Sarah Johns Isn’t Ready to Give Up Her Spot

"He Hates Me" Singer Is Touring With George Strait

Sarah Johns is from a tiny town in Kentucky, and she is fully aware that it’s a huge opportunity to open a series of concerts for George Strait’s winter tour.

“We were practicing the other night and I was practicing my ’Thank you, George Strait,’ and I remember going, ’Oh, my God, I’m opening up for George Strait!’ That is a big huge deal,” the 21-year-old singer says. “I think more than anything, I hope I don’t cry or tear up because it’s just overwhelming. Most people don’t get this. They just don’t get this chance, especially where I’m from. I’m from a town of 150 people. There’s not a lot of choices or chances or anything out there, so it’s a big deal.”

On the opening night of the tour, Johns talked about rehearsing with her band, where she got her work ethic and what she’ll do if somebody says she’s too country.

CMT: How do you prepare for a huge tour like this?

Sarah Johns: My band and I have gotten together every night for the past seven days and practiced. We have 25 minutes, about six songs, and we’ve practiced a lot. I’ve tried to not get too nervous. You have good people around you that get everything together, so that you don’t have to handle too much. Oh, and I got to pick out T-shirts. That was fun. I got to pick out T-shirts and pictures to sell, and I got some camo hats. I don’t think the camo hats are ready right now, which I’m not happy about.

What has been the biggest challenge for you?

I guess just thinking that you can do this, you know, because there’s always that part of you, or any person, that feels insecure about something. What I’ve learned in life, just in general, is everything that comes your way, if you just go at it and overcome it. You get better self-esteem, you just feel better about yourself. That’s the biggest challenge, to really believe in yourself: “You know what? I can do this and I’m going to do this.”

When you’re at those points when you don’t know what to do next, what do you tell yourself to build yourself up?

Basically, I tell myself that I don’t want to go back to the holler. I’m serious. It’s not that it’s bad down there. I love it. Every chance I have, I go home. I love being home. I love it with all my heart. But I love a challenge and when someone tells me no or if someone goes, “Well, we’re not going to play your song,” I’m like, “Oh, honey, yes you will.” There’s something in me. I’m so headstrong, and I’ve always said that if someone shuts the door, or slams the door in my face, I will find some crack to get through it.

What happens if someone says, “She’s too country for me”?

I looked up country music in the dictionary about a month ago. It was during Christmas. It was talking about twin fiddles and steel, and it said “backwoods” and it had “holler” in the dictionary, so maybe you should go listen to pop music if you think I’m too country.

What dictionary was this in?

Webster’s, honey. My uncle looked it up because he said, “Some people say you’re too country,” and I was like, “I know,” and he showed it to me. And he said if they got a problem, you tell them to look at this right here. He got mad about it.

What does your family think about your career?

My dad, he’s obsessed, like you walk in his house, and he has pictures all over the house of me. Not like crazy town, not like he puts people in the basement or nothin’. Not crazy like that. He’s just very proud and he always tears up. I can tell when he tears up on the phone and hearing my song on the radio. He knows how hard I’ve worked, too. My dad still works every day. He has a really good work ethic, and I guess that’s where I got it. He knows I’ve worked my butt off.

How important is a good work ethic to a new artist?

I think a lot of times, they say artists and musicians are lazy, and there are a lot that are, but I think the ones that really succeed aren’t. You can’t sleep in till four and then drink all night. Or if you want to drink all night, get your butt up at 8 and do your interviews and make sure that you’re on. I think work ethic is huge. I also think you’ve got one shot nowadays, and you better do every single thing that they want you to do, and do it the very best you can, or they will move on to the next girl. I just hope nobody tries to take my spot because I’m ready to fight for it.