“It’s a record I would listen to,” says musician Steph Johnson, speaking of her new album, Music is Art, adding, “Sometimes you make an album and you’re, like, ‘Okay, cool,’ but you don’t want to listen to it. There are so many nice grooves on this one, whenever it comes on the radio I’m down with it.”
...finishing touches in the studio for new album Music Is Art.
The record represents a new direction for the singer/guitarist, who enlisted the Grammy-winning producer Kamau Kenyatta to helm the sessions. “This is different. I mean, Nature Girl [Johnson’s previous, self-produced effort] was recorded in two days. The new one was done in multiple sessions, with maybe two months just devoted to the vocals. I’d never done that, and I’m glad I had that opportunity.”
Seeking a collaboration with Kenyatta was intimidating for Johnson. “It took me about a year to even work up the courage to ask him; and a year after that before I had the nerve to go to his house and play my songs and see what he had to say.
“But the experience of working with him was so much better than I even expected. Any kind of worry that I might have had about working with someone so talented and creative just kind of melted away after the first few sessions. Having him believe in me and having his support every step of the way meant so much.”
Kenyatta’s touch involved a lot of preparation. “There were a couple of months of pre-production where we would get together at his house and work on arrangements and rehearsing those arrangements,” says Johnson of the sessions that combined her working trio with bassist Rob Thorsen, drummer Fernando Gomez, and guest appearances from Kenyatta, trumpeter Curtis Taylor, organist Ondre Pivec, and Earth, Wind & Fire guitarist G. Moe.
After a short California tour, Johnson’s plans for the future involve making some professional videos to support the record. “We decided to focus the rest of the year on shooting quality videos, which I’ve never done beyond simple iPhone stuff.”
1955 Julian Avenue, Logan Heights
The singer also has a multimedia concept for her CD-release event. “On October 21, we rented Bread & Salt [1955 Julian Avenue] and we’re going to have the whole band and party delights.” What might those be? “Well, I want to keep the ticket price really low, but if people want to have that VIP experience, they can come an hour early and there will be food and drinks and a friend who does acroyoga; you can get a massage, you can get your face painted, I might have someone dancing with fire, a hula-hoop girl — kind of like a ‘Steph circus!’”