Since her move to London in 2008 Jin Jin, aka Janée Bennett, has established herself as one of the UK’s premiere songwriters.
Alongside her own work, including the singles Sex in the City and Fire Me Up, Janée discovered Jess Glynne while teaching a masterclass at an East London college where the emerging singer-songwriter was studying.
Subsequently, Janée has co-written some of Jess’s biggest hits, including her first official single Right Here and Hold My Hand, which was a UK #1 and also hit the Billboard Hot 100.
In addition to that longstanding collaboration, she has also written for Tinie Tempah, Olly Murs, Raye, Paloma Faith and Rita Ora, to name a few.
As a platinum selling writer, she has been nominated for both an Ivor Novello and a BRIT Award and won a BMI Award in 2016.
In 2015 she set up her own publishing company, Raggamuffin Music, and this year she has joined the judging panel for The Young Songwriter 2019 competition, run by the Song Academy.
We caught up with Janée to get some insight into what make a great songwriter and what she’ll be looking for in the competition entries…
What inspired you to become a songwriter?
I fell into song writing, actually, although I’ve always been inspired by it because my grandad had a reggae music store in Manchester, and I used to always be in there with him, so I suppose I was inspired by that.
So, yes, I’m from a musical family background, not a super musical family, but my family have always been into music. There was always music playing in the house when I was growing up. My mum used to be into house music as well, being from Manchester, so I used to hear a lot of the house music from a young age. So then now when I’m in sessions, you know, and sometimes I write for house music artists and stuff and I can kind of relate because it sounds a bit familiar.
You studied music industry management and marketing, how valuable has that been to you in your career?
Yes, I did study. I studied a music tech at college at City College Manchester. Then I went on to do a top-up degree. To be quite honest, I originally did that course because it was in Buckinghamshire, Buckinghamshire University, and it was 45 minutes away from London. So, I saw it as a way of getting closer to London without actually committing.
But that was kind of my motivation, because I wasn’t really interested at the time in the music business, I didn’t know the depth of it. But then when I was on the course then I saw how fun it was and how interesting it was. I met so many people on the course who weren’t just trying to be singers or songwriters, there was DJs, there were people who wanted to get into the legal side and stuff.
And I just found it really, really interesting to be around people who were interested in other aspects of the music industry. Because I didn’t actually understand the music industry, I just thought you’re a singer or you’re a manager, that’s it, there’s nothing else.
What was your first big break as a songwriter?
I think my first big break as a songwriter – I suppose to other people it wouldn’t seem big, but I think one of my first kind of, you know, the first time that I dabbled in the industry commercially was when I was working with Roll Deep. And then I featured and co-wrote a chorus on a song called Do Me Wrong. Then they released it independently and that was my first proper thing where I was like, “Wow, there’s a song and it’s going to be on the radio, 1Xtra and Radio 1 are going to play it.”
And then after that I think the more commercial success came from when I started collaborating and getting involved with new artists.
There was a talk at a college in East London and that’s where I met Jess Glynne. We started working together and then she went on to sign a record deal and then commercially released records that I was involved in. So that was my first, like, “Wow, this is really cool,” and she’d got a whole team there and she’s a proper artist, you know what I mean?
What are the challenges of writing for other people?
The challenge of writing for other people are the fact that it’s based on not just my mood and what I’m going through, it’s very much based on their mood, as well. So you all have to give in the session and then, depending on how much you give and how much you connect, that definitely determines the outcome of the song. I suppose that’s one of the main challenges, because you don’t know what mood or what people are going through. It’s kind of like hit and miss.
What projects are you proudest to have worked on?
I’m most proud of working on, obviously, the Jess Glynne project. I’m super proud of working on Jax Jones project and then also Raye, Raye’s project. And all these people I’ve been involved with from early on, so I really love being involved from the super early stage and then seeing it develop.
I do a lot with Sigala, and I really enjoyed working with him and being involved in that project. We’ve had a few singles together and we’ve got more coming, as well. Same with Jess, same with Jack, same with Raye. These projects have got stuff always going along.
I suppose recently I’ve been working quite a lot with them and I’m super proud to have worked with David Guetta and then Craig David, with Gary Barlow and stuff. I’ve had to choose a few projects per year and then do repeat sessions and focus on those. Because I find that I get the most out of it if I do repeat sessions rather than just one session here, one song. I just feel like if there’s a connection and I’m into the project, then it will be great to keep going and I do multiple sessions with all these artists.
What advice would you give to emerging songwriters?
I think it’s crucial to be open, to want to work hard and be across many different genres, don’t just stick to one genre, be open-minded and collaborate. Try and enjoy and be open to other forms of music, as well, not just be like, “I’m a rock writer, I’m a pop songwriter so I can’t listen to rap. I’m this so I can’t listen to classical.” You have to be able to be across everything and just be able to-
It doesn’t mean that you need to specialise in everything, but be open to things and appreciate other people’s interests. You might not be into it yourself, but I think that’s just the best way and to be open to new things. Loads of my non-musical friends, they always tell me a cool DJ or cool artist that they found themselves that they’re really into and I’m like, “Oh, wow, I never knew about this.” I think it’s important to be open.
You’re one of the judges for the for the Song Academy’s Young Songwriter competition, what will you be looking for in the entries?
I will be looking for originality, people who aren’t afraid to push the boundaries and be true to who they are and what they want to write about. Not just necessarily them listening to what’s commercially successful and then copying that. Just then looking for mainly originality and people just to go out there and write what they feel.
How important do you think organisations like the Song Academy are for supporting new talent?
I think they’re super important. I was totally blown away when I met some of the students last week. I think it’s really, really good to encourage young people, as well, that it’s good to express themselves through song writing and it’s a really good thing to do.
And then it’s creating like a network for them, as well. They’re around other people with similar interests and they can network and collaborate. I feel like that’s been one of my main things that I focus on is collaboration, because without that you don’t get to be in as many rooms. The relationships that you build now can serve you well in the future, and I think that’s what I’ve learnt.
Who are your favourite new songwriters?
Favourite new songwriters. Who do I love at the moment? There’s a new songwriter called Don McAllister, I think he’s amazing. There’s a girl called Lowell, she’s brilliant. Who else do I love? New songwriters. There’s a girl called Sophia Amato, I love her, she’s new, developing. Who else do I really like? Yes, there’s a guy called Mologo from the afrobeat scene, he’s amazing writer. Yes, there’s a few that I really like.
And Raye is my ultimate favourite, Raye is amazing.
What up and coming projects are you excited about?
Yes, I’m super, super excited about I’ve just launched my own label, Jinsing, which is distributed through The Orchard and I’ve just set up my own publishing company through Universal Music Publishing. Yes, I’m super excited about that. And I’ve got my first release by a DJ that I look after called Blaze and we have a song called Good Body coming out, so I’m super excited about that.