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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Artist Of The Week - Lara Johnston
Monday, January 18, 2010

Every once in a blue moon a voice really impresses me. I mean REALLY impresses me, like snaps my head around to hear who it’s coming from because I can’t believe the amazing sound I’m hearing. When I clicked on Lara Johnston’s website and her song "Last Man Standing" started playing it elicited that kind of reaction from me. A hard guitar led things off and then the vocals kicked in. They were big and robust and undeniably soulful. One verse was exactly how long it took for me to know I wanted to feature her as an Artist Of The Week. The daughter of The Doobie Brothers’ lead singer Tom Johnston, 19 year old Lara comes by her musical chops honestly, and this week I caught up with her to find out more about growing up in the industry, developing her own soulful sound, and why she chose the indie route over some of the other opportunities that might have been afforded to her.

Adam Bernard: It’s become rare to hear a new artist who is in their teens and not have them associated with Disney, Nickelodeon, or American Idol. Why did you decide to go the indie route?
Lara Johnston: I think that those are some great ways to get exposure, and obviously those are big machines to have behind you and that’s a really great thing, but I was just never really interested in doing it that way. I saw how with Disney and Nickelodeon artists, they kind of control what you do artistically, and I never wanted to be a puppet in that way. I’m not saying all their artists all are, but I think that can happen and I didn’t want that to happen to me. For American Idol, I think that’s another scenario where you’re kind of limited in terms of what you can do. I was sort of interested in doing it, but I did this other show called Rock The Cradle (MTV's show that featured the sons and daughters of famous musicians), and it was put on by the same company, Fremantle Media, and they said it would be a conflict of interest if I did American Idol. The indie way is harder, obviously, but you have a lot more control, and say, in how you want your music to be presented. You can write your own songs and say what you feel and really express yourself in an honest way. You’re not always gonna get celebrity right away, sometimes it never comes, but I think it’s worth a shot and I’m just tryin.

Adam Bernard: You are young and you have a BIG voice. I want to say it sounds “adult,” but I know that’s pretty vague. How would you describe your vocals?
Lara Johnston: I guess I would describe my vocals as soul. I grew up listening to soul music and those are the artists who I’ve kind of modeled my voice after. Since I started really honing in on my vocals I’ve been listening a lot of people like Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, also Beyonce, I love Beyonce, I love Christina (Aguilera). I listen to as many great female singers as I can and really try and take what I can from them while also wanting to come up with my own sound. I also like a lot of funk music like James Brown. I like that really cool, fiery, percussive element to his singing.

Adam Bernard: With James Brown as an inspiration will we one day see you in a cape?
Lara Johnston: That would be a blast. He did such a fun stage show. That would be really fun. Maybe someday.

Adam Bernard: How has being the daughter of a Doobie Brother affected your career?
Lara Johnston: It’s been an amazing opportunity to witness firsthand some of the aspects of this business, and also just the power of music and what it can do. From the time I was very young I’ve been going on tour with my dad and watching his shows every night and witnessing how much power he can exert over a crowd and how he can move people, how the whole band can. It’s been inspiring to me and after so many years of being around that I can’t image doing anything else.

Adam Bernard: Is potentially being in your father’s shadow a big concern for you?
Lara Johnston: That’s a constant struggle for me in terms of how I present myself because at this stage I’m still a new artist so people are gonna associate me with my dad and while I’m incredibly proud of him, I love his music and I love what he does, I do want to strike out on my own.

Adam Bernard: Alright, let’s talk about how you’ve been striking out on your own. Tell me about what you’ve been working on.
Lara Johnston: I’ve been doing a lot of writing and recording lately and I recently did some great shows. In October I did a show that was a benefit for Project Angel Food in Los Angeles, which is a charity that brings food and supplies to people who are shut ins because of life threatening illnesses. That was a really great show, it raised a lot of money for the charity and people like Neil Patrick Harris, Deborah Gibson and Michael Chiklis were there. I also had two shows these past few weeks. I had one that was a holiday jam, and that was also a benefit. It featured Narada Michael Walden and Carlos Santana. Then I had a show at a club called Slims in San Francisco, which was my first club show.

Adam Bernard: OK, I’m slightly jealous. You met Debbie Gibson, who every guy my age had a crush on growing up, and Neil Patrick Harris, who I think is amazing.
Lara Johnston: They’re really cool people. Debbie Gibson is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I might be working with her. We were talking about co-writing. I think that would be really fun.

Adam Bernard: You’ve been in the music world since you were born, so I’m wondering, in what ways do you feel like you’re a regular 19 year old girl?
Lara Johnston: I feel I’m totally regular in that I’m a total goofball. I’m kind of a nerd. I love the show Lost, I love The Office. I love reading books. I’m sort of a silly person. Some people who are in the entertainment industry are kind of a little bit nutty and a little bit high on their own hype, if you know what I mean.

Adam Bernard: You mean like the artists who claim to need 74 scented candles arranged in a semicircle as part of their backstage/green room requirements?
Lara Johnston: Right, what’s that about? Or only green M&Ms. It’s silly stuff like that. I understand that maybe those are people who are super famous, but still, I don’t think even if I made it big I would ever get that crazy.

Adam Bernard: Finally, speaking of making it big, when can people expect to hear an album from you?
Lara Johnston: There isn’t a specific drop date just yet, but my demo is available and anybody who wants it can just send me their mailing address and I can send them a copy. My songs are going to be on iTunes very soon, but people should check my website for updates and I’m constantly posting live performances on YouTube, so it’s in motion.

Related Links

Website: larajohnston.com
MySpace: myspace.com/larajohnston
YouTube: youtube.com/larajohnston


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:23 AM  
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