Every year at Country Radio Seminar (CRS), our town – and the world really – is blessed with introductions to incredible new artists. This year was no exception! (Go CRS!)
New artist Paige King Johnson hails from a small town in North Carolina and came to Nashville to attend Belmont University and gain greater footing for her music. That decision was well made. Though feeling at times like she lives two different lives, one in the hard work of pursuing music in Nashville and one that is much quieter when she returns to her hometown to play music, the songstress has clearly defined her path.
Having been raised on legendary greats like Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Reba, LeeAnn Womack and others like them, her dream is to create music that always recognizes and honors the roots of traditional country music. Thus is revealed her fondness for fellow songstresses like Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves.
As she journeys through her music dreams, conquering first one goal and then another, Johnson says she feels amply supported. Coming from a large and caring family, she enthusiastically waxes on about how grateful she is to have a family who is very much behind her career choice and whose constant support and encouragement make even the hardest days enjoyable. Her parents even once traveled all the way to Kansas City with her when they heard she’d be opening for Neal McCoy, one of Country Music’s finest performers. Johnson said she learned a great deal from watching the star, gaining insight on everything from how graciously he treated his fans to how kind he was to all those who were working with him. He was truly a first rate performer and a great example.
Another great example for her seems to be her older sister, a pharmacist, who Johnson describes as “smart, beautiful and hard-working,” reminding the 23-year old recording artist that there is greatness waiting for those who are willing to make a plan, work hard and hang onto it. In other words, there is no backup plan. Music is Johnson’s life choice.
Well, Johnson has definitely planned and it’s working for her. Her recent single, “Water Down the Whiskey,” a song about just getting the break-up over with, has been cruising up the Music Row chart and is being played all over the United States including New York, Texas and California! The single was also Johnson’s first video – though one would never know it. With the help of director Josh Sikkema and his team in Los Angeles, Johnson says the video came off beautifully because Sikkema was “easy to work with, a great coach, and made me feel comfortable in front of the cameras.” It all just came together perfectly.
Speaking of great music mentors, here in Nashville Johnson works with Bernard Porter of PCG Companies. Says Johnson, “He helps coach me through everything, creates the opportunities that need to be created, and steers me in the right direction which I am so grateful for.”
What’s next for the aspiring artist?
Johnson notes with a little dismay that “many think country [music] is dead” and her hope is to breathe new life into the classic country roots she was raised on; the kind of music she heard from Loretta Lynn, LeeAnn Womack and others. For Johnson, that’s a huge piece of the puzzle and she wants to make sure when she’s writing and recording that she is creating something that shows her original country roots. She hopes to never “water down” what truly needs to be continually nurtured and cherished.
And what does Johnson hope to get out of this journey?
She laughingly says most writers and performers “have a sickness” – and “that we can’t help ourselves but to write songs and perform.” And that – though currently only 23 – even when she is 30, 40 or even 50 years down the road, if she is still feeling happy and fulfilled by this career choice, and if people are still showing up and connecting with her music, she will continue to do it. It’s more than a career for her – it’s a dream – her life’s purpose. Without a note of insincerity she says “I couldn’t sit behind a desk even if they paid me millions of dollars. It’s not who I am.”
Who is She?
Johnson is a young woman who is defined by family, faith and music. She’s moved along by inspiration. And those who inspire her? Yes, they include the great legends like Loretta and Patsy Cline and Waylon Jennings. But they also include Reba, Miranda, Kacey and others who are still rendering country music today while not fearing to show a few traditional roots.
Further, she is defined by her songwriting and is inspired by songwriting greats like Lori McKenna, who she deems a great example to follow – both as a writer and a performer. “In sitting down to try to write, I would rather write a hard-hitting, heart-wrenching Lori McKenna song over a party song; because I’m not that kind of performer – not that kind of person.” She jokingly adds: “I often tell people I’m an 85-year old woman in here – I have an old soul.”
And – she might be right.
Though young in the business she’s already working to find ways to give back to her community through music. And she has fallen in love with a volunteer project she does often for a non-profit called “East Trinity Eats.” The non-profit provides free meals every Tuesday at 6pm – and all are invited to gather and build community by eating together family style. (204 E Trinity Ln., Nashville and it’s Free for all!) Additionally, the organization honors its guests with musical performances, something Johnson says is the most rewarding thing she has done as an entertainer. Something she hopes to continue doing throughout her career…