Music

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 inspiration...an 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 judejohnstone.com for information on all of Jude Johnstone's albums, concert information, and more.

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