Carolyn Dawn Johnson (born , 1971 in Grande Prairie, Alberta) is a Canadian Juno award winning country music singer and songwriter. Since the 2001 release of her debut album Room with a View, she has seen success in both her native Canada and in the United States. To date, Carolyn has recorded three studio albums, of which two have been certified gold in Canada.
Johnson's first two singles ("Georgia" and "Complicated") were both Number One hits on the Canadian country music charts, and the latter was a Top Ten hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks (now Hot Country Songs) charts. Although her next single ("I Don't Want You to Go") was also a Top Ten in the U.S., her chart success there would wane not long afterward, though she has had continued success in her native Canada.
Early life and music
Carolyn Dawn Johnson was born in Grande Prairie, Alberta to John Johnson, a farmer and operator of a seed-cleaning business, and Loretta Johnson, a supervisor of a home for senior citizens. Johnson was raised on a farm in Deadwood, Alberta with two brothers, late older brother Derwin, who died due to an undisclosed illness on Christmas Eve in 1998, and brother Greg.
Johnson was passionate about music from a young age and even asked her mother how anyone could live without it. She sang at a church and started playing the piano at the age of five, learning from her pastor's wife, Evangeline Thiessan. Her parents played country music records by Jim Reeves and Don Williams at home and as she got older, her musical interests diversified as she listened to artists like ABBA, Charley Pride, Fleetwood Mac and Marty Stuart among others. The family later moved to Westlock, Alberta and Johnson attended RF Staples High School there. During her high school years, she learned to play the clarinet, flute and saxophone. She kept up her piano lessons largely in part due to Thiessan sending books and encouraging letters to her. Her high school teachers were not as encouraging and caused her to turn away from music for a while and turn to science, a period in her life which she called "a stain in her heart".
After graduating high school, believing that she could not make a living as a musician, Johnson attended Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia studying biology and a year later she was in Edmonton, Alberta studying education. During her college years, she frequently sat-in with local bands at night and encouragement from them caused her to think that maybe she could have a career in the music industry. At the age of 20, she taught herself to play the guitar and realizing that her true calling was in music, she went to Vancouver, British Columbia and there she attended Columbia Academy and learned the technical aspects of the music industry. Johnson focussed on songwriting in her spare time and ordered a video featuring songwriters from Nashville to learn more about songwriting and through this video, she joined the Nashville Songwriters Association International. In 1994, Johnson headed to Nashville after calling her mother and saying, "I'm going big. I'm going for the big picture."
In Nashville, Johnson attended songwriting workshops and writer's night events. In 1997, Johnson moved permanently to Nashville after obtaining a work visa and later that year, she signed with Patrick Joseph Music as a songwriter. Her songwriting demos captured the attention of many record label executives and some of the songs she wrote were recorded by Patty Loveless, Suzy Bogguss, Kathy Mattea, Mindy McCready, Jo Dee Messina, Linda Davis and Chely Wright. Johnson's breakthrough as a songwriter came in 1999 when "Single White Female", a song she co-wrote with Shaye Smith and recorded by Wright, became a number one hit on country radio. This song became Johnson's first number one hit as a songwriter. Another one of her songs, "Downtime", recorded by Messina, also became a top five hit. In 2000, Johnson was named "Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year" by Music Row Magazine.
Singing and recording career
In 1999, Johnson started her career as a solo artist. Her success as a songwriter led her to a record deal with the Arista Nashville record label. Paul Worley, a producer with whom Johnson was working, was also working with Martina McBride at that time and asked Johnson to sing background vocals on McBride's songs. McBride subsequently invited Johnson to go on tour with her as a backup singer and guitarist. Johnson toured with McBride for over a year and during this time she was also hard at work writing songs for her debut album.
Room with a View
In 2001, Johnson went on the Girls Night Out Tour opening for high-profile stars Sara Evans, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire and Jamie O'Neal. Later that year, Johnson released her debut album Room with a View in Canada. She co-wrote all 13 songs and co-produced the album. An American release of the album followed a few months later, though only containing the first 11 songs due to differences in the contracts. The album was well-received as it sold a little less than 18,000 copies in its first week and debuted at #8 on the US country sales chart. It became Arista Nashville's highest debuting album by a new artist since SoundScan was used to track record sales. The album went on to be certified gold in Canada in a few months.
The first two singles from the album, "Georgia" and "Complicated", were both hits in the United States, with the latter reaching #5 on the country charts. The year ended with Johnson receiving a record-breaking 10 nominations from the Canadian Country Music Association, with "Georgia" and "Complicated" competing against each other for "Single of the Year", "Song of the Year" and "Video of the Year". Johnson went on to win five awards, including her first "Female Artist of the Year" award.
Johnson went on tour with Alan Jackson and Kenny Chesney in 2002. Her next single, "I Don't Want You to Go", was a top 10 hit in both Canada and the US. Subsequent singles did well on the Canadian charts but not on the American charts. Johnson was nominated for five CCMA awards that year and won three, including her second consecutive "Female Artist of the Year". She also won a Juno award for "Best Country Artist" and an Academy of Country Music award for "Top New Female Artist" that year.
In 2003, Johnson went on her first co-headlining tour with Keith Urban. While on tour, she was once again writing songs, this time for her second album. Urban provided his voice for a song on that album.
In 2004, Johnson released her second album, Dress Rehearsal, in which she co-produced and wrote 11 of the 12 songs. The album debuted at number nine on Billboard's top country albums charts. The first single from the album, "Simple Life", did well on both the Canadian and the American country charts. This was the only song on the album that she did not write. The second single, "Die of a Broken Heart", also did well on the Canadian country charts but not on the American charts. Later that year, she received seven CCMA award nominations and won five awards.
Johnson left Arista Nashville in 2005 because "what they wanted her to do wasn't her."
Love & Negotiation
Love & Negotiation, Johnson's 3rd album, was released in Canada under the Angeline Entertainment label in 2006. As with her first album, she wrote all 12 songs, but this time she produced the entire album by herself. The album was set to be released under the Equity Music Group label in Summer of 2007 in the US. However, it was never released and Johnson left Equity in 2008.
In September 2007, Johnson was named Female Vocalist of the Year at the 2007 CCMA Awards.
Johnson has been married to Matt Fisher since 2003. The couple welcomed a daughter, Abigail Grace Fisher on September 16th, 2008.