These days, time doesn’t matter to Carolyn Dawn Johnson ’s fans. Many waited years for her to start a fan club. It took only one short month for over 330 of them to sign up as official members.
Better known as CDJ, Johnson has a very loyal support group. A crowd of close to 250 gathered outside Douglas Corner Café in Nashville Thursday (June 13), waiting for their first glimpse of the Academy of Country Music’s top new female vocalist. They stood through heat and rain and were rewarded with lots of surprises once inside the cozy café.
“I really wanted you to feel the Nashville way,” Johnson said of the format of her first official fan club gathering. She chose to sing in the round with some songwriter friends, to show her fans how she came to know Nashville and the life she now loves.
Surrounded by fans, Johnson played her first single, “Georgia,” to a room that filled quickly with camera flashes and applause. Dressed in jeans and a comfy shirt, the Canadian musician smiled from ear to ear as eager fans waited for the perfect snapshot.
Surprise guests Charlie Black, Gordon Kennedy and Chely Wright quickly joined Johnson, taking turns playing songs for the crowded room as Sissy Spacek and daughter Schuyler Fisk looked on.
BMG Canada surprised Johnson and the crowd with a special presentation of a Juno Award and her first Canadian gold record. Standing for a hug from the BMG representative, Johnson was on the verge of tears.
“I was wondering when this was going to happen,” she said. “I really wanted a gold record in Canada first because that is where I’m from.”
Moving on to her performance, Johnson exclaimed, “I wanted to write with this guy forever.” She was speaking of Kennedy, a Grammy winner as co-writer of the Eric Clapton’s “Change the World.”
“I’m very glad to be here, and I am pleased that Carolyn wrote my No. 1 song [“Single White Female”],” Wright said. On Tuesday (June 11), CDJ and Spacek joined Wright at Wright’s benefit, raising $111,000 for the Reading, Writing and Rhythm Foundation.
The four musicians played for just over an hour. Black started the set with “Goodbye Says It All,” a song he co-wrote and a hit for BlackHawk . Wright followed with one of her own hits, and Kennedy played “Change the World.”
“Here’s one you guys helped make a hit,” Johnson said while playing the opening chords of “Complicated.” The audience happily sang along with Johnson, who exclaimed, “You sound great!”
Without much hesitation, Black stirred up the heat with “Right on the Money,” a song he co-wrote with Phil Vassar . Alan Jackson performs it on his 1998 album High Mileage.
Johnson was not camera shy at all; in fact, she got out her own digital camera during Wright’s performance of “Picket Fences” to snap a photo of her friends. Gordon got his moment in front of Johnson’s lens while performing a song he wrote for the group the Clark Family Experience.
For the last round, Johnson performed with each of her guests on songs they wrote together. After a rousing “Just Another Plane” with Black, Johnson stated, “That will be on my next record, I promise!”
No date has been set for release of her next album, but both Black and Kennedy are hopeful that their songs will be on it. “You’re the one I want,” Black stated of one of the songs he wrote.
“You’re a real gem to Nashville,” Wright announced before performing a duet on a song she and Johnson wrote about three years ago. The song, which states, “You’ve got everything you need but me,” just missed Wright’s last album.
The last song of the afternoon was co-written by Johnson with Kennedy “for the fans.” She said she hoped that “Within” will be on the next album but stopped short of promising.
The afternoon ended with a meet-and-greet session in which all the fans got to meet Johnson and get a quick photo and autograph.
Fan club president Darren O’Neill was pleased with Johnson’s first fan club party and happily assured the crowd that they would be back together next year to express their gratitude again for Johnson’s music.