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