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Local Songwriting Duo’s Journey Leads to Soulfest

New Gloucester -

Joel & Janna in Boston. Taken in March by Jonathan Gilbert.

NEW GLOUCESTER – For many young artists, Soulfest can be quite an overwhelming experience. Showcasing countless events, thousands of concertgoers and multiple stages with artists such as Switchfoot headlining, it presents an opportunity of a lifetime. But for sibling songwriters Joel & Janna, it is just another step in a journey that started at childhood in the small, agricultural town of Livermore, Maine. It is here—within the confines of a humble home studio—where the brother-sister duo recorded their debut album The High Road that was released in 2008.

Since then, they have toured all over New England, performing concerts from local churches to arts festivals—at one point, playing 60 shows in less than 6 months. But getting here was not easy. “We tried and failed recording our debut album at least five times,” Joel says, “It was discouraging because we weren’t getting the results we wanted.” Recording their debut album at home proved to be a formidable challenge, but with the unwavering support and encouragement from family and friends, they never gave up. “We were actually using Joel’s walk-in closet as the vocal booth, and his living room as the drum room. It just wasn’t working for us,” Janna says.

Realizing they needed a professional studio, Joel & Janna decided to launch a two-year building project. During this time, Joel packed his bags for Nashville and spent time learning under influential mixing engineers. The experience proved valuable by giving both the opportunity to grow musically and spiritually. Their struggles soon paid off as Joel & Janna’s music garnered a great response from fans; even rising to #1 on the PureVolume Christian charts for two consecutive weeks.

Despite the rise in popularity, Joel & Janna are taking on the future by sticking to their modest roots. As they prepare for Soulfest and record their sophomore album, everything continues to be homemade, from t-shirt designs to album art. However, changes have become increasingly apparent as the brother-sister duo’s confidence shines through with each performance. “We have worked through some stage fright. The more time and experience we have under our belt, the easier it is for us to be in a place where we can share what God has given us,” Janna says. They look to showcase their unique approach to music in front of one their largest audiences yet.

While most bands are about being loud and filling a room, Joel & Janna strip it all down and let their voices and an intimate, piano-driven sound carry the emotions. Musically, they bear resemblance to artists such as Keane, The Fray, or Sixpence None The Richer, and commend songwriting inspiration to artists like Sara Groves and Mat Kearney.

The entire experience has been surreal for Joel & Janna. “As kids, our parents would always bring us to Soulfest just to have a blast with family and friends,” Janna says, “Being able to actually perform there now is just such a blessing and honor.” Look for Joel & Janna’s new single Don’t Withhold Your Love slated for release later this summer.

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