Janice Pendarvis has always been fueled by the power of singing. "For me, it's just this incredible, untapped reservoir of love and spirituality, and positivity," she says. Indeed, Pendarvis is fearless in exploring the full range of her voice. It's a quality that sparked her first recording gig with Roberta Flack on Feel Like Makin' Love (1975) and has since guided her through a prolific career as a session singer, vocal contractor, and music professor. Whether recording and touring with Sting, writing and singing for Taj Mahal and reggae legend Max Romeo, or even performing in Saturday Night Live skits opposite Eddie Murphy and Tim Meadows, she's the secret sauce in any vocal blend.
Though she's occasionally written and fronted songs for other artists, most notably trumpet master Terumasa Hino, and staged solo shows in New York, Pendarvis has seldom sought the spotlight for herself. "I never was focused on a big difference between singing lead or singing background," she says. "For me, it's just all singing. At the time that I was seeing the session business in New York, there was a lot of background vocal work, so I focused on that. Now I still did lead singing, but I wanted to be a working singer because I was mesmerized by what that was."
Pendarvis was among several other working singers whose stories anchored Morgan Neville's Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom (2013). The film re-introduced Pendarvis to movie audiences and music fans who recognized her from Sting's Bring on the Night (1985) or Laurie Anderson's Home of the Brave (1986) concert films. Her candid insights gave Neville's film a certain gravitas that extends beyond notes and melodies. She's a formidable presence in the studio, not only as a vocalist and an arbiter of professionalism, but also as a champion of singers who are just entering the business