Photos provided via PR team
Canadian country music star and hit singer-songwriter Carolyn Dawn Johnson, made her highly anticipated return with the release of her new single “Road Blocks” on October 20th via all streaming platforms.
Produced by Carolyn and written by Carolyn, Jennifer Lynn Kennard and Oscar Charles, “Road Blocks” encapsulates the resilience and determination needed to overcome life’s obstacles and push through those roadblocks. This electrifying song is more than a drum-thumping, guitar-driven, feel-good jam; it’s an anthem of empowerment amidst personal struggles.
20 years after her initial trend-setting success and breakout hit “Complicated”, Carolyn Dawn Johnson remains a force and go-to in the country music industry and a live performer that leaves the audience hanging on every word. With 15 Top 20s and 10 Top 10s to date, she has racked up an impressive 17 Canadian Country Music Awards (CCMA), a JUNO Award, and was crowned the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Female Vocalist in 2002. The following year, she was also recognized as The American Music Awards Favourite New Country Artist.
Johnson was named Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year in 2000 by Music Row and has continued to carry that title well. She has penned many songs for other artists including the #1 song “Single White Female” for Chely Wright, and a new song on Chris Stapleton’s upcoming November release. Her angelic voice has also graced numerous outside projects with some of country music’s biggest names, including Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Blake Shelton, and many more.
Before the pandemic, Carolyn spent a few years writing, recording and touring with the all-acoustic band JD & The Straight Shot, based out of New York. Continuing to do some of her own solo shows, she is also currently performing on a variety of dates with her talented friends Jamie O’Neal and Anita Cochran, calling themselves the 3 Blondes Rock into a Room, as well as opening, singing and playing guitar for the legendary Martina McBride. Showing no signs of slowing down, Carolyn is also working on putting the finishing touches on her new album slated to be released later this year / early next.
I had the opportunity to chat with Carolyn, about her musical journey so far, what fans can expect from the new single and more.
Kat: Can you share with us a bit about yourself and your music journey so far?
Carolyn: I am a small town farm girl from Northern Alberta. Went to college a couple years after graduating & thought I needed to take some time to really dig deep and figure out what it was I really wanted to do. I felt like I was spinning my wheels in college. During that time I had to figure out which direction I was going to go. I decided to focus solely on my music. It was a crazy decision at the time, but so thankful I shifted gears. There are so many tidbits along the way in my journey, but I’ll skip to eventually making the move to Nashville, which was the dream place to be. I figured if that was really where I wanted to be, then I needed to make my way and start at the bottom of the ladder there and get working. Once I got to Nashville, I knew I was not quite ready to meet with people in the business here, so I just started immersing myself in the community. I started singing demos for nothing, playing at every open mic night, writing songs and eventually got a publishing deal which led to songs being recorded by other artists and then eventually a record deal. I have had so many incredible things happen in my career. Things that dreams are truly made of. I’ve sung with heroes, opened for heroes, written with some of the best in the community, produced great talent, sung for little and big crowds, on great records of others. All in all, I have been able to make music for a living for most of my adult life now. Getting to sing my own music for people that can relate and sing along has been wonderful. I got my record deal with Arista Records in 1998 and my full length album “Room With a View” came out in 2001. My first single was Georgia off that album and it came out in the fall of 2000. I”ve made 4 full length albums total so far and am working on album #5 and it’s almost done. I’ve had many ups and downs, lots of ebb and flow and I consider myself very blessed to still be playing shows for people out there and making music for a living. I truly love what I do and am very grateful. I sing harmonies on peoples records, tour with others as well as myself, produce and raise 2 littles (not so little anymore) while I’m doing it.
Kat: Can you share the inspiration behind your new single “Road Blocks”?
Carolyn: Road Blocks is a fun, rockin’ anthem-like song that sounds like it’s just a feel good song, but when we wrote it, we wanted it to be more than that. It has so many road references and travelling, a bunch of the literal stuff to make a point, but it’s really about the road of life. We all have things that show up in front of us, that most often are not expected or wanted, that try to keep us from being the person we want to be or are meant to be. You have to decide if you are just going to turn around and forget about that dream, or if you are going to find a way to get through them or go around and still head in the direction you want to go. The song is about recognizing that they are there, the Road Blocks, it’s a part of life, but you have to keep your eye on the prize and not let them stop you.
Kat: What do you hope fans take from the track?
Carolyn: I really hope that fans feel inspired by the song, and that it makes them smile. Yes, I want them to turn it up and it be their pump up song for the day, or night, or going out, or their roll the windows down song. I want it to bring them happiness and joy and make them feel like they can take on anything that is trying to slow them down or change the course of their dreams.
Kat: What do you find is the most challenging part of your creative process?
Carolyn: I think the most challenging part of my creative process is finishing. If we were talking about collages, I would say that I could collage on and on and on. There would be another word, another direction, no real end. Finishing a song and wrapping it up and saying, I’ve written it the best I can at this moment in time is one thing, but then recording it and going to put it out in the world is another. A song can be re-written as many times as you want when it’s just you and the song, but when you put it into the world, it is what it is once it’s out there, no changes. So finishing a single or record can be paralyzing for me at times. I want so badly to be done, and yet it’s one of the hardest things to do, put the final touches on it and say nothing else needs changing or fixing or tweaking or re-written. It’s at its finest and I can move on.
Kat: What has been a career highlight for you so far? What have you learned along the way?
Carolyn: It’s really difficult for me to think of just one career highlight so far as I feel that I have had so many. Some of my touring moments have been highlights for sure, like: The Girls Night Out tour in 2001 where I toured with Reba, Martina McBride, Sara Evans and Jamie O’Neal. I had a few really monumental award wins in my time at the Canadian Country Music Awards and the Academy of Country Music Awards. Getting to tour with Martina and Miranda Lambert at different times in their bands has been an absolute treat. Singing on the Grand Ole Opry with Charlie Pride (twice) was huge for me. He was my very first concert when I was 9 years old in Grande Prairie and 2 years later I was singing with him on the Opry. Another story, kind of like that, that was a highlight for me was just this past year, I was singing with Martina, and we were all out on the Judds Final Tour. It was the tour that the Judds were officially going out on, then we lost Naomi. Wynonna still took the tour out. At the end of it, the very last night, Wynonna and Martina invited me out on stage for the encore of the song “Why Not Me’ I was out on stage with them both as well as Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlile. 36 years prior to that, I sang “Why Not Me” in a local talent contest with a friend of mine and we moved on to the Calgary Stampede (where we lost). It was incredible to be on the stage with Wy singing it. Collaborating with some of my hero’s fills my heart greatly. And honestly, collaborating with other great artists, whether they are just peers and colleagues or hero’s, I love all of that. I love creating with other people and I get to do a lot of that.
Things I have learned along the way: it takes so many people working together to make things happen in the music business, and find some good ones to work with. Passion and Heart really do matter. Your gut feeling is there for a reason, pay attention to it. If you aren’t willing to work for it, just remember, someone else is. You can control what you put into it, but you cannot control the outcome. Most people are good and just want to be part of something special. Anyone who really tries to make it in music is someone I would consider a friend, I know it’s not easy and it takes a lot that most people do not see, I see you and I like you and I will champion anyone who works hard and has reverence for the music, the people who came before them and is vulnerable enough to be themselves and go for it. All of this takes time, real time, good things take time, let it breathe.
Kat: What else can fans expect from you for the balance of 2023?
Carolyn: The rest of the 2023 year I am going to be focusing on wrapping up the whole album and getting ready for 2024. I will do some local shows around Nashville while I do that, and prepare for hopefully a great touring year in 2024. I will fit some songwriting in during that time, like I always do, in between the album recording and mixing and try to stay present on social media to let the fans know what is up and connect with them. I’m so excited to share all this music, I am looking forward to keeping everyone informed and involved!
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