From singing on stage to streaming on Twitch, former American Idol contestant, Janell Wheeler, channeled her love for entertainment into creating a live stream focused on connecting with people.
Streamlabs: Can you tell us a little bit more about your background and how you ended up streaming on Twitch?
Janell Wheeler: So my story is a little unique. I always dreamed of being an entertainer, and I never thought I’d be an online content creator because I have been working towards a music career basically my whole life. I had a lot of close calls, as you would say in the music industry. Many huge opportunities and I’ve sung in front of hundreds of thousands of people, I’ve been on national television, and I moved to Nashville to try to pursue that. It was really kind of kismet because as I was struggling in the music industry, I had already quit my full-time corporate job as a sales rep, I kind of stumbled into this really cool role hosting for comicbook.com. It was an after-show about the walking dead, which I’m obsessed with, and the guys at the office actually suggested that I give streaming a try.
Streamlabs: Where do you feel more comfortable? Streaming on the computer? Or singing in front of an audience on stage?
Janell Wheeler: I love both equally. However, when I was touring as a musician, the opportunities to connect with an audience were far and few. When you’re on tour, you’re playing maybe three shows a week. When you’re beginning as an artist, when you’re struggling to get seen, sometimes you’re playing to a dead room, there’s no one there. And I just like connecting with people. I love getting to know people. And I felt that I wasn’t really getting much of that or as much of it as I wanted to. So when I was kind of doing both, like being able to get that instant gratification of cheering and people just nodding their heads and clapping along and looking at people in the eye, it’s really, really, really special. But the frequency of it was not enough and is not enough for me. So I would say I enjoy them both so much. Again, I’ve always wanted to be an entertainer. I’ve always wanted to connect with an audience and being able to do both would be the dream. But for now, streaming has really offered me an opportunity to pursue something that has a way bigger reach beyond what music did.
Streamlabs: As someone that is used to having an audience in front of them was it difficult getting used to interacting with people through chat or did that feel natural?
Janell Wheeler: So performing on stage is obviously different than singing on TV. My biggest opportunity that I have ever had bestowed upon me was my run on American idol. When you start in the beginning stages, you’re just really singing to live people. But once you get to the live shows they are viewed by millions of people on national television, but you’re stage and what is put in front of you is actually only a handful of people. There’s like 20 people in the room. You’re really just forced to connect to the camera. And it’s live. There are no take-backs. And so I feel like American idol kind of prepped me for live streaming. Of course, I don’t have millions of people watching me on Twitch, but I feel like talking to chat is way more natural for me than singing to a camera.
Streamlabs: You mentioned you are working with comicbook.com, can you tell us more about what you are doing with them?
Janell Wheeler: So I mentioned before that I do work with comicbook.com. They are based here in Nashville, Tennessee, which is really cool. I actually started hosting an after-show with them called After the Dead, and we’ve had some crazy opportunities. We got to go to Nick and Norms restaurant in Georgia after one of the shows. We interviewed Greg Nicotero, we interviewed celebs from the show. And it has been a whirlwind and I will say I totally geeked out when I met Greg. Oh my gosh. I don’t freak out meeting people very often, but he’s so brilliant and that was really exciting. I just got another opportunity with them and I’m really excited about it because it’s always been a goal of mine and something that I hope to pursue in the future by having my very own podcast. I am actually featured on another podcast by them called Comicbook Nation and we just talk about nerd news, things that are kind of on the forefront of nerd culture and a lot of comic books and TV shows, movie related news. It’s a really cool opportunity and I’m definitely getting my feet wet with podcasts so maybe that’s something I will do in the future. And of course, I will definitely be broadcasting.
Streamlabs: What type of content do you usually stream?
Janell Wheeler: The content that I usually stream is very IRL and just-chatting based. We start off with about an hour or two of connecting to the community. We talk in chat, we have a question of the day, we catch up on news and then we move into games. I’ve just recently started incorporating more gaming into my streams and I’m loving it so much. I’ve played scary games. I’m playing my first playthrough of Life Is Strange series. I’ve done so many different types of gaming. I have PS4, a PC and of course my Nintendo. Shout outs to Donkey Kong Country 2 and all the speedrunners that are hitting that because that was the way that I found streaming. We also do baking streams. Sometimes I jump into some cosplay. We play lots of party games where you guys can get involved and play with me. And like I said, it’s all wrapped up with a little bow on top of you guys matter and your voice is heard and I love talking to you.
Streamlabs: Has live streaming opened up doors or opportunities you weren’t expecting?
Janell Wheeler: Streaming has actually opened lots of doors and opportunities that I wasn’t expecting. For example, being included in the streamer spotlight here on Streamlabs is huge. I feel like I’m still small cookies compared to a lot of these other featured streamers. So I’m really grateful for the opportunity. I think that TwitchCon — I’d never been to a convention in my entire life and then I just roll up to TwitchCon as an affiliate two years ago. It was unbelievable. I’ve done some incredible charity work with Tiltify and GameStop and other companies like that, which would never have been possible and it just makes my heart so happy to be able to be a part of that. And I’m hoping to progress this into the future of possibly hosting and maybe you’ll be seeing more of me around doing fun stuff and things. I’m going to keep it hush-hush for now, but you’ll see.
Streamlabs: What are some live streaming goals or aspirations you’d like to achieve in the next 12 months?
Janell Wheeler: Streaming goals that I have for the next year of my life are getting better at tech. As a musician, and before that a sales rep, and before that a student, I was never really comfortable behind a PC. I was never very comfortable in editing videos or recording them. I have such a respect for the people that actually do this for a living. My mods helped me out so much by telling me how to get stuff done. I definitely want to get better at the tech side so that I can handle my own problems. If something goes down during stream, I know how to handle it. I know what to do, how to make my stream better and look more professional. These are all goals that I feel like I should have had on the forefront for a long time, but I’m becoming less fearful.
Streamlabs: Are there other streamers/content creators that inspire you?
There are so many that it is hard to list them off because I really like to make this like a personal experience. But I will say when I’m talking about inspiration, the people that inspire me the most are my community and the smaller streamer community and seeing people grow from nothing to something. I’ve seen the Cinderella story of someone who is very small blow up overnight and I’m still so loyal to those streamers that I followed and I’m just inspired by that. I’m inspired by everyone who kind of takes a chance to get in front of a camera and a microphone. I know it’s not easy. It’s so nerve-wracking and they just put in the time and pursue this as a dream and that’s what I am inspired by for sure.
Once again, I want to thank everybody at Streamlabs. You guys are awesome. Thank you for taking the time to spotlight a streamer like myself. My name is Jenell Wheeler. Please come check me out. Come to the channel. We’re very welcoming and we love new people. I hope you have an amazing day and thanks for spending some time with me and getting to know me!