A rare gem the music industry isn’t paying enough attention to is the stellar power house vocalist and compelling songwriter Alexz Johnson. The Canadian born, NY based singer captured the hearts of many fans from her portrayal of Jude Harrison on The N’s Instant Star over 10 years ago, she wrote many of the songs from the show and performed her own vocals. Now, the artist is still going strong having recently released her latest studio album A Stranger Time and selling out shows for the first leg of a promotional tour.
Johnson made a stop in Philadelphia at MilkBoy bar and entertainment venue on Wednesday, September 20th as part of her tour. Many eager fans enjoyed the wait for the main event watching Dress Black perform, Toronto bred indie band who is touring with Johnson, while I had the opportunity to chat with Alexz one on one before she went on stage. We talked about her creating the new music, advice for fellow indie artists, and the title of the album in itself.
“The title came from a lot of things. Personally first, then what’s happening in the world. I’ve been on the planet now for thirty years and I feel like in my lifetime it’s just a strange time when it comes to politics, when it comes to religion, race. I feel like we’re regressing in a lot of ways which is interesting. Progressing in some but first off it’s personal. I think ‘A Stranger Time’ is more about for me finding my true meaning through music in life,” she candidly told Glambergirlblog.
A Stranger Time is Johnson’s first project in about two and a half years. Stepping away from the limelight for a bit helped her put some things in perspective. “I’m growing and I’m learning. For me this record I just wanted to make something that was really raw and like people were reading my journal. I’m just really sick and tired of the front especially in the industry. We have so much going on with hurricanes and earthquakes. We have Charlottesville. There’s so much happening in the world I find it really upsetting that artists who are in such more bigger, powerful positions than me are choosing to write songs about arguments with other celebrities or songs about how much bling they have. I just really want to be that artist for the working class. I want to be that artist for the girls and guys out there that feels like it’s so far away from them, but it really isn’t,” she encouraged.
Making music has always been a release for Johnson and for her listeners to get away from what’s happening, but she straddles the fence of creating music to make people really feel something and to talk about the things that are really important in life. “I find it really weird to not acknowledge what’s happening in the world. It’s a stranger time, let’s talk about it. Let’s have a glass of wine, you tell me how you feel. Let’s listen to a great record, let’s relax, engage, and find some joy with the music but let’s also not be naive and not turn an eye on what’s happening. It’s finding a balance.” And a balance is what you’ll find on her new record compiled of nine tracks ranging from up tempo rock jams to sweet, serene power ballads.
In October catch Alexz Johnson for a month-long residency at Hotel Café in Los Angeles and then watch out Europe because she’s coming your way for the month of November. Not too shabby for a girl with no management or label and has been booking and promoting her owns shows. Johnson is proof of what hard work, the dedication of fans, and a strong support system can accomplish.
Before wrapping up our chat, Alexz had some insightful advice for other indie artist. “Figure out why you want it in the first place and make sure it’s for the right reasons because if you want to be famous then you’re setting yourself up for failure because no matter how much you get you’ll want more. So know that you’re doing it because you actually love doing it ’cause it’s a lot of work and a lot of dedication,” she advised.
Adding, “It kind of beats you up emotionally sometimes, but if you are meant to be doing it and you actually love it then all the pieces are going to fall into place and it doesn’t matter in the end. So just do it and just don’t compare yourself to other artists because everyone is on their own journey. I believe that everyone who puts their cards on the table and sees everyone else’s cards they will always take theirs back.”
After she does more touring with A Stranger Time, next year she wants to focus on acting but don’t think music will ever go away for Alexz. If people continue to come to shows she’ll keep slaying the stage. “I’m making music that people are connecting to which is great and that’s my goal.”
The live performance
Now that we have the interview done I wanted to add a candid portion to this feature about the experience that is seeing Alexz Johnson live. One word. OBSESSED! I listened to Alexz’ music for some time and always enjoyed her voice, but nothing quite equates to watching her perform live.
I’ve seen fans describe seeing her live as transcendent and as I talented as I think Alexz is I thought that would be an exaggeration, but I must honestly say it’s an understatement. I can still hear her burly harmonies quivering up my spine giving me chills of musical ecstasy. She did a bunch of her new music from A Stranger Time including: “Never Love Me Back,” “Man Like You,” Aftermath,” “Breathe,” and her lead single “Right Now.” She also took it back with her hit single “Let ‘Em Eat Cake” and a chilling “Thank You for Breaking My Heart.” The only thing better than listening to AJ’s music period is witnessing it live. The intimate setting of MilkBoy made the music that much more captivating.
In between songs Alexz joked around with the audience showing off her true humble and even sassy side. It was all love during the show with the songstress putting her heart on her guitar strings delivering an incomparable performance with some help from her brother Brendan’s band Dress Black. Dress Black has been touring with Alexz on her east coast stops, but the Philly show had a fun bonus because her other brother Garrison filled in as the drummer. During my interview with Johnson she said it was “fun” and “special” to be able to perform on stage with both of her brothers. Let’s just say all the Johnson kids are super talented.
As I left the venue still in awe by her performance I heard one friend telling another as they exited as well that she found a new fan in him all because of her stage presence. I’m telling you seeing this girl live has to go on your bucket list!
— Amber Josie (@a_josiex) September 17, 2017
A Stranger Time is currently out now and available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Spotify. #SupportIndieArtists and cop the album now! Be sure to follow Alexz Johnson on Twitter @AlexzJohnson and on Instagram @AlexzJohnsonOfficial to stay in the loop of all her upcoming projects.
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Photo: Brina Butler via Instagram