While earning a degree in broadcast communications and speech rhetoric at the University of Alabama, Fox 6 News anchor Janet Hall also began to hone a talent few of her television viewers know about. Hall first picked up an acoustic guitar as a child. “Our grandfather gave a guitar to all of us as a Christmas present, and I grabbed it. It became mine. I started seriously playing about fifth grade, usually back in my bedroom, but when I got to college, a good friend from high school, Dan Farmer, and I started playing together.” Farmer and Hall often found themselves singing and playing at places around Tuscaloosa. “Our main place was Ireland’s, a big restaurant at the time. That was the start of being halfway serious about it,” remembers Hall. Years later, well into a successful career as a news anchor in Birmingham and the mother of two, Hall returned to music. “There was a long period of time when I did not do anything with the music, but in more recent years I became more purposeful about writing music.” As a Christmas gift, husband Frank sent Janet to a songwriter’s workshop in Nashville. It would be the first of several. “Frank is not into music like I am,” explains Hall, “but he simply knows it is important to me and has been very supportive of it. I need encouragement, and he has done that.”
Hall set a goal for herself to record some of her songs before she turned 50. With the support of family and her old friend Dan and his band, Crooked Road, Hall went into WorkPlay studio in Birmingham and recorded 12 original songs. “I just had a blast doing it. The process was as fun as having the final product.” The project is self-titled, Janet Hall O’Neil. “I’ve tried to keep the music person separate from the anchorperson. I want to know if the music works on its own strength-that’s the reason for the title.” She dubs her CD as mostly fun country –pop with a couple faith related songs included as well.
“Anytime you write a song it is a part of feelings, not necessarily autobiographical but feelings you would have in that situation.” Hall’s song “Watch What You Believe” expresses the Christian beliefs of her father who died unexpectedly a year ago. “The song is about faith and how it keeps coming around in your life,” explains Hall who says her own faith, which was nurtured by her parents, was critical in dealing with her father’s death. One of Hall’s oldest songs, “All the Way Up to God,” was written when her son and daughter were fighting with each other as young children. “I told them to tell each other how much they loved each other. Each tried to top the other, and Jack topped Allie by saying, ‘I love you all the way up to God.’”
Hall says the most autobiographical song writing she has done is “Woman on the Way.” “It was written when Allie was 13. We were doing the typical banging of heads that moms and daughters do, ” remembers Hall. The song gives a mother’s perspective as she watches her little girl growing into a beautiful woman. “It’s that whole idea of letting go- giving guidance but giving room to make mistakes.” Hall says as she parents she seeks to follow her parents’ example. “I look to my mom and dad and how as I was raised, and try to do it as well as they did…. I don’t really recall having that [teenage disagreements] with my mother, but I’m sure I did and I hope that I’m handling it as gracefully as I think she did.” Hall remembers how her parents, especially her mother, gave her a sense of security during those difficult teen years. “I always knew there was a safety net, no matter how bad it was, I had that safety net. I did not get punished much, because the worst punishment of all was knowing I had disappointed my parents. That comes out of sheer love and respect of a parent. I hope that’s the same sort of feeling I’m instilling in my children.”
Hall says she and her husband strive to live out their faith as an example to their children. “It is not in forcing kids to go to church. It is showing them that you go to church. Faith is not just something on Sunday but how you live your life everyday- the decisions you make everyday.”