Interview courtesy of Scott "Dr. Music" Itter. Originally posted on Dr. Music's Weekly Checkup: www.drmusic.org.
of you will remember her name, and a few more might remember her stunning
beauty, but anyone that watched the RockStar: INXS television reality
show consistently is sure to remember the husky and soulful voice of Deanna
Dr. Music: Your latest release, "GFN," is a title that stands for "God, Family, Nature," which sounds deeply personal. Can you tell me how you chose this title?
Deanna Johnston: "To be honest I didn't really even sit down and try to come up with a title, it just came to me, without really even trying or thinking about it. GFN, it's what's most important to me in life.......I can't even imagine going through life without having faith and a belief in God, or looking out my window and not seeing trees or hiking in the forest, or having a family support unit that I can always count on."
gonna plant my dreams and watch 'em grow in that Rare Desert Rain"
- lyrics from "Rare
"That CD was recorded and written at the very beginning of my career.
It was my first time in the studio actually, and my first time even writing
songs. So EVERYTHING, absolutely EVERYTHING has changed on all levels
for me!!! I'd say the only thing that hasn't changed is where I sing from,
emotionally speaking. I'm still not afraid to just let it out, straight
out of my gut, without editing, even if I hit some 'funk' along the way.
It's about being real and in the moment."
DM: You can pack only one CD in the suitcase. Which one is it?
"Well my iPod is very small, smaller than a CD, so I don't have to
answer this question, haa!! Very difficult to answer that. I'm really
not a FULL CD person actually. Not very many CD's keep my interest from
front to back ....only the old ones ....concept albums like 'Dark Side
of the Moon.' CD's today have some singles and then nothing else, in my
opinion. I do LOVE Ray LaMontagne CD's or Sarah McLachlan CD's. Love to
listen to an introspective CD the best......"
DJ: "Can I choose more than one?? Ha!! Bono - love his message, music, voice....Lenny Kravitz, same reason. Aretha Franklin. She's the best singer that ever lived, in my opinion ....has it all. I would love to be able to spend time with her and learn from her. I would LOVE to cut a song with Black Crowes, or Aerosmith, or Robert Plant."
DM: Did you watch any of the "RockStar: Supernova" show? If so, why do you think it wasn't as successful as the first season (RockStar: INXS) that you were involved with?
DJ: "It lacked heart. It came across cold and contrived to me. No one cared about why they were there, and no one seemed to want to be there (talking about the band Supernova). Seemed like the producers just chose contestants for TV, who all had the same vibe - dark hair and tattoos. It lacked heart and substance, I thought. INXS was a LOVED, very loved, respected band with a ton of great hits and songs to work with. The show overall had more of a family, love, respect sort of feel, with great music."
DM: Besides yourself, who do you feel INXS should have picked as their singer?
"Actually, I wouldn't have picked me either. I was so NOT right
for the band!! But I DID want to be in the Top 3. I think they chose the
right person, actually. JD, as wacky as he is in so many ways, is a great
front man for that band. Saw them live ....he was PERFECT."
DM: If I remember correctly, Dave Navarro offered to work with you when you were eliminated from the RockStar: INXS show. Have you talked with Dave about working together on any level?
DJ: "Yes, I reached out to him a few times, but never got any support back....I'll leave it at that. He was always very supportive and sooo cool on the show, however."
DM: You recently recorded with two legends of Rock and veterans of the music business, Howard Leese and Joe Lynn Turner. What were those experiences like, and was there any particular piece of advice or musical technique that was imparted to you that might change your perspective or your approach to the music business in the future?
DJ: "Well, first of all, working with both of them was an AMAZING experience, but terribly intimidating as a vocalist. I mean Howard ....guitar player for HEART ....hello!! Ann Wilson is one of THE, if not THE GREATEST female rock singers of all time, and here I am with my wacky voice singing a track for his record, knowing he's used to working with the best. And JLT, is another unbelievably GREAT singer. Again, one of the best rock voices ever. So I felt honoured and very small lacking ability at the same time!!! But, writing the two songs I did with each of them was a great experience. Somehow I came up with some really strong material!! Yeah!!!!"
DM: You are part of the L.A. Allstars, which is an entertainment group that is hired by large corporate clients such as Walt Disney, Sony, and a host of other huge conglomerates for parties. How does this gig differ from the traditional band gig? Which do you prefer? [Do you ever wish you were back with a traditional band like Mask, dressing up like Madonna again?!! : )]
"Haa!!! MASK, haven't heard that in a while. I wouldn't wanna be
back there in that band for all the money in the world!!! NO WAY.....YUCK.
LA ALLSTARS are a fantastic corporate band - top notch, pro players. I
feel lucky to be part owner of a group like that. Those gigs are typically
for more of a studio voice, more of a technical singer, but for some reason
the chemistry between myself and the two other fronts is brilliant and
works. That kind of a gig vs. a Deanna Johnston show is COMPLETELY different
in all ways. LA ALLSTARS covers any and all genres of music; 4 singers,
horn player, keys, choreography. My band is small, dirty and totally unrehearsed,
playing songs no one's ever heard!!!!! You get what you get!!! Ha!!!!
I'd rather be touring singing my own material, but singing is singing...."
DM: You are constantly singing songs from almost every genre of music - rock, soul, R&B, adult contemporary, country, etc. Do you ever feel like you need to define yourself as a singer?
"I did feel like that for many years, but because I never had a real
'artist' attitude or way of thinking, I didn't really know I hadn't defined
my voice yet. I've spent the majority of my music career singing covers,
making a living. Never needed to have MY sound or style, even though sooo
many years on stage singing so many different styles created one!!! I
think my style, sound, and image is pretty obvious at this point, finally.
Thankfully I GET it and it comes across!!!! If you come to one of my shows
and don't hear and see who I am, then you must be deaf and blind.....no
Where does Deanna Johnston's true musical passion lie? ......Celine Dion
or Pat Benatar? ........Janis Joplin or Aretha Franklin?
DM: What decade do you feel closest to musically - 60's, 70's, 80's, or 90's - and why?
DJ: "70's...most experimental, free, honest........loved the soul, energy and vibe of that time. And of course, the clothes were the best!!!! Ha!!!"
DM: I believe you went over to Afghanistan back in 2006 to perform for the Canadian troops. Tell me about that experience.
"Life changing, humbling....something everyone needs to experience
if given the chance. It was like being part of something way greater than
yourself or anything you've ever experienced. I'm going back in August,
but I'm not allowed to say where...."
DM: Even though the ratings were decent, NBC's game show, The Singing Bee, was cancelled. What was your experience on The Singing Bee like, and what explanation were you given for the show's cancellation?
DJ: "The ratings for Singing Bee were actually AMAZING when it first aired - 12million!!! It toasted it's competition 'Don't Forget The Lyrics,' actually. I was never told why it went off the air. There are at least 6-8 more episodes that we shot that are GREAT - way better than the first run - that have never aired. Maybe it'll come out again, who knows. For the record, that was the toughest, most stressful gig I've EVER done. Wayyyy more stressful than RockStar. I'd rather not get into why!!! Ha!! Let's just say that behind the scenes was very challenging...."
DM: What's the next step for Deanna Johnston?
DJ: "Something that is great, and terribly wrong with the music biz, is you literally never know what's around the corner. Could be another amazing opportunity to sing on TV and make a butt load of money, or getting a record deal ....or it could be nothing for months and months and then wondering what the crap I'm doing still pursuing it!!! Ha!!! I just finished my EP, 'GFN' and trying to give it a chance to be heard by record companies here in Nashville. Doors will open when they're supposed to; trick is to not try and open the wrong ones. In the meantime, my songwriting partner, Shawn Rorie, and I are going to start working on another EP. I'd love to be able to do one every 6 months. I really really wanna tour this year as an artist, but not sure yet how to execute that!!!! And I really really really wanna go to Europe and tour and travel. Again, not sure yet how to make that happen ....so WISH ME LUCK!!!! Let's see what else.... Learning the guitar currently ....love that ....wanna become a better songwriter and singer. That's a weird thing to 'learn.' Not even sure if it's learnable, ya know what I mean, but wanna feel myself elevate."
This is usually the
spot where I thank all those involved with making the interview happen;
and in this case, it was just myself and Deanna Johnston hammering out
a schedule. I would like to send a big thank you to Shawn Rorie for getting
up at the crack of dawn to play guitar for us, though! But I just can't
find words that express enough appreciation for the hospitality that Deanna
has shown me and my family. Inviting us into her home and performing privately
for the Dr. Music website is something that truly touches my heart.