly followed by a string of solo U.K. shows before rejoining Vixen for even more live dates. This coupled with the process of juggling a regular job at home and raising her son had made scheduling too difficult. Something had to give.

There were no hard feelings with the split and Vixen, which consists of Share Ross (bass), Roxy Petrucci (drums) and Britt Lightning (guitars), will continue to carry on with Lorraine Lewis (Femme Fatale) joining the ranks on lead vocals.

In the meantime, Gardner is concentrating on her solo career and has nearly completed a follow-up album with James she hopes to release in the spring. Expect to see her out on the road in support of the new music as well as continuing to perform the hits she helped make famous.

AXS recently spoke with Janet Gardner about her decision to leave Vixen, new music and more in this exclusive interview.

AXS: What prompted your decision to leave Vixen and concentrate on your solo career?

Janet Gardner: Last year was insane for me. It started off in January when we were on a solo run out West and I had to have emergency brain surgery. I made up all of the missed shows and then did a U.K. run. Then Vixen started and we did even more great stuff. When I finally came up for air I was back home to my regular job, taking care of my son and all the other things that I do, and realized I was missing out on a lot because of scheduling. I had to make a decision.

AXS: Was this something that had been weighing on you for some time?

JG: Absolutely. I definitely wanted to make it work. They [Vixen] had made concessions for me when I needed to do things and I would feel bad about holding them back. I remember one time being stuck in a Detroit airport for eight hours and missing my son’s middle-school graduation. It’s hard to leave my family but I don’t want to keep Vixen from doing what they want to do. It was a tough call. 

AXS: What are some of your best memories with the band?

JG: There’s been quite a few. Opening for Scorpions was our first arena tour and the first night of that tour was surreal. When I heard “Edge of A Broken Heart” on the radio for the very first time and our record went gold was another dream come true. They’re all good memories. 

AXS: When you released your debut solo album in 2017 was there a vision you had in mind for it?

JG: Justin and I wanted to be ourselves and experiment with different things. I had a lot going on I wanted to get out both lyrically and emotionally. Musically, we experimented until we found something we liked and then ran with it. The new album we’re working on now is just as intense, but it’s also a little more fun. We hope to have it out sometime this spring.

AXS: What’s your writing process like?

JG: It happens in all different ways. For one of the first songs we worked on for this new album, I was sitting in a room when the whole thing just popped into my head. I sang what I was hearing into my memo app and dictated a few chord changes. Then when I got home Justin and I laid it down. Other times he’ll be playing different licks and riffs and when I hear something I like I’ll tell him to record it. Then there are times where there will be a lyrical idea or subject I'll want to explore. That’s when we’ll sit down together and figure out how to set the mood musically.

AXS: Are there any added challenges to working with your husband?

JG: Since Justin and I live together and record at home there’s no pressure. Our creative relationship is very supportive and laid back. I never feel like he won’t understand my vision and he feels the same way.

AXS: What do you think you’ll miss the most about being in Vixen?

JG: Definitely the camaraderie. Don’t get me wrong, I love the guys in my band and am used to hanging with a bunch of dudes, but I will miss that sisterhood. They’re all great musicians and I’ll miss all of it. I’ve been associated with Vixen for thirty-five years, either being involved or supporting another version of the band, but they’re going to carry on. They now have Lorraine Lewis, who is absolutely fabulous. Everyone will continue to make music and that’s what’s important. I think we’re all very grateful to have these opportunities. 

AXS: What excites you the most about this next phase of your career?

JG: I’m looking forward to continuing to develop my creative relationship with Justin and branching out to see where it takes us. Even though we’ve already done an album and have another one almost finished it still feels like it’s brand new and in its infancy.