‘Mu­sic feels like com­ing home’

Wolfville singer with pas­sion for mu­sic be­hind Paddy’s Song Writer’s Cir­cle event

Valley Journal Advertiser - - ARTS - KINGSCOUNTYNEWS.CA Sara. Ericsson@ kingscountynews. ca

Jade John­son is a song­writer who is work­ing to get her fel­low lyri­cists and mu­si­cians out of the wood­work and in front of a mic.

She’s started the Song Writer’s Cir­cle event held at Paddy’s Brew­pub in Wolfville, where she works as a bar­tender, and has watched as more and more mu­si­cians come out to share their songs and them­selves in front of oth­ers.

It’s some­thing she loves see­ing, hav­ing spent some time on the side­lines her­self. But now, she’s back in the spot­light, and won’t be leav­ing any time soon.

“Mu­sic feels like com­ing home for me. I was away for a while, but now I’m back,” she says.

Start­ing out with an old sound

John­son started singing as a kid, when she was of­ten picked for so­los in school.

She par­tic­i­pated in sev­eral choirs and mu­si­cal pro­duc­tions and was al­ways in­volved in some­thing with mu­sic or act­ing.

“You name it, I was in it,” she says.

She quickly grew to love what she calls that “big band” sound, lis­ten­ing with her mother to croon­ers like Frank Si­na­tra and Tony Ben­nett, and singing along to their clas­sic lyrics.

While in love with singing, that big sound soon made her want to pur­sue mu­sic of an­other kind: in­stru­men­tal.

John­son de­cided she wanted to be in a band in high school that played those same standards. Start­ing out with the sax­o­phone, she went on to play the flute, clar­inet, trom­bone, trum­pet and per­cus­sion.

“Once I started, it was so ad­dic­tive I couldn’t stop. I had to try this mu­sic, and that mu­sic, and it re­ally kept me go­ing,” she says.

The end of a re­la­tion­ship and be­gin­ning of a new one

It wasn’t un­til she was well into her mu­si­cal the­atre de­gree at Aca­dia that she learned the gui­tar and fell into song­writ­ing.

Gui­tar was the last in­stru­ment she learned. Feel­ing pushed to learn some­thing she could ac­com­pany her­self with while singing, she grav­i­tated to the stringed in­stru­ment.

John­son, who pur­sued Mu­si­cal The­atre at Aca­dia from 1999-2003, started play­ing clas­si­cal gui­tar with her then-boyfriend, who also hap­pened to dab­ble in song­writ­ing.

Tak­ing a cue from him, she grew to love both play­ing and com­pos­ing, since it gave her an­other way to ex­press her­self mu­si­cally.

When the re­la­tion­ship ended, John­son pressed on with her new­found love: writ­ing mu­sic.

“I had such a love for cre­at­ing. I couldn’t stop my­self – the lyrics just kept com­ing,” she says.

Af­ter fall­ing head over heels for it, John­son went on an al­most im­me­di­ate hia­tus when she found she had noth­ing left to write about.

Over the next 10 years, she trav­elled across Canada with her new life part­ner and now-husband with noth­ing but a back­pack and re­turned with an end­less sup­ply of in­spi­ra­tion for her mu­sic.

But get­ting back into the swing of things proved more dif­fi­cult than she’d an­tic­i­pated.

“I re­mem­ber the first time I per­formed at Night Kitchen in Wolfville. My fin­gers shook so bad I could barely pluck the strings – it was truly ter­ri­fy­ing, but that feel­ing I got as soon as I fin­ished made it so worth it,” she says.

“That eu­phoric feel­ing you get – that adren­a­line rush – is what keeps you go­ing.”

Bring­ing other song­writ­ers out from the mold

Song­writ­ing has be­come a cor­ner­stone of John­son’s life, and has seen her through a tur­bu­lent year, with the pass­ing of her fa­ther one year ago, and her grand­mother just three days later.

It of­fered her an av­enue to get her emo­tions out on pa­per, of­ten re­veal­ing things she never knew un­til she read them back to her­self.

That’s why she started Wolfville’s Song Writ­ers’ Cir­cle open mic at Paddy’s, which will cel­e­brate its one-year an­niver­sary April 4.

It’s an event where any­one is wel­come to per­form their orig­i­nal songs, whether they have lyrics or are in­stru­men­tal, in front of fel­low song­writ­ers, who are likely as ner­vous as they are, says John­son.

The event has grown grad­u­ally over its first year, with a steady stream of reg­u­lars and two to three new­com­ers each month.

“We’re kind of a quiet, se­cre­tive kind of peo­ple. It’s ter­ri­fy­ing putting so much of your­self on the line like that, and I def­i­nitely get that, so this is a lov­ing, safe space where peo­ple can get out and be heard,” she said.

“Once you get up there and play, you’ll find you won’t re­gret that.”

Find­ing the groove and ex­plor­ing her sound

John­son, whose sound is per­haps best de­scribed as folk with an edge, now counts nearly 20 orig­i­nal songs she feels com­fort­able play­ing in front of peo­ple.

She’s jumped back into per­form­ing, with a per­for­mance at the last Night Kitchen and at the re­cent Wolfville 125 cel­e­bra­tions held at the Wolfville Farm­ers’ Mar­ket.

She cred­its her open mic for help­ing her, along with the other per­form­ers, since it forces her to lead by ex­am­ple and sing her heart out in front of oth­ers.

Her move back to Wolfville af­ter her 10- year hia­tus was also in­stru­men­tal in bring­ing her back to her com­pos­ing pas­sion, with its strong com­mu­nity of mu­si­cians and cre­atives.

With her eyes and ears tuned to a new sound, com­bin­ing her new Gaelic skills and love for Celtic and punk mu­sic, her next project will re­volve around those unique sounds to­gether in a new fu­sion style.

John­son says she owes it to Wolfville, the com­mu­nity that’s so in­spired her since she started out here nearly two decades ago.

“Once I came back to this town, it was like all this love and mu­sic started to ebb up in me, and I was a lit­tle over­whelmed I wasn’t do­ing any­thing any­more. It gave me the kick in the butt I re­ally needed,” she says.

SARA ERICSSON

Jade John­son sits at Just Us! Cof­fee in Wolfville, where she likes to some­times write lyrics to her songs.

SARA ERICSSON

John­son per­forms an orig­i­nal song at the March 2018 Night Kitchen

MARK DAVID­SON

John­son de­scribes her sound as “folk with an edge.” She’s seen here play­ing at the Wolfville 125 cel­e­bra­tions at the Wolfville Farm­ers’ Mar­ket

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