It’s a Thursday night and local artiste Anne-Janette Webster sits down for a moment between sets at the Solo Club, Bartlesville’s oldest functioning watering hole.
It wasn’t that long ago that the trendy crowd that packed the joint tonight would have steered clear of the Solo Club, the place had been a literal dive, until about five years ago when a local entrepreneur took interest in the space transforming it into the upscale club that it is now.
Set up something like a Billy Joel song, the joint is rife with stories, not the least of which comes from the night’s entertainment, who is currently digging into a vodka and club soda with a bit of lime.
Her husband and business partner, Jay, also tends bar here periodically. When not playing shows or slinging sprits the pair ramrod local production house Pioneer Productions, churning out scores of local and national commercials and specials.
Tonight however, Webster is definitely wearing her chanteuse hat, parading through a variety of standards and originals.
Sonically Webster puts the listener in the mind of a Tori Amos or Linda Perry in her quieter moments but with a decidedly Midwestern sensibility. Tonight Carole King songs will mix with Jazz classics book-ended by tunes from Webster’s debut Indie CD, Down to Nothin’.
Ann-Janette’s schedule has been pretty full lately, thanks in no small part to Down to Nothin’. The full length is a good representation of Webster’s style and range mixing ethereal strains with goose-bump inducing ballads.
“You know I’m open to playing in any venue,” she says between sips of her drink. “I do dinner gigs, private parties, corporate stuff, all across the board.” She says however that she always enjoys playing her home town.
“Bartlesville’s a big melting pot, plus the Solo is kind of a homebase for me.”
Her most recent show prior to this was at Arnie’s in Tulsa - quite a different ambiance than the Solo Club.
“I think a lot of people think what I am doing is different simply by being a female.”
Gender politics aside, Webster is on the downside of a hectic couple of months. Time spent preparing virtually every aspect of “Brighter Day Ahead: Live from the Heartland,” an hour long Ann-Janette performance that debuted on OETA and its affiliates on Dec. 13 and running for the next few months. The program, which was produced by the aforementioned Pioneer Productions, showcases Webster’s songs in a rather Spartan setting, beginning with a grand piano piece that winds its way through into duets with Bartlesville Symphony Orchestra’s Maestro Lauren Green on cello, guest spots with her brother and sister Jarrod and Ashlee Elmore and finally an appearance by a five member “mini-choir”.
”It’s cool doing the songs in a variety of ways” she says. “I mean we’ve got a live band on some songs, an organ, and backup singers on others.”
The “Brighter Day Ahead” concert is a triumph of sorts for Ann-Janette. While a number of her music videos have aired on TV, this is the first semi-long form concert of her original music to break the airwaves.
“As most people know it is really difficult to make it in the entertainment industry” she says. “When you find that a lot of bigger doors have been shut you try to find other ways in to get a little attention for what you are doing. From there it wasn’t too long before we started thinking about producing our own entertainment pieces.”
Ann-Janette’s relationship with OETA goes back several years and included the airing of several music videos produced by Pioneer Productions.
“When we went to the people at OETA with the idea for the project, they were really excited,” Webster reflects. “I think by all our hard work over the years, we really earned a pass.”
Regardless of what led up to its creation, “Brighter Day Ahead” is a near perfect translation of Webster’s live show. Culled mainly from Down to Nuthin’, the songs are for the most part stripped down re-interpretations of the original songs.
“People familiar with my original stuff will hear it done a little differently,” she said. “it’s some acoustic versions of some familiar songs, with some we’ve done different arrangements.”
With any luck she says that it will catch some industry eyes. For the time being, however, a DVD and live CD of the performance will have to suffice. Both are available at her live shows and Website. For the near future Ann-Janette says that she’s anxious to start writing on a new record.
“I haven’t written anything due to the other projects I’ve had going, so I don’t know what direction (the next album) is going to go in. Right now I’m just doing stuff that I would want to listen - I can say that it will probably be more organic and less produced.”
For more information on Ann-Janette and her music, you can find her online at www.ann-janette.com.