The life and career of hit singer-songwriter Carolyn Dawn Johnson has been a steady climb to the top, as she remains a staple in the country music industry nearly 20 years after setting out to pursue her dreams in Nashville.
Just four short years after making the 60-hour drive from Vancouver, BC Canada to Music City U.S.A., Johnson scored her first chart-topping hit as a songwriter when Chely Wright took “Single White Female” all the way to No. 1. The success then led to publishing deals and cuts with several other artists like Patty Loveless, Mindy McCready, Kathy Mattea, Pam Tillis, SheDaisy Lila McCann, Suzy Bogguss, Linda Davis, Jo Dee Messina & more. Johnson was named Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year in 2000 by Music Row, and has continued to carry that title well as one of the town’s most loved and respected tunesmiths around.
“I love this town and all the creative people that really make it happen,” says Johnson. “I never seem to run out of inspiration. The music community has always included me and uplifted me, and I’m extremely blessed and thankful.”
After inking a record deal with Sony’s Arista Nashville in 2000, Johnson produced music of her own with the release of her debut album titled Room With a View. The critically acclaimed project spawned the Top 5 smash “Complicated,” as well as other hit singles such as “Georgia” and “I Don’t Want You to Go.” During that time, Johnson criss-crossed the country on many high-profile tours as the opening act for the likes of Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban. Her albums to follow included Dress Rehearsal in 2004, and her independently released Love & Negotiation in 2006 and Love Rules in 2010.
Besides laying down vocals for her own albums, Johnson’s angelic voice can also be heard on several outside projects with Martina McBride, Jana Kramer, Johnny Reid, Blake Shelton, Sheryl Crow, Kenny Rogers, Loretta Lynn, Mindy McCready and Patty Loveless. In addition to the side work with other artists, Johnson has also garnered such elite titles as the Canadian Country Music Awards’ Producer of the Year in 2004 and 2009 for her hand in producing one of many Canadian-based projects in recent years.
Over time, Johnson’s focus shifted back to what drew her to Nashville – her love and passion for songwriting. Johnson’s unique way of expressing words has made her a writer in town that aspiring newcomers hope to shape their own careers after.
“I’ve always wanted to be an artist who writes things that are real to me,” Johnson says of her songwriting. I just want to be honest in my music. It also brings me great joy to help other artists find what they want to say.”
Through it all, the multi-talented Johnson continues to chip away at her own craft, while spending time throughout the year on the road singing background vocals for Martina McBride (who she spent much time on the road with back in the beginning stages of her own career), in between doing her own headlining dates within the U.S. and Canada. To date, Johnson has racked up 17 CCMA’s, including the title for reigning Female Vocalist of the Year, as well as being crowned the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Female Vocalist in 2002. The American Music Awards hailed her as Favorite New Country Artist the following year.
“I like to say that I’ve had many bonuses to my dreams … things, people, events and accolades, in addition to and off the beaten path from my original goals,” notes Johnson. “I’ve certainly gone further then I actually imagined, but that doesn’t make me stop in my tracks. I just want to keep doing this for the rest of my life. Music truly is what makes my world go round.”