“Jewel With An Edge” AJ Jansen is a compelling blend of soulful country and classic rock. She’s been performing since age 6 and writing since age 10, surrounded by music from a Polish family who encouraged her to pursue her artistic dreams. A determined and driven artist, she hopes to someday perform at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.
Jansen first hit Nashville stages in 2006 after winning the Connecticut Country Music Association’s “Female Vocalist of the Year” award. Since then, she’s performed at countless venues - from New York’s The Bitter End, to Nashville’s iconic Tootsies, to headlining Hartford's Infinity Music Hall - traveling back and forth between Connecticut and Tennessee. Along the way, she’s had the opportunity to open for artists like Phil Vassar, James Montgomery and James Otto.
At the North American Country Music Association (NACMAI) awards in 2006, she won the Horizon award for “Female Vocalist of the Year” and was the runner-up in Jim Halsey’s Starmaker Competition. She’s continued to win awards in recent years, including iHeart Radio station’s WWYZ 92.5 “Band of the Year” in 2016 for her album A Country Girl Can Survive. The music video for the album’s title song is featured on the CMT's website. Bourbon and Roses, her 5th and latest release, marries the emotional impact of country and the engaging spirit of rock. The album led to her second nomination for “Best Country Act of the Year” from The New England Music Awards.
Music and performance are a core part of who Jansen is, and she loves sharing her passion with others. She has played venues all over New England, including performances at Stafford Motor Speedway and as part of the Red Rock Concert Series. A musical tribute show entitled "Outlaw Women of Country," which she wrote and performed at Seven Angels Theatre, received rave reviews. She has been featured at a variety of casinos, from Mohegan Sun in Connecticut to Bally’s in Atlantic City. Aside from traditional performances, she also loves performing for residents of local retirement homes, bringing her music to those who would otherwise not be able to attend her concerts.
written by Esteban L. Hernandez 2014AJ Jansen was sitting at a diner, cradling a cup of tea with some milk and sugar on a sunny Thursday afternoon, remembering one of the moments that led her to pursuit a career in music. She was 18, set to perform at Mohegan Sun Arena in 2004. On paper, that gig was nothing major, not by musical standards. Her set list had one song: A rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner" but her audience included three thousand spectators at an indoor football game. All eyes were on her; she remembers the dramatic lighting a spotlight pointed at her as the audience disappeared into blackness. It's fitting really, given her quest to perform, there was a shot -in-the-dark. She had sent a press kit to the Casino hoping to get the opportunity to perform, and they responded, green-lighting her request.
"All of a sudden, everything was quiet, and it was just me," Jansen said. "And I sang my heart out. And the crowd loved it. And I was really proud of myself that I challenged myself to do something like that even though I didn't know what I was doing."
Jansen, 28, is a Torrington Native who studied Health Services at Oliver Wolcott Technical School. She had been singing since she was 6 and starting writing songs at 10.
" I was thinking of becoming a nurse, but changed my mind, " Jansen said. "Music was more prevalent in my life." She heard music in her head constantly, Jansen said. So she started turning those mind melodies into actual harmonies, using a piano to sketch out songs and lyrics. Listening to Country and Rock as a child-she enjoyed both Bruce Springsteen and Hank Williams-translated into her sound. She's now been in the business for nearly 10 years.
"We always had music in the house," Jansen said. "then it just took off."
Jansen is performing Sunday at Infinity Hall in Norfolk, making her debut at one of the most storied venues in Litchfield County.
"It's exciting but I'm nervous to because its my home town, but I worked hard to get here and I just want to keep going further and further," Jansen said
Jansen has been touring much of this year, traveling around New England, and has been performing in CT for years in various venues, musical showcases and pageants. She would perform in Torrington at St. Mary's and St. Francis Church. Shes' a well-traveled Cowgirl that now calls Nashville her second home (She rents an apartment down there) and recorded her first album after wining a state-wide competition in 2005 from the CT Music Association that sent her to TN
" That was the first time I saw Nashville," Jansen said . "That was the first time I've been to Graceland , it was an amazing experience. So then I was like this is what I want to do with my life."
Since then shes' released 4 CD's and has written more than 300 songs with the help of producer Ron Zabrocki. She met Zabrocki, a NY transplant with a studio in Torrington, during a chance encounter with his wife at a Spa in Litchfield when she was 19 Jansen overheard the woman talking to someone else in the salon about her husband, a music producer.
"I said to myself, 'well, how am I going to get this stranger to even talk to me without her thinking that I'm some weirdo?'" Jansen said. She was able to strike up a conversation and was given a business card but Jansen was skeptical. She called Zabrocki the next day and ended up cutting an album.
"She's very easy to work with. We're a good team," Zabrocki said.
A guitarist that produces part-time Zabrocki has been living in Torrington for 12 years. He said Jansen is one of the most professional people he has worked with. Shes's a gifted writer, he said, he primarily helps her with instrumentation and fully developing the music as she focuses on lyrics and singing. "Her work ethic is insane. I don't know where that comes from," Zabrocki said
Jansen performs Sunday at 7:30pm, at Infinity Hall which is located on Route 44 in Norfolk
"I would love to see everybody in Torrington and around the towns to attend, because it is my hometown and it's going to be a really great show, " Jansen said