Erin Krebs & Jeff Johnston Duo
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Erin Krebs & Jeff Johnston Duo

Appleton, Wisconsin, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2010 | SELF

Appleton, Wisconsin, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2010
Duo Jazz Blues




"2019 Female Vocalist of the Year"

Female Vocalist of the Year: Erin Krebs - Wisconsin Area Music Industry - WAMI

"2018 Jazz Artist of the Year"

Jazz Artist: Erin Krebs and Jeff Johnston - WAMI

"Erin Krebs: An Education in Jazz"

Erin Krebs - An Education In Jazz

OCTOBER 03, 2016
By Jillian Dawson

If you’re someone who frequents local live music performances, you’ve most likely observed varying crowd dynamics depending on who’s performing and where. Catching one of the summer concerts in Houdini Plaza tends to bring out the party crowd who are ready to dance, beer in hand, singing along to their favorite cover tunes. Festival music fans are a dedicated bunch, meticulously choosing their personal lineup down to the minute, full attention on the musicians until the very last note. Let’s not forget about the smaller dive bars and bowling alleys that bring out a rowdy crowd who are most likely going to have a line of shots waiting for the band at the bar. More often than not, however, it cannot be denied that bands can become background music to a crowd, lost among the bustle of a night out on the town. That being said, what’s the best part of watching Erin Krebs perform? The hush that falls over the crowd, heads popping up from conversations put on hold, and the handful of commentary sprinkling the bar noting, “Damn, that girl can sing!”

With a voice reminiscent of her musical inspirations, Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James, it’s surprising to hear singing was not always in the forefront of Krebs’ musical career. “In a nutshell, I always knew I would be teaching and I would be involved in music, but I had no idea I was going to be singing, especially because I was never a singer!”

Krebs worked as a music teacher in schools for ten years, eventually opening her own studio for private lessons to make time for writing and performing. Playing gigs led her to Jeff Johnston, who would become one half of their duo you can most often catch around the area as well as their full band, the Swingin’ Johnsons (who always get the crowd on the dance floor). Their performances showcase a variety of jazz standards and soulful renditions of pop songs with everything from Ella to Elle King. “It’s possible to take non-Jazz songs and arrange and interpret them in a different way. You can replace the chords with more lush harmonies, improvise on the melody, change the form, groove, et cetera.” She adds, “Jazz isn’t always the standards from the Great American Songbook, which is a common misconception.”

Krebs notes that ‘Jazz’ is a broad musical term which holds a variety of forms that are often overlooked, partially due to lack of mainstream popularity and exposure in the area. “Unfortunately in this area, in the ‘showcase’ shows or festivals, Jazz is rare or absent entirely, other than the Fox Jazz Fest or the Jazz concert series at the Trout.” She is quick to add, “It’s not like we aren’t working - the gigs are there for local Jazz musicians at certain venues and private events, but it is hard for us to get on a stage where a lot of people will see us at one time.”

As someone who feels indifferent to Jazz as a genre, speaking with Krebs peaked my interest, especially when it comes to performances.

"The coolest thing about Jazz is the improvisational aspect of it; it draws you in. I’ve seen people that have never seen Jazz before sit on the edge of their seat because they’re so into what’s happening on stage.” Aside from planning the timing of a few solos, the performances are typically more off the cuff. “The collaboration happens in the performances. I give the musicians the lead sheet, tell them what kind of feel and tempo, and let them run with it. We often communicate with eye contact and gestures during the songs regarding who’s doing a solo and when, and for how long. The songs are never the exact same way twice, which is one of the best things about playing Jazz and Blues!”

Krebs, who came out with her first album, Love Always Wins, this summer will be performing a live studio taping of her original songs alongside Johnston, Mark Martin, Justin Zopel and Mike Malone at Rock Garden Studio. In addition to Jazz, her songs have elements of Blues, R&B, Swing and Latin influence. “I’ll be singing words, scat singing, and playing some flute on a couple of the tunes. The audience can expect to hear and see lots of improvisation, and be moved by some soulful stuff as well.”

After speaking with Krebs, I can’t help but feel a bit more educated on the art of Jazz - a nod to her teaching background. For the future of Jazz, she says, “I’m hopeful. Jazz is still being taught and played in high schools all over; kids are learning it and developing an appreciation for it. Jazz albums are still being made, it’s still used in the media and performed on stages around the world, big and small. We are still out and about doing what we love and sharing our music with others. I think it’s here to stay. “

Catch Erin Krebs live at Rock Garden Studio Thursday October 6th at 7pm. - Rock Garden Studio - Rock Garden Studio Blog

"Erin Krebs Always Wins With "Love""

