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Q&A with Janielle Dumapit ’23 on her EP and inspiration behind it

<h6>Cover art courtesy of Janielle Dumapit</h6>
Cover art courtesy of Janielle Dumapit

Janielle Dumapit ’23 released her extended play (EP), “Rose Colored Glasses,” on Jan. 30. Dumapit, a concentrator in the School of Public and International Affairs, wrote, performed, produced, and distributed the EP by herself. On campus, Dumapit is an active board member for the Princeton University Players. 

The EP is available on all music listening platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, and Amazon Music. The songs can also be reposted to Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. The Daily Princetonian sat down with her to discuss her songwriting process and the EP release. The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and concision.

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The Daily Princetonian: When did you start songwriting?

Janielle Dumapit: I’ve been playing guitar since I was eight, and I think I’ve always been making up little poems in my head just growing up. I think the first actual song I wrote was in seventh grade on my little ukulele for a creative writing class. I brought my ukulele to school and everything. It was a terrible song; it was about no one. It was like: oh, I have these little thoughts, you’re so cute, I want to eat pizza with you, something like that. 

I stopped for a very long time, and then I started again during quarantine because I was not doing anything. I tried to write a song every single day, inspired by Olivia Rodrigo writing a song every single day. The rest is history.

DP: What artists did you draw inspiration from for this EP and more generally in your songwriting?

JD: On Spotify, I have a playlist of all the songs that really inspired this EP. I think my songwriting style developed as I was writing the EP. So there are a lot of songs that didn’t make it that were more heavily influenced by early Taylor Swift and even some Maggie Rogers. Then I discovered Phoebe Bridgers in the midst of my heartbreak of 2020. The singer-songwriter style and the acoustic guitar of a lot of Phoebe’s songs really inspired what ultimately ended up on the EP. I used to watch Taylor Swift interviews and, you know, Taylor Swift has been famous for writing about her life since she was 17. 

I do understand the sentiment of wanting to keep things to yourself for the sake of avoiding getting hurt by having that out in public, but I think this new wave of singer-songwriters, specifically female singer-songwriters, pushed me to be more comfortable with that.

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DP: Could you talk a little bit about the process of producing the EP? How long did it take? When did you start writing?

JD: These songs are like my little diaries, so it was a lot for me to decide to want to share them with the world. I think the first song might’ve been written in June, but it ultimately did not end up on the EP. I wrote all of the songs before I started recording because I was still grappling with sharing a really vulnerable part of myself with the public. 

I started recording the songs during winter break. Other than my sister and my cousin being on one of the tracks as a bassist and a drummer, I did everything else by myself on my little MacBook. I would record one song early in the day and edit that, and then I would record another song in the night and edit that, and then I would give myself space from songs and then go back. I don’t think any song was done until the EP was done because I just kept going back and editing it. 

I did a lot of prep, and I just ground it for two months. So yeah, it was a process. A grueling one. I almost gave up multiple times, but here we are. I’m glad it’s done; I’m glad I pushed through.

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DP: How much of your songwriting or the songs that ended up in the EP are based on personal experiences? 

JD: I’ve kind of been a storyteller my whole life. I’m really good at romanticizing things in my head; it’s something that I’ve had 19 years of practice in. When I wrote the EP, I was at a point where I could inform the core of certain songs by my own experiences, even if the songs were not fundamentally about them. A lot of my close friends were going through heartbreak and terrible times at the same time, so there are some things that I did take from other people for the sake of storytelling. 

I wish I could give you a percentage because there are little bits of me in there, but I don’t think the complete thing is an accurate telling of everything that has happened in my life. I think I’m a main character, so I wrote the EP as if my life were an actual movie. 

In my songwriting process, one of the best pieces of advice that I read was that the verse is for you, the chorus is for them. A lot of my verses draw from my musical theatre background and have hyper specific lines. I never start with a chorus; I always start with a verse. 

DP: Who has helped or supported you along the way as a part of this process? 

JD: Obviously my sister because we shared a room and because she heard me write the songs. My sister was probably my biggest supporter in this EP. She heard every draft and played them with me on bass. I actually cut her favorite song from the EP, so I feel bad about that. 

A lot of my closest friends have heard the songs before they made it onto the EP and have given opinions on it. So in the actual songwriting process, it’s myself with little bits of my friends. My friends liking my songs is what pushed me to ultimately release them. 

My parents did not know I was releasing an EP until probably when I had announced it. But, my parents just leaving me alone in my room as I cried and sang was the best support they could’ve given me. 

DP: How did you decide which songs to include in the EP?

JD: I originally just wrote down all the songs that I’d written in a list on my Notes app; and then I chose the ones that were my favorite and put them in another list, and I thought, this is a really solid EP from start to finish. As I was producing it and recording, I realized that some songs just didn’t fit as well, some songs that were my favorite were just too close to my heart to release, or there were some songs that fulfilled the same purpose as another one. 

Because an EP is short, I wanted each song to have its purpose and have its place, and it felt like there were some songs that I was trying to fit into a place that it didn’t have. It’s sad because there are some continuing motifs lyrically throughout the songs, and that is one thing I did lose in cutting certain ones. But ultimately, if I place a song in there that doesn’t fit, I would lose more than just getting rid of this one lyric motif. 

DP: How did you decide to order the songs in the EP?

JD: I definitely knew I wanted “Someday” to be the last song. It was the first song I recorded, and I think “Someday” actually informed the tone and the sound of the rest of the EP in the sense of the background vocals and little riffs in my guitar. “Someday” I knew I wanted to be the last one because it felt very hopeful, even though it's still grounded in heartbreak. There’s still that hope of getting out of it, and I think that’s a great way to end a heartbreak EP. 

I was really inspired by Taylor Swift’s “The One,” and I really wanted “one” to be in my first song. 

Then “I’m Crying to This One Taylor Swift Song Called August” is the one song my friend bullied me into putting on the EP, and I thought it’d be a good slow-down song for when you’re sitting on your bed staring at your ceiling. So it felt like all the more up-beat, more bright [songs] needed to be before that, before we slowed down. I think that song is the middle point and then I just placed the songs around that, and it kind of just fell into place. 

DP: Which song do you want people to listen to the most and why? 

JD: I could make a case for every single one. But I think my current favorite is “98%” because that one is very specific and very close to my heart. I really considered not having it on the EP because it is really personal. And then I decided to make it even more personal. 

DP: What was the inspiration for the title of the EP, “Rose Colored Glasses”?

JD: One of my closest friends sent me a recording saying, “Can we take off the rose colored glasses, please?” and it just really fit. I think I look back on my life with rose colored glasses because I like to ignore the bad things. I thought this EP was both me putting [rose colored glasses] on sometimes and also me taking them off. 

DP: What was your goal in producing the EP, and where do you hope to go from here?

JD: I think this was ultimately just for myself. The goal was to have something for myself to share with others if they relate to it and if they like it. I do want to keep releasing music, so apologies to my roommates, who might have to hear me record songs over the next semester. I think there are a lot of songs that deserve to be out in the world that didn’t make it onto the EP — I’m kind of already making up another set of EPs in my head. I don’t anticipate being the next Taylor Swift, but I hope people listen and like it. 

DP: Is there anything else you’d like to add about the EP or the process in general? Is there anything you want people to know when they’re listening to it? 

JD: I want people to listen to it in order at least the first time. I put a lot of thought into the order, and I’m just trying to put this curated piece of art out into the world. It’s a little weird talking about your own stuff like that, but maybe I’ll serve a purpose for others like singer-songwriters on TikTok did for me. If you relate to it, that’s great. Also, I'm sorry because heartbreak’s hard, but creative outlets are there, and this was mine. 

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