Janice Anne will perform at First Friday from 7 to 9 p.m. Photo provided.
Janice Anne will perform at First Friday from 7 to 9 p.m. Photo provided.
Performing at First Friday this week feels like a homecoming to Janice Anne.

“This performance for me means a lot. It’s full circle, carrying me back home,” the country music artist said in a telephone interview early this week.

Janice Anne – maiden name Keeton, married name Straley – was raised in Warsaw. She goes by the stage name Janice Anne with her new band Country Heart. They will perform from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday downtown Warsaw.

She remembers performing in Warsaw 30 years ago when the city held a festival downtown. There’d be free watermelon – just like July’s First Friday this year.

Even though there’s some similarities between then and now, she said a lot has changed in 30 years. She’s lived through many different chapters of her own book.

“I’ve been singing since I was 3 years old. I always loved to perform,” she said.

She used to have a microphone and a little wooden stage she’d perform on for her parents’ friends.

For her graduation present, her parents took her to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. There, she connected to Dottie West after asking her for an autograph. West told Janice Anne that she reminded her of herself when she was young. At the time, Janice Anne was about 18 and West was in her 50s.

West started her country music career in the 1960s with her top 10 hit “Here Comes My Baby Back Again.” In the early 1970s, she wrote a commercial for Coca-Cola titled “Country Sunshine.” Her duets with Kenny Rogers included “All I Ever Need is You” and “What Are We Doin’ in Love.” West died in 1991.

West asked Janice Anne if she sang, and Janice Anne replied that she did. West decided she wanted to help her with her career in the music industry. Janice Anne called West the next week and the two became fast friends.

“It was a beautiful friendship,” Janice Anne said. “She was my mentor, my big sister. She taught me everything. ... Age didn’t matter, we connected.”

Through West, Janice Anne was able to connect to other people in Nashville. She said West even wanted her to go on tour with her, even though she really hadn’t heard Janice Anne sing except for one tape she had sent her.

After a few years, West dealt with some IRS issues. Janice Anne said West told her she was the only one she could trust. West even gave Janice Anne a Patsy Cline costume because she was afraid the IRS would take it and sell it from her. Cline, who was friends with West, had given the dress to West.

Before West died, Janice Anne saw her one last time, though she didn’t know it would be the final visit with her.

“If I knew it was the last time that I was going to see Dottie, I would have hugged her more and talked to her more,” Janice Anne said.

After West died, however, Janice Anne recorded with West’s band as West wanted her to. The doors in the music industry started opening for her through that.

Despite all that work she put into it, Jancie Anne felt that something was missing from her life. She was married to her first husband at the time and she got pregnant. She prayed and decided to put her music career aside.

When her son was 1 years old, Janice Anne learned he had autism. It was her singing that helped him develop, and she decided to open a special needs preschool in Fort Wayne. Her second son also is on the autism spectrum.

Then in 2014, the music doors started opening for her again in Nashville, she said. She closed her school and went back into the music industry. The business felt completely different, but she felt it was something she needed to do.

In 2014-15, Music City Roots featured Janice Anne’s music about three times on their radio show, she estimated. Even though she was getting back into the music business, God had a slight change of plans for her.

Janice Anne said God put Nashville on the backburner and led her to Branson, Mo., where she opened theaters and where she felt she was needed.

“I’m a real advocate for Branson. Branson has changed, it’s really grown. I like the values there. It’s God-centered. It feels like a place where I’m using music the way God wants me to,” she said.

Country Heart features her husband Brent Straley on drums. He had always played drums in a rock band so Country Heart is his first country band, she said.

Now 47, Janice Anne said she’s an example of how you can’t let people tell you that you can’t do something. And moms should not put their dreams away because it can happen.

She’s also dealt with an eating disorder, so she believes she can reach people about that issue.

As for her music, listeners can find it on Reverb Nation under her stage name, Janice Anne. Her songs were written by Tom Shapiro, known for Carrie?Underwood and Barbara Mandrell songs, and Neil Thrasher, who has written for Jason Aldean.

Her music is styled after Mandrell and West, but she said she learned a lot about entertaining from Mandrell. She adds in her own style, too.

“I’ve been called a firecracker. I work that stage. People want to see a performance and that’s what I give,” Janice Anne said.

For more on Janice Anne, visit her Facebook pages under Janice Anne, Country Janice Anne and Country Heart. Her Instagram is under Country Janice Anne.