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Carolyn Dawn Johnson


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Raised on a farm in Deadwood, Alberta, Carolyn’s dreams of music continually colored her emotional landscape. She was surrounded by music from a young age – listening to her parent’s Jim Reeves and Don Williams’ records; singing at church functions and school plays, playing piano and continually singing around the house. As she got older, Carolyn found herself drawn to a wide range of artists from Charley Pride and Marty Stuart to Fleetwood Mac, Jann Arden, Abba and Matraca Berg. She would write songs, make her own recordings at home and attend every concert she could. In college she studied non-music courses, but continued to sit-in with hometown bands at night. Finally, the encouragement from local musicians began to make her think, “Maybe I can really do this. Maybe I am good enough.”

When she was 20, her “maybe” turned into the first tentative steps toward the musical career she’d dreamed of - but had always feared was out of reach. “I began to see the merit in positive thinking and I did a lot of goal-setting,” she says. “I’d ask myself, ‘what are the little steps that can get me where I want to go?’ and then I’d try to do something every single day to achieve a step or two. I’d write things down and make them come true.”

Carolyn Dawn Johnson’s incredible work ethic, coupled with natural talent has carried her in a few short years to places she only dared to dream about as a young girl. The release of her first album to the U.S. caps a year in which her success as a songwriter merited a number one hit (“Single White Female” for Chely Wright), an upcoming single for JoDee Messina (“Down Time”) and the highly-coveted Music Row magazine’s “Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year” award for 2000. Just six months after the Canadian release of Room With A View, she is celebrating two number one singles & videos in Canada for “Georgia” and “Complicated”. This spring, the Academy of Country Music honored her with a nomination for Top New Female Vocalist 2000 and the summer will bring even more fun when she steps out on the “Girls’ Night Out” Tour with Reba McEntire and Martina McBride.

Comprised entirely of Carolyn Dawn Johnson’s writings, Room With A View is obviously the work of someone able to bring the highly personal into play while making art. “Georgia,” “Complicated, “Room With A View”, “Masterpiece,” “Complicated,” and “One Day Closer” – in fact, her entire song list – are clearly proof that Carolyn is a master at transforming simple stories into richly detailed pictorials. Her songs create an ear-taunting soundtrack of modern day life and love: soaring harmonies, compelling vocals and searing emotional honesty.

“I put everything about me out there,” Carolyn says. “That’s the way I live my life. Maybe I show too much, but I didn’t really have a choice when it came to making the record. My favorite things on the record are the really personal parts. Someone said, ‘How do you feel about exposing your innermost self like that?’ and I said, ‘I just don’t think there’s any other way to do it. I don’t think it could have been anything else. That would have been lying to my listeners and lying to myself.”

Room With A View is also a vivid display of Carolyn’s impressive reputation within the Nashville music community. Notable guests on the album include Martina McBride, Marty Stuart, Kim Carnes, Matraca Berg, Al Anderson, Mary Ann Kennedy and other artists whose respect for Carolyn’s music led them to lend their singing and playing talents. “It was unbelievable to be standing there next to someone that I’ve looked up to for all these years - and realize that they were there to sing or play on my album.” All of these elements were assembled in a first-time collaboration between Carolyn and producer Paul Worley (Dixie Chicks, Martina McBride). “Paul and I met almost a year before I was signed to Arista. He offered then to produce my record – and of course I was honored to get to work with him. Sharing a production credit is beyond anything I ever imagined. It has been a wonderful learning experience.”

Carolyn’s path to recording success began in 1992 when she made the decision to make music her life career goal. “I knew I had to be in city where there was a music community, so I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia and began attending recording engineering school. Once there, I continued to set small goals and worked to meet them.” Learning the technical aspects of the business by day and continuing to write songs and waitress at night, she studied Billboard and Music Row Magazine each week to learn who was who in the business. Intrigued by a TV commercial on the Nashville Network, she sent away for a songwriting video featuring hit Nashville writers to learn more about her craft. Through the video she joined the Nashville Songwriters Association International and traveled to Nashville for the first time in 1994 to participate in one of its workshops. The positive feedback she received added further legitimacy to her quest. For three years, she commuted the 3000 miles between Vancouver and Nashville until she was able to obtain a work visa and move to her dream town permanently.

Her talent, drive and practical, goal-setting approach opened more and more doors. She began singing demos for other writers, and began writing with some of them. Late in 1997, she signed a publishing deal with Patrick Joseph Music, home to one of her heroes, Matraca Berg, among others. In between gigs, she waited tables and tended bar at Phil Vassar’s Hard Day’s Night club.

Late night jam sessions at Phil’s club and songwriting demos featuring her unmistakable voice began getting attention from label execs. Next, Carolyn Dawn Johnson credits began appearing as a studio vocalist on album releases for Patty Loveless, Martina McBride, Mindy McCready, Loretta Lynn and Kenny Rogers. Writing “cuts” followed for Kathy Mattea, Pam Tillis, Linda Davis and more. Then in 1999 it snowballed: a record deal, a hit single on radio with Chely Wright and an opportunity to tour as backup singer and guitarist for long time idol, Martina McBride. “My plan was to focus on writing, and then, in a year or two, aim for a record deal,” Carolyn remembers. “That happened alright, that and more! I feel like I got a few bonuses to my dream.”

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