PUBLISHED IN THE RECORD Sept 20, 1999

 

CAROLYN DAWN JOHNSON IS MAKING IT IN NASHVILLE AS BOTH

A SONGWRITER AND A SINGER

 

NASHVILLE: CAROLYN DAWN JOHNSON's stock is on the rise.

The Grande Prairie, Alta.-born blonde is enjoying her first #1 Billboard radio hit as a songwriter with CHELY WRIGHT's "Single White Female."

Johnson also placed tunes with PATTY LOVELESS for her post-Classics  album project, due early in 2000, and co-wrote the new PAM TILLIS single, "After A Kiss," which appears in the film and on the soundtrack of Happy, Texas.

Johnson's not doing too badly as a singer, either. You can hear her harmonizing on "I Love You," the smash pop country single by MARTINA McBRIDE, the artist she's just finished touring with as a backing singer, and on MINDY McCREADY's new album, I'm Not So Tough.

And if that isn't enough to brag about, Johnson began recording her debut album for Arista Nashville with producer PAUL WORLEY on Sept. 8.

"I feel really blessed," said Johnson, a few weeks before appearing at last weekend's CCMA Guitar Pull, one of the most popular convention preludes to the Canadian Country Music Awards.

Johnson may feel the hand of divine intervention playing a role in her current success, but she admits, "I work really hard at it." She counts MICHELLE WRIGHT as one of her angels, as the classy veteran gave Johnson some advice that literally changed her perspective overnight.

"Michelle Wright doesn't know this, but she was a real inspiration to me," Johnson explains. "I was one of her fan club members, and I was at her show one night at a meet-and-greet when my boyfriend asked her, `Do you think Carolyn should take singing lessons?'

"She replied, `That's a very good thing, but I think you should sing and sing and sing until you find your own voice. Find out what your strengths are and what it is you do best.'

"From that day on, I took that I can do only what I can do, and I'm going to do the best with what I've got."

Johnson admits that, for the longest time, she fought one of the most insidious inner demons: the lack of self-esteem.

"I've always dreamt of having a record deal, but I didn't really have enough confidence. I've had a few people in my life that burst my bubble and made me feel I wasn't good enough. That was in Canada. I'm sure they didn't mean to stifle my dream, but they'd say, `Oh, you're a prolific songwriter, but your voice is very generic.'"

Johnson was living in Vancouver when she finally mustered enough courage to try the big time, inspired by a songwriting video being hawked through The Nashville Network.

The video, produced by the Nashville Songwriters Association International, included songwriting tips from GARTH BROOKS and CLINT BLACK. Johnson joined the organization and applied for a scholarship to a Nashville song camp. She got it.

"Everyone was really encouraging about my songs," Johnson recalls. "They were saying, `Wow, I can't wait to see what you'll do in six months.'"

Johnson needed no further incentive. In March 1994 she pulled up her Vancouver stakes and relocated to Music City.

"I wanted to grow and be amongst the ones who were really making it happen," says Johnson, who appeared Monday (Sept. 13) with TERRI CLARK, JESS LEARY and STEPHONY SMITH at the SOCAN Guitar Pull. "I wanted to be in the thick of it, I guess."

Constant networking soon brought her to the attention of several people, including DIXIE CHICKS and Martina McBride producer Paul Worley. It was Worley who hooked her up with McBride, and he also volunteered to produce her album.

"As Nashville got to know me, and certain people got to see me, they would say, `Oh, you've got to have a record deal.' Having that new-found belief and support really boosted my confidence."

And the rush of placing a song can still carry Johnson away. For instance, she frightened "Single White Female"singer Chely Wright half to death.

"That was really bizarre," she laughs. "It was a Friday and we were calling MCA to see whether Chely had cut the song, and they kept telling us they didn't know.

"So I went out to a restaurant that night, and she happened to be in the parking lot. When I heard the lick on the demo, I ran up to the car and scared her -- and she locked all the doors. I suddenly realized I must looked like a crazed fan, so I yelled, `Wait a minute! That's my song!'

"After she found out who I was, she let me into the car."

-NICK KREWEN (Sept 14/99)

COVERS

1999 -- Suzy Bogguss, "It's The Perfect Day For A Little Rain"

1999 -- Pam Tillis, "After This Kiss"

1999 -- Chely Wright, "Single White Female" (#1)

CONTRIBUTIONS

1999 -- Martina McBride, Emotion

1999 -- Mindy McCready, I'm Not So Tough

©1999 The Record

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