News & Politics

Meet Cat Janice, the DC Musician Who Became a Viral Pop Sensation—From Hospice

Janice doesn’t know how much time she has left. But "Dance You Out Of My Head" is top 5 worldwide on iTunes.

Cat Janice's single cover for "Dance You Out Of My Head." Album art by Cat Janice.

One night this January, Cat Janice awoke from her hospice bed at her parents’ home to the beeping of a medical device. She checked her phone, and saw a notification she never thought would come: iTunes tagging her to announce her latest single, her last, was charting top 10 worldwide.

“My friend, who’s a nurse and is living with me at home, tried to calm me down, because she thought I was freaking about a medical report,” Janice tells Washingtonian. “But I was screaming at my phone.”

The song, “Dance You Out Of My Head,” came out January 19th, weeks after Janice left the ICU amid an ongoing battle with an aggressive sarcoma. In just under a week, it has racked up over 300,000 plays on Spotify. According to the independent music data website Kworb, the song is also the current No. 5 track worldwide on iTunes—and No. 1 in Australia and Greece.

For Janice, born Catherine Janice Ipsan,it’s a bittersweet moment, getting her breakthrough from the local DC scene to a global stage while a tumor encroaches on her lungs.

“Three weeks ago, I was in the ICU, unable to breathe,” she says. “And now, here we are.”

An Annandale native, Janice said the inspiration for her unexpected alt-pop hit came from a car ride last spring with her son Loren. The two were “grooving” in the car, as she puts it, singing along to one another when they landed on a line—“dance until you love me.”

That would eventually become “Dance You Out Of My Head,” which wasn’t fully fleshed out until Janice entered a songwriting competition, she says. There, she met Max Vernon, a Tony Award-nominated lyricist and composer. Janice brought up her idea, and Vernon loved it. They would go on to win the competition unanimously.

But Janice didn’t have serious plans of releasing the song as a single, she says, even considering offering it up to another artist for recording. All of that changed when she received an update on her diagnosis.

“I had this moment of, well, there was this song I started, with me and my son,” Janice says. “And if I’m not gonna be here in a couple weeks, I wanna put something out and do a final farewell … I had some breakup songs, and some sad songs, but I wanted to release something that was fun. So I said, ‘f it, I’m just gonna put this song out.’”

Janice said she didn’t spend any money on marketing the song, relying on word-of-mouth from the DC music community that she spent years jamming out alongside. The song came out on January 19th, one day before her birthday.

But “Dance You Out Of My Head” isn’t just a testament to the good times that a mother and son had together. It’s also a labor of love: Janice transferred her songwriting rights to the song to Loren, now seven years old, which means all the proceeds for the now-viral hit (along with the rest of her catalog) will go directly into his bank account.

“My label’s really been amazing with this, wiping out a whole bunch of legal wordage,” Janice says. “Every penny I earn on a song will be funneled into a bank account for my son.”

Janice isn’t sure how much time she has left. But she’s been making the most of it, getting married last month to her longtime partner, fellow DC musician Footwerk (real name: Kyle Higginbotham) and enjoying a surprise disco-themed birthday party thrown by friends and family.

“I don’t want to die,” Janice says. “But I’ve had a really wonderful life, and I got to have this really incredible last moment, and I thank God for it.”

Arya Hodjat
Editorial Fellow