Erin Krebs always wins with “Love”
by Jonathan Leahy

The enchanting lighting, scintillating aromas, and delicious wines of Cena are often graced with a final ingredient for romance. The enticing sound of Erin Krebs and her warm, inviting vocal style fills the room with song and instantly gets your toe tapping and your heart beating. Her new album “Love Always Wins” is a fantastic work, with eleven original songs by Erin (also collaborations with guitarist Jeff Johnston). The music was recorded at Studio H. with Tony Anders at the desk, and features an impressive roster of the best jazz musicians in the Fox Cities.
Q.) Congratulations on the album! It sounds fantastic, and I’m certain it will be well received. You have quite an array of styles present in these songs. Could you tell me about your writing process for the album?
A.) Years ago I told myself I did not want to make an album unless I had some originals to put on it. Most of the songs began with a melody I came up with, then I sat down at the piano and worked out the chord changes and eventually lyrics. A couple of the songs were different - Jeff came up with a chord progression and I improvised some melodies over it. In general, I just let out what comes to me and I hope the soul comes across.
Q.) You worked with quite a few musicians, and several drummers – how did the final performances that we hear on the album come about?
A.) I've worked with so many musicians over the years, and continue to do so. I wanted to include some of them in my first album. The Jazz Orgy guys were all very instrumental in my development, especially in the beginning. Jeff also introduced me to even more musicians through his blues band. It was very important to me that we record live performances in the studio. Having such top-notch musicians made the process go very smoothly! We added the flute, sax, and guitar solos in after the band/vocals were tracked. For the duo song recording, Jeff and I were in the same room and we did one take. Tony's awesome insight, valuable input from Mike Malone, and what Jeff and I envisioned it to sound like worked together to create something I'm pretty satisfied with!
Q.) You chose to not include any standards on the album. If you had, what would have been your top 3 songs to record?
A.) I didn't decide to do only originals until a couple months before we started recording. I was going to do a jazz album, but the more I thought about it I realized that it's my debut, and it would introduce me to new listeners. So I thought I would add the blues and R&B originals to the album instead of standards to create that variety. If I had done 3 standards I would've chosen one by Duke Ellington (probably a ballad like Sophisticated Lady or Solitude), one by Cole Porter (maybe Night and Day but in a Latin style), and an uptempo tune like Oh Lady Be Good to have some fun with scat! Trust me- albums of standards are in my future. - Appleton Monthly, July 2016 - Appleton Monthly

"Modern Elegance With a Touch of Nostalgia"

Modern Elegance With a Touch of Nostalgia.
I haven’t heard a duet that gives listeners the feeling of true elegance, and raw emotional power in decades. However, the Fox Valley’s very own Erin Krebs and Jeff Johnston Duo is a duet of musicians that can’t be overlooked. Together they made it possible, once again, to experience a Jazz and Blues duet with breathtaking beauty. Erin Krebs and Jeff Johnston teamed up musically a few years ago. Writing and playing music together has led to live performances that create beautiful arrangements of colorful Jazz that floats through the air riddled with sparks of intense primal blues undertones.
When I heard Erin sing for the first time, it was live. I had just moved to town and didn’t really know anyone at all. As a musician myself, I was looking for where the music was playing in my new home. I had been wanting to catch Jeff live since I had heard some really great things about his skill as a guitar player. So when I heard he was going to be at a wine bar I liked, I jumped at the opportunity. The night started out fairly ordinary. I was just sitting at my table having a drink, and then, there was jazz. Sweet, soft guitar that sung with such conviction I had no choice but to spin around in my chair, and provide my undivided attention. From underneath this beautiful arrangement, arose a tremendous voice that reminded me of Aretha Franklin. I decided right there and then, this is where the music is.
I remember Erin talking with me, at one of their many nights at Uncorked in Neenah WI. She told me that the first time she heard Jeff play his guitar, she “needed to get to know this guy”. Jeff had been well known in the Fox Valley music scene as a guitar player that can really jam. It turned out that, not only were they a duo on stage, but a duo in life. These two have really found a way to share everything they love about music, and it shows. When they play together it’s like magic. Music and emotion lose their borders as you slide seamlessly into the groove. It’s always a pleasure to hear Erin and Jeff live in any setting. And it’s no coincidence they put on a beautiful show. Jeff has played in the past as both a professional musician for hire, as well as with dedicated projects over the years. He is truly no stranger to the stage, even siting in from time-to-time with outfits like the Jazz Orgy. Erin isn’t new to performing either. She has been a jazz vocalist for many years, and even plays the flute quite well. With all of their vast experiences in music combined, Jeff Johnston and Erin Krebs have definitely found an impressive niche together.
Erin has also been working on a solo album. Although “Love Always Wins” features Jeff on only a few of the tracks, Erin is joined by many other great musicians from the Fox Valley area. Stephen Cooper on the Sax, Mark Martin on Piano, and Brian Gruselle plays the Hammond Organ. Drew Hicks, Justin Zopel, and Andrew Mertens on Bass share duties filling in the rythm section. James LeFevre, Mike Malone, and Mike Underwood on Drums give it all a smooth backline. Recorded, Mixed, and Mastered right here in Appleton by Tony Anders at Studio H. The album contains many original Jazz, Blues, and R&B tunes that I’m sure will not leave you wanting. You can find out Erin’s complete live schedule at, or
I can say with a great deal of certainty that you will not be disappointed when you make a point to catch Erin Krebs and Jeff Johnston live. Whether it be together, or at a solo gig, they will make your night out worth it. - Music Speaks - Music Speaks

"2023 WAMI Jazz Artist, Flute Player, and NE WI Music Teacher of the Year"

Winners of the 2023 WAMI Awards

Acoustic bass (String): Andy Mertens
Acoustic guitar: Myles Wangerin
Album of the year: "Wide Wide Open," Amelia Ford
Alternative rock artist of the year: Blame It On Cain
Artist of the year: The WhiskeyBelles
Banjo & mandolin: Beau Janke (Banjo)
Bass guitar: Eric Hervey
Best club: Paulie's Pub & Eatery
Best festival: Mile of Music Festival
Best live engineer sound/lights: Trevor Powers
Best overall venue: Paulie's Pub & Eatery
Best recording studio: Axis Recording Studio
Best studio engineer/producer: Marc Golde
Best theater: The Sylvee
Bluegrass/Americana artist of the year: Copper Box
Blues artist of the year: Altered Five Blues Band
Blues, country & folk album of the year: "Shine" — Mr. Blink
Christian/gospel aytist of the year: King's Conquest
Club/DJ/dance/electronic artist of the year: Area-715
Country artist of the year: The WhiskeyBelles
Country song of the year: "Whiskey Morning" — Genesee Depot
Cover artist of the year: The Glam Band
Drummer: Junior Gamez
Electric guitar: Tallan Noble Latz
Female vocalist of the year: Donna Woodall
Folk & blues song of the year: "Great Minds Drink Alike (With Horns)" — Altered Five Blues Band
Folk/Celtic artist of the year: Frogwater
Free reed & wind: Melissa Weishaar (Harmonica)
Hard rock artist of the year: Sacred
Hip-hop/rap artist of the year: Cujo
Horn/big band artist of the year: The Hot & Dirty Brass Band
Instrumentalist of the year: Kris Crow (piano)
Jazz artist of the year: Erin Krebs
Male vocalist of the year: Rich Hoffman
Metal artist of the year: Thrasher
New artist of the year: Driving Miss Crazy
Northeast artist: Trash Pandas
Northeast fan: Rachel Sebstead
Northeast music teacher: Erin Krebs
Northeast music venue: Fox Cities Performing Arts Center
Northeast radio station: WAPL Home Brewed
Northwest artist: Rising Phoenix
Northwest music venue: Tiki Beach Bar & Grill
Orchestral strings: Thea Vorass (cello)
Percussion: James "Pie" Cowan (hand percussion)
Piano: Dave Adler
Polka artist of the year: The Squeezettes
Pop rock artist of the year: Big Spoon
Pop, R&B, rap & electronic song of the year: "Nobody Else Like You" — Alaria Taylor
Punk artist of the year: Ratbatspider
R&B/soul artist of the year: The Pocket Kings
Rising star of the year: Smart Mouth
Rock album of the year: "Lake Effect" — Lake Effect
Rock song of the year: "Blood in the Water" — Would You Kindly?
Saxophone: Tom Washatka
Singer-songwriter of the year: Keith Pulvermacher
Song of the year: "Great Minds Drink Alike (With Horns)" — Altered Five Blues Band
Southeast artist: The WhiskeyBelles
Southeast fan: Travis Steffen
Southeast music teacher: Dave Schoepke
Southeast music venue: Paulie's Pub & Eatery
Southwest artist: The Jimmys
Southwest fan: Kristin Shafel
Southwest music venue: The Majestic Theater
Southwest radio station: WORT-FM
Specialty — keyboards & electronics: Kevin Schultz (organ)
Specialty — strings: Leroy Deuster (pedal steel guitar)
Specialty — wind: Erin Krebs (flute)
Synthesizer: Marcell Guyton
Tribute artist of the year: The Rush Tribute Project
Trombone: Mike Clobes
Trumpet: Eric Sperry
Turntables & decks: DJ Trans Am
Unique album of the year: "Firebird" — Cullah
Unique song of the year: "My Hometown Milwaukee" — Jerry Grillo
Video of the year: "Great Minds Drink Alike (With Horns)" — Altered Five Blues Band
Violin: Chris Wagoner
World/reggae/ska/Latin artist of the year: Natty Nation - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online




In 2016, Jazziz Magazine wrote that Erin Krebs may be a "best kept secret of her native Wisconsin.", however, the word is getting out. Recognized as the Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) Jazz Artist of the Year in 2023 & 2018, Female Vocalist of the Year in 2019, and additional WAMI awards in 2023 for flute and teaching, she continues to shine in the music industry. Most often, she performs with her partner, guitarist Jeff Johnston. Each year, more and more music lovers are finding out about this talented, genre-crossing duo, but their local fans have been enjoying their music for over 15 years. 

The pair met in 2006.  Jeff's soulful, blues-inspired guitar playing influenced Erin toward the blues while Erin's polished, improvisatory Jazz style persuaded Jeff to learn more about Jazz.  Throw in their other influences in R&B, Rock, Soul, and Pop and you have something truly unique.  In addition to their large catalog of Jazz standards, Blues, and covers, Erin is also finding her way as a songwriter.  Her songwriting is much like her influences and spans the genres of Jazz, Blues, and R&