Tacoma singer-songwriter Stephanie Anne Johnson is riding mighty high as 2013 draws to a close, following several appearances on NBC-TV's “The Voice” and the timely showcase of her powerhouse vocals on her eclectic third album, “Hollatchagurl.”
Millions saw her on “The Voice” season finale earlier this week, but Tacoma fans are especially giddy for her homecoming show, which is set for Dec. 28 at Jazzbones. We caught up with her last week amid a whirlwind of activity.
Tacoma Weekly: I think you said you're down in L.A. What are you doing?
Stephanie Anne Johnson: I'm flying down to L.A. tomorrow. We're filming the finale for “The Voice,” which will air on the 17th. (Editor's note: If you missed the finale you can watch it on Hulu.com.)
The thing that I love best about music is that music is a universal language; and so it brings together a lot of different people from different walks of life. “The Voice” is like that, too. I met performers from all over the U.S. that have different backgrounds.
TW: Are there people from the show you've kept in touch with? Or do you text people before they're about to go on and that kind of thing?
SAJ: I try not to because I know how – right before you're about to do something big like being on “The Voice” – you get a lot of phone calls. You get a lot of text messages from people you haven't heard from in years. I like to respect that artists' time and need to prepare and really focus. But there are a couple of people from the show that I really felt a kinship with, that I really made friends with, and so I'm really excited to see them – especially the folks on Team Christina. We were a big deal this year. I think we were some of the most talented folks to ever come out of “The Voice.”
TW: What's something behind the scenes on “The Voice” that was maybe just different from what you expected?
SAJ: The thing that was shocking for me was just how theatrical things are, just how far things go with lighting and makeup and shoes and all these things. But there's still a stage manager and there's still grips, and there's still all these things you're used to from actual theater. There are people everywhere. There is no place to be alone when you are in a reality television show kind of world. Anywhere there can be a camera there's a camera.
TW: So you can't pick your nose or anything.
SAJ: Oh, good lord, no. They have people for that. (Laughs)
TW: What's different since you've been on the show? Do people stop you on the street?
SAJ: If I go to the grocery store or to the bank – or to the dentist this morning – I have to plan on a little extra time to talk to people. … And I'm (OK with) that. Like if people want a picture or want to talk to me or if they just want to stare at me quietly, whatever, I'm into it. That's fine. (Laughs.)
TW: I guess as long as you don't have the TMZ people showing up yet.
SAJ: Yeah, that's not a concern. (Laughs) We're also here in the Pacific Northwest, and people are so polite around here. So I've never had to deal with anybody digging through my garbage.
TW: You gotta be careful. Those guys are spreadin' out. But before you went on the show you were raising money and working on your new album.
SAJ: We were able to get the album pressed. … Sam O'Hara, she did all the wonderful cover art, the designs for the album. So that helped me. And it also didn't hurt that I was about to be on national television when it came time to get some good players together. I borrowed a couple members from Vicci Martinez's band because she has some of the greatest musicians in the Pacific Northwest in her toolbox.
The CD got released right before I started to go on “The Voice,” and it's done pretty well. … It's all right there (on iTunes) so that if people liked “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree” they can also be like, “Oh, she writes her own music, too? Great, let's get it.”
TW: Have you seen a huge spike in sales since you've been on the show?
SAJ: I don't know that there's been a spike yet, but I have really enjoyed playing a lot of shows here in the Pacific Northwest. I've been out to Gig Harbor. I've been out to the Auburn area. I've been up to Everett. I'm going to go up to Leavenworth on the 21st, on the Christmas train (the Alki Tours Snow Train.) So I'm really excited to play gigs like this and sell more CDs than I normally would and sign CDs and have conversations with people and answer questions people might have about the show.
TW: What do you have planned for the show at Jazzbones?
SAJ: It's gonna be with a longtime collaborator of mine, a guy named Steve Stefanowicz who's pretty popular in the Pacific Northwest. His band, Smilin' Jack, are going to back me for that event. But, if you come early, you'll also get to hear a little bit of what Smilin' Jack does.
So we're gonna play some songs off of my album, and they're gonna play some stuff I did on “The Voice.” And we're also going to do some of my favorite cover tunes – rock n' roll tunes and soul tunes. So I'm really excited to kind of show you the inside of my brain that way.
Stephanie Anne Johnson in concert