published Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Brainerd High School graduate Gary Janney to back Adele at Oscars

TUNE IN

Watch the Oscars at 7 p.m. today on ABC.

Gary Janney is accustomed to singing with big stars but not in front of an audience that numbers in the millions.

That changes Sunday when the 1972 graduate of Brainerd High School will be one of 20 vocalists backing Adele as she sings "Skyfall" at the Oscars. The song, which was written by Adele and Paul Epworth and is the theme song for the latest James Bond film, is up for a Best Original Song Oscar.

"I feel like I've been preparing for this my whole life," Janney says.

Randy Clark has known Janney since their high school days. Later, Janney would sit in with Clark's band, Overland, when he was in town.

"I remember being impressed that he had such a strong voice," Clark says. "In high school, he was the guy I always thought I would see on the big screen, so I'm really glad to hear this."

A writer, producer and solo performer, Janney has made a career being a backup singer for such stars as Don Henley, John Anderson, Kenny Rogers, Vince Gill, Dolly Parton, Take 6 and Frankie Valli. His voice also has been heard on commercials for McDonald's and Chevrolet.

The chance to sing in front of millions of Oscar viewers came about because of his 3-year-old relationship with Alf Clausen, who does the music for "The Simpsons." Clausen introduced Janney to the woman charged with finding Adele's backing singers for the Oscars performance.

"Alf kept saying he would get me to the right people, and he did," Janney says.

Adele, who's facing four other Best Original Song nominees, said in a statement that singing at the Oscars is a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

"It's an honor to be nominated and terrifyingly wonderful to be singing in front of people who have captured my imagination over and over again," she said. "It's something I've never experienced and probably only ever will once!"

The Oscars will not be Janney's first brush with national television, but it will be his first time on camera, he says. A few years ago, Janney recorded "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," which was used on air during the Miss America pageant.

This week, Janney has been in rehearsals for the Los Angeles-based Oscar show and says producers plan to do a complete run through on Saturday, then again on Sunday before the show starts at 7 p.m. EST.

Janney moved to Nashville in 1977 and spent 20 years doing studio and commercial vocal work. His goal, he says, was a solo career, but since he didn't sing country music, he felt out of place.

"I was frustrated in Nashville," he says. "I had so many almosts there, like so many people I knew. I almost signed with a label. I almost got that big break. Some sound guys that I knew kept telling me to move to LA, that my voice was better suited for what they did there."

He took their advice and moved west in 1998. He found work almost immediately, but said it was not an easy transition.

"They have a different protocol out here. It is not as laid back as it is in Nashville. I had to learn a new style of doing things related to the people in the business."

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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