In six days, Carolyn Dawn Johnson is about to load her two toddlers on a bus and launch a 21-day Canadian tour that stops at the Arden Theatre on Friday, Oct. 8. And she’s a bit on edge.
“I’m nervous. I hope they [fans]haven’t forgotten me,” says Johnson. “Time is very important in the music business. You can be gone, and in the blink of an eye there’s someone waiting to fill your place.”
In August, the country singer released her fourth album, Love Rules — the first since 2006’s Love and Negotiation. And she’s all too aware that since her hiatus, the fickle music industry has filled the vacuum with Taylor Swift and clone wannabes. Understandably, she’s jittery about fan response.
Four years ago the multi award-winning singer stepped aside from the music business to have a family with husband Matt Fisher. In the decade prior, Johnson had ridden the highs touring with Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, Alan Jackson and Kenny Chesney. But there was also the heartbreak and anger fuelled by a label reneging on a contract to distribute her album.
The time was right for a break. “I put family first and I felt really good about this decision,” says the Grande Prairie-born, Westlock-raised singer who now calls Nashville home.
Instead of detracting from music, motherhood allowed her to tap into a new depth of emotion and the songs kept percolating. “I experienced a different kind of love, and now there’s so many ways I can write about it.”
The record’s first single, Let Me Introduce Myself, ironically was intended for another artist’s record. However, the sentiment perfectly expresses a way for Johnson to re-establish herself to fans.
On the other hand, the title track, an older co-write with Gene Nelson, is a “torchy” acoustic number that articulates Johnson’s philosophy of life. “It turned out to be prophetic. I’ve been married eight years and I’m a believer, if we let it, love rules.”
On a different vein, Bitterness, co-written with girlfriend Kate York, was inspired after a label back-pedalled on a distribution agreement.
“You get tired of fighting to be heard. It was disappointing when the label backtracked. But I didn’t want to be bitter. This is not me. This is not my personality. But I was saying ‘I’m not going to let you get the best of me.’”
Johnson, who is drawn to the bittersweet, also includes Stop for Me, another co-written effort with Natalie Hemby that evokes a poetic quality using a train metaphor. “The premise is that the train didn’t stop for me. Everybody has something we work toward that we hope will turn out. But sometimes that doesn’t happen and this is about disappointment.”
For the Arden concert, Johnson will perform with her Nashville band — Nolan Werner (bass), Ricky Free (drums), Cory Ishee (guitar) and Derek Wells (mandolin/guitar).