Janiva Magness had been performing the blues, soul and Americana for more than three decades, but it wasn't until her 2012 album “Stronger for It” that she started barring more of her soul.
She didn't want to write songs, but said she felt “cornered” by her record company, producer and friends. They urged her to consider tackling songwriting.
“I didn't want to be that much more vulnerable,” recalled Magness, who is returning to Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, Thursday, Jan. 31. “I didn't want to get to that place of vulnerability, if you will. I just didn't want to go there.”
With her latest release, “Love is An Army,” she now has “gotten used to it.”
“I've become more willing, maybe I got a thicker skin ... it's more of a piece of me rather than my interpretation of other people's material.”
Magness calls “Love is An Army,” her 14th in her career, a “call to arms” and a “plea” to “stand up and speak up and do everything possible to have our voice heard as individuals and as a group, as a collective.”
She said some of the new material is a response to not only to the state of affairs in the United States but the world as a whole.
“The world has turned into a pretty upsetting place,” Magness said. “No matter how upset we are at the current state of affairs, whether that's in our individual lives or as a nation, as an community of women and men, that love really is the winning hand, love really is a more powerful force.
"My experience is that love truly is an army and it has come to me in many unexpected ways and from complete and total strangers. I'm really grateful for that.”
Magness's life story was made for the blues.
By the time she was 17 years old, she had lost both parents by suicide, lived on the streets and in foster care, and given up her child for adoption. But it was music that saved her.
First, it was her father's record collection and listening to Detroit's radio stations. Then Magness snuck into a Minneapolis club one night and saw blues great Otis Rush perform. She was drawn to the blues and saw other legends such as B.B. King perform.
Her first band, The Mojomatics, had success in the Phoenix area in the mid-1980s. She made her move to Los Angeles in 1986.
Twenty years later she won her first Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year. She has won seven in total, including in 2015.
In 2009, the legend himself, B.B. King, along with another legend Bonnie Raitt, presented Magness with the Blues Music Award for B.B. King Entertainer of the Year. She was only the second woman to win that award. In 2017, she was nominated for “Best Contemporary Blues Album” for “Love Wins Again” at the 59th annual Grammy Awards.
Guests on “Love is An Army,” which was produced by Dave Darling, include Delbert McClinton, Poco's Rusty Young, Della Mae's Courtney Hartman, as well as blues artists Charles Musselwhite and Cedric Burnside.
Magness added that writing her own material is also a “business fact.”
“The people who last the longest in the music business are the ones who write, it's the writers who have the most longevity,” said Magness, who will be celebrating her birthday week at Saint Rocke.
“Love is An Army” was also made into an Anime music video, featuring the animation of Katie Lazo. The video can be viewed on YouTube.com.