A regular on Radio 2, Janey Lee Grace has evolved from pop singer touring with Wham! to author behind big hits like Happy Health Sober. The Hertfordshire local tells us more
How do you look back on the 80s and 90s and your singing career then?
It really was a whirlwind, seems like another lifetime. I started as a backing singer with Mari Wilson and the Wilsations (remember the big hair!) and then worked with Wham! on all their tours. After that I did lots of session work with various bands including Kim Wilde, Boy George, and of course had my own top ten hit in 1991 with Cola Boy (7 ways to love).
What was the highlight of that period?
The first Wham! tour was incredible, literally like Beatlemania! Playing stadiums across the US was pretty cool and of course being part of the iconic Wham! in China tour. Having my own hit almost passed me by, I only sang the four words (!), but finally got to be on Top of the Pops!
Do you still get a chance to sing today?
I very occasionally do ‘an evening with’ kind of gig usually in churches with a great piano player I co-write songs with. I also still do vocal sessions for my hubby who is a composer (currently has a musical in development Marnie & the magic kaleidoscope) – sadly he expects me to work for free!
Was it a natural progression for you to become a radio DJ?
I was touring local radio stations in the early 90s promoting various tracks I had out, and I realised I was fascinated by radio. I got myself an opportunity to train with a local BBC station GLR (now BBC London) and went on to produce and present their Gospel show, after that I worked at Virgin Radio, then onto Radio 2.
You have been on our airwaves for over two decades – still get a buzz out of doing it?
I always joke that if I wasn’t paid I’d still do radio, its SO addictive. I’m very lucky to work with some great people and interview the celebs and experts that we do.
Have you always been a keen writer?
I had no idea I could write! A publisher heard me talking about natural and organic stuff on Radio 2 and asked if I’d like to write a book. I was writing lots of personal emails to respond to queries so it made sense. Imperfectly Natural Woman was a massive hit, rather ahead of its time I often say, I was talking about kale and coconut oil in 2006 before they had acquired a publicist!
How do you like to write, ie do you shut yourself away?
It’s not often possible, I have a mad busy household, but if I get chance, I head off to the sea – it’s my ‘resource’ and I find I can get a large chunk of a book written in a couple of days away.
What inspired you to set up Imperfectly Natural?
When the book took off and went to number one on Amazon suddenly the products I had recommended sold out in stores. I realised I could do more than just the book so started the recommendations site, now we have the Platinum Awards each year too, to recognise the best in natural products.
What do you offer through the site today?
It’s a recommendations resource, I write articles and blogs and we have competitions to win products across a wide range. We also promote products that have entered our awards, so hopefully people get to find out what natural and organic and eco products really work. In addition, we look at therapeutic treatments and promote people who are doing great work in inspiring others to live in a more holistic way.
What is the story behind The Sober Club?
Despite being queen of natural health, I now see I was stepping around the elephant in the room that was alcohol for 30 years! I finally ditched the booze end of December 2017 and didn’t look back. I wish someone had told me how amazing life without booze is. I gave a TEDx talk Sobriety Rocks – Who Knew! in July 2019, host the podcast Alcohol free Life where I interview inspirational guests, and started The Sober Club 18 months ago. It’s a platform to inspire and encourage people to look again at their relationship with alcohol and focus on optimum health and wellbeing, and there is a membership community.
What kind of support do you offer people?
It’s an online monthly membership with a member portal full of inspirational content and a private Facebook group for connection and accountability. We do regular coaching calls and expert sessions and have members who are at Day 1 through to about four years sober. It’s always about the ‘what’s next’.
Have you noticed more people being interested in what you do thanks to the pandemic?
There is no doubt that the Covid situation meant more people drank more, and I fear for what might unfold regarding mental health, but I also found a number of people took stock and realised that they were heading for disaster. They now know that quitting the booze is the best thing they ever did and sobriety and happiness is their Covid legacy.
Where do you see all these different strands to your career going?
In truth they do all combine! I am passionate about communicating, and inspiring people towards health and happiness. I’d love to do more TV and radio, and I’d LOVE to do Strictly just in case you have any contacts (!!), but right now I’m coaching and seeing lots of people make changes for the better and it’s very rewarding.
How long have you lived in Hertfordshire and whereabouts do you reside?
I moved from my home town of Nottingham to go to uni at Trent Park (Cockfosters) and then lived in Herts, Hadley Wood, Barnet, Brookmans Park and now near Watford.
Could you pick out some places you love best in the county?
I love St Albans and I have spent many a Sunday in the cathedral. My absolute favourite restaurant, which cannot be beaten anywhere in the UK in my opinion, is Lussmanns (St Albans, Hitchen & Harpenden). I hope that recommendation doesn’t mean I can never get a booking!