We had the good fortune of connecting with Scott Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Scott, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
Born without a name in a Berkeley (CA) hospital to parents from small Nebraskan farming towns, I started my life from one of the most liberal and progressive areas of the world where anything seemed possible, yet was rooted in the down-to-earth, practical sensibilities of the Midwest. My parents decided on the name “Scott” a week later but it would take me years to figure out who I really was.
Despite what most would consider an ideal childhood with a supportive and stable home, my adolescent years began a journey of self discovery, or maybe more accurately, of self uncovering. I was born toward the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs where self-actualization was the next step. As a teenager, I was asking the big questions like “Why am I here” and “What’s the purpose of my life.” Years of soul searching and periods of depression would follow.
Music had always been a part of my life growing up. I can still remember sitting on the floor of the living room in front of these big speakers listening to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66, and my sister’s Beatles albums. I got a drum set in third grade; then played trombone for several years starting in 6th grade, before taking piano lessons when I was a sophomore in high school. I took lessons from a teacher with a jazz background and we started learning popular songs right away. “Color My World” by Chicago was the first song I learned. And pretty soon afterwards I started writing songs.
Since I was struggling to figure out my place in the world, the songs I wrote usually dealt with life and living. And for some reason, even if I was going through a difficult period, my songs would often end up being hopeful, with life-affirming messages. In hindsight, it makes sense that years later I would co-found and lead the Positive Music Association, an organization to promote musicians and music with positive, life-affirming messages. And ten years in 2012, I would start World Singing Day, a day each year when people in communities around the world would gather to sing together and celebrate our common humanity.
What started as a way to deal with the challenges of my own life, songwriting and music helped me get in touch with the wiser, more joyful parts of myself. In turn, World Singing Day would become a way for people around the world to experience the wisdom and joy within themselves.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
In college, I went down to Los Angeles with my first demo tape and actually got through the doors of music publishers and received encouraging feedback. But they all said that I needed to write for the market, which at that time was mainly teenage girls and infatuation love songs which I had very little interest in. So I continued writing the songs that meant something to me and years later released my first album “Googol On!” inspired by our two daughters when they were young.
Since then, I’ve released an album called “Passages” inspired by hospice, and several pop-rock influenced albums, all with positive, life-affirming messages.
Though I’ve performed with groups at places like the Kennedy Center, Radio City Music Hall, and before European royalty, I don’t normally perform but consider myself more of a songwriting artist. I have something to say for sure but I don’t have to be the only one singing or performing it which is why I often feature other singers on my albums besides myself.
My music invites listeners to get in touch with that wiser, more joyful parts of themselves, and to celebrate their lives and those who they share it with. It may not be cool or what the market demands, but it’s what I want to say.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
First I’d take them hiking most every day at the nearby Flatirons right above Boulder or deeper into the Rocky Mountains in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area between Nederland and Estes Park.
We’d have Chai tea at the beautifully ornate Dushanbe Teahouse, which was given as a gift to the City of Boulder from our sister-city, Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
We might grab a toasted sandwich at Snarf’s or a burger at Lark Burger. Have a beer from the many microbreweries in Boulder like Avery, Oskar Blues, or Mountain Sun.
We’d stroll up and down the pedestrian mall on Pearl Street, watch the street performers and buskers, while enjoying a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream cone.
We’d catch a performance at the Boulder Theater, the Boulder Dinner Theater, or at the University of Colorado’s Macky Auditorium.
We’d walk the dog around Coot Lake by the Boulder Reservoir or at Walden Ponds. Maybe take some sunrise or sunset photos at Flagstaff Mountain.
And if they happened to be visiting Boulder on the third Saturday in October, we’d be singing with over a thousand people on Pearl Street or the Bandshell for World Singing Day, which I founded right here in Boulder in 2012.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Certainly my parents deserve the first shoutout for providing me with a supportive, loving environment in which to grow, explore, and find my own way. From age 18 to 30, I was literally in a new place every year (e.g. five colleges in five years, different states, different countries, different jobs). The freedom and support they gave me during those years, even if they didn’t understand it, was crucial to my growth and success. And musically, I thank my dad, who was a fine piano player, for being my main musical influence as a young kid with his appreciation of jazz and recorded music.
And of course there are plenty of others along the way who contributed to my life in meaningful ways, from the kind and patient 6th grade principal Marv Steinberg, and the tough but fair junior high band director Kelsey Kirk, to my pop- and jazz-influenced piano teacher Jay Dorsa, and my lifelong friend Rob Babcock who formed a music publishing business with me to record and promote my music.
Authors and musicians who have inspired me along the way include Henry David Thoreau, Eckhart Tolle, Abraham-Hicks, Billy Joel, Neil Diamond, John Denver, and The Beatles.
Myriam Johnson, Stephanie Cox, Sarah Johnson