Verse-Chorus-Verse: An Interview with Jude Johnstone

Artist/producer PC Muñoz mines for gems and grills the greats.

"On a good day

In the morning light

All the wreckage

Is out of sight

And I know it's gonna be all right....

And I'll get some sleep tonight"

-- Jude Johnstone, "On a Good Day"

"On a Good Day", the title track to Jude Johnstone's 2005 gentle gem of an album, is a quietly powerful little tune. It's the kind of song that gets you happily moving and swaying... just before it breaks your heart. In that way, the song is an apt embodiment of this particular songwriter's impressively rich gifts, which include a knack for lovely and singable melodies, a deeply felt and touchingly expressed melancholic bent, and a unique, earnest and heartfelt vocal delivery.

Jude Johnstone is hardly a newcomer to the national scene; her songs have been recorded by folks like Emmylou Harris, Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt, Trisha Yearwood, and Johnny Cash. Although fellow songwriters and musicians have known about Johnstone for years, she, like many songwriters who do a lot of work behind the scenes, is still negotiating her place in the music world as a solo artist. For folks looking for the real thing -- a contemporary songwriter who has something to say and the skill to say it well, via songs with an undeniable emotional power -- she's definitely not to be missed.

On a Good Day is a great place to start for those looking to get acquainted with Jude Johnstone. From there, it's easy to go back to her acclaimed debut album, and then forward to her most recent release of jazz and blues-influenced numbers, Mr. Sun.

What was the first song you fell in love with, and what is your current relationship to the piece?

McCartney's "Yesterday". It was the most perfectly written song I had ever heard. Maybe it still is. And that voice, that band... well, it changed a lot of people's lives.

Who is your favorite "unsung" artist or songwriter, someone who you feel never gets their due? Talk a little bit about him/her.

That's tough cause there are quite a few...but who first comes to mind is my friend, Larry John McNally, who has written songs for many great artists and released some stunning recordings of his own. And Valerie Carter, whose voice is, and always will be, utterly captivating to me.

Is there an artist, genre, author, filmmaker, etc. who/which has had a significant impact/influence on you, but that influence can't be directly heard in your music?

You mean like the Dalai Lama or Dr. Zhivago or something like that? I was greatly inspired by all things melancholy, whether it be music, movies, or philosophy. Every artist's saddest song would always be my favorite, whomever it might be. So I guess it was more the 'ballad' form in a broad sense that influenced me more than any particular singer/songwriter although there were plenty of singers that influenced me apart from songwriting.

Do you view songwriting/music-making as a calling, a gig, a hobby,other...?

For me, it was a loud and inescapable calling... a never-ending distraction... a constant on-going challenge (especially for those close to me)... the proverbial "blessing and curse"... and not much of a "get rich quick" scheme. But I still wouldn't trade it for the world.

Name one contemporary song that encourages you about the future of songwriting/pop music.

My 14 year old daughter Rachel's song "Bridge to Nowhere", which you haven't heard yet, but you will.

Check out for information on all of Jude Johnstone's albums, concert information, and more.






Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.


The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.


Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.


King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.


Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.


Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.


Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.


The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.


Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.


A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.