Some people like music. Some people love music. Some people live music. And some people, some very special, unique people, are music. Stephanie Anne Johnson, best known for her vocal stylings on season five of The Voice, is one of these special unique people, and I’m lucky enough to call her friend.
I remember the first time I heard Stephanie sing. I was an acting coaching a little community theatre production of Into the Woods in Renton, Washington, and Stephanie had been cast as the Baker’s Wife. Stephanie opened her mouth, and the sound that came out was so full of soul, so full of meaning, that I couldn’t do anything else but stop and listen. She’s got that mesmerizing quality that I’d never encountered outside of established artists already tearing up the radio. I remember thinking, “This voice, is something spectacular.”
Stephanie began singing at a very young age, her first memory of singing being school choir. I asked Stephanie at what age she knew that music was what she wanted to do with her life, and her answer showed me that music is not something she does. Music is something she is.
She said, “I remember vividly having a conversation with some friends in high school and saying that music was gonna be my thing and that if I couldn’t do it, there’d be nothing left to interest me.”
Luckily for us, she is able to do it, and do it, not only in live performances on cruise ships and Tacoma spots, but in mediums like YouTube (check out her channel here), and more recently on NBC’s The Voice.
In a time when reality television shows are all the rage to help undiscovered talent get exposure and possibly their big break, I asked Stephanie why she chose The Voice as her introduction to the world via a competition show over the others.
“I wanted to try for The Voice because I wanted to be judged solely on my skills. I wanted to be put to the test, so to speak,” was her answer.
And put to the test she was.
I remember the joy I felt watching her step out onto The Voice stage, glowing in her delightful pink dress and denim jacket, rocking the side ponytail I’d seen her wear so many times, singing about a big black horse and a cherry tree and got two chairs to turn around. And as a long-time friend and fan, I wasn’t surprised. Watching her, week to week, share her gift with the world and take every song, steal, coach change, and her eventually leaving The Voice with such dignity and class in way that kept her true to herself. Stephanie was Stephanie that entire time, never letting the hype change her into something she’s not. That’s a tough thing to do in this day and age where shock value can create careers, but this didn’t affect Stephanie. As always, she stayed undeniably true to herself, as was evident by her performances and the back stage videos. Anyone who knows her would agree, I’m sure.
That’s not to say that Stephanie wasn’t affected by her experience on the Voice. I saw the growth on the weeks she was there, and in her own words she said The Voice created more depth in her as an artist, and I believe it.
When asked what’s next for her, Stephanie answered, “…People are still hoping I’ll float off to the moon or something. I’m living in Tacoma, helping my grandmother with whatever she might need and gigging as much as I can. This music thing is a grind, and I’m trying to stay true to myself.”
And how could she not, when she simply embodies music. I’ve no doubt she is making people smile with her sound, moving people with her guitar, and continuing to be the music we all know and love her for making. Stephanie Anne Johnson is more than a musician and a vocalist. She’s an artist. She is music.