It’s all about working with good people for Grande Prairie born, Nashville based country/ pop singer Carolyn Dawn Johnson, who comes to Lethbridge April 21 to open for Johnny Reid’s “ Fire It Up, Let Love Live Again Tour at the Enmax Centre.
“It’s been amazing, just being able to sit back and watch Johnny play. He’ll just suck you right in,” she said.
“It’s just a pretty big production. There’s a lot of stuff on stage. It’s a really fantastic , big show.”
She will be performing a 30 minute opening set for the sold out Johnny Reid show, April 21 at the Enmax Centre.
“His show is amazing. We had a big meeting before the tour and he said he’s never done anything as big as this,” she said, three days into the tour, en route to Kamloops.
She is an upbeat lady. And why shouldn’t she be? Since breaking into the mainstream in 1999 by co-writing Chely Wright’s number one hit “Single White Female,” she has toured in Martina McBride’s band as a guitarist and singer, released four albums of original music, won Juno Awards, a truckload of Canadian Country Music Awards, Academy of Country Music Awards and written numerous other hits.
“ And they say getting a number one hit in Nashville is like getting stuck by lightning. It doesn’t happen very often. And it was great because I was still working with my album of all original material,” she said adding she had only been in Nashville for four years, a short amount of time by Nashville standards.
She sings a duet on Johnny Reid’s song “Baby I Know It.”
They have been wanting to do something together for many years.
“We’ve been friends for about 10 years. He wanted to do something about four years ago, but I couldn’t because I was newly pregnant with my first child, so we said maybe some other year.”
That year is this year so Johnson is excited to be part of Reid’s album and the new tour. She was able to work out the schedule with her husband and children.
“ Johnny Reid brought me the song and I fell in love with it. It feels good just to be part of it,” she continued.
She is looking forward to returning to Lethbridge.
“The last time I was there, I played the theatre there. I had a great time. The people were great and so sweet with their praise,” she said she didn’t want to spoil what her 30 minute set would sound like.
“You’ll have to come and see. There will be some older songs and some new ones. I can’t put enough into the set to please all the fans,” she said adding she is looking forward to hanging out after her set to meet people and sign autographs.
Her career has been slowly picking up steam since “Single White Female.”
“ I was playing some with Martina McBride and was trying to do my best in Nashville, meeting people and making music and “Single White Female” was slowly growing. I remember I got a call on my phone when it was about to reach number one, but it was off, and when I woke up at about nine in the morning and I had about 23 messages on it. One of them was from Chely screaming ‘thank you so much, it’s reached number one,’ she recalled.
“It seemed a lot longer. I was always getting calls from home from people asking how I was doing ‘I haven’t seen you on TV yet’ because I guess that legitimizes you, but every day is a stepping stone getting you to where you want to be, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s about the journey anyway,” she continued.
She is not afraid to take her time when releasing new music.
“It’s been a while, but I’d just rather wait until I have a good core of songs, hopefully I have that now. I’d like to get started on the new album on the fall.”
Even though she is happily married, she can still sing a sad break up song like she means it.
“I’ve always been drawn to the bittersweet. I just want to make something good and tangible that can move people. I want to make people feel something.
“ If people want to laugh or cry or feel something, I’m just grateful to be the vessel that makes that kind of difference,” she said.
“Sometimes I have to force myself away form that and do something that rocks, but I can easily go to a break-up song and and sad song that leaves people feeling emotions.
She is also planning a tour with Martina McBride, where she would be playing guitar and singing backup.
“People ask me why would I want to do that, but I’m playing music and Martina is a wonderful person, so it’s okay,” she said, raving about McBride.
She noted Nashville has changed since she moved there with the onset of downloading.
“It’s changed. Ten years ago, there were 2,000 songwriters there who had publishing deals, now there’s 200. A lot of studios have closed down and engineers, who make sure every single thing on the Cd sounds great, have to take other jobs because there isn’t enough work for them,” she observed.
“Now everyone has to figure out new ways to do the same thing they always did. It’s very sad,” she said qualifying that by saying people are figuring out how to make things work despite salary and staffing cuts.
“This is their passion and Nashville has never not been about hard work,” she said.
She has since released four albums and given birth to two children, Abigail, 3, and Bennett, 2,
“Being a mother has trumped everything I’ve done in the music business. I’ve been with a great husband and having a great family,” she said it is a challenge blending a music a career and a family life.
“I drove my husband and my kids up to Edmonton before this tour, so they’re at grandma and grandpa’s now. Then they’ll join me for about a month and I’ll finish the tour on my own,” she said.
— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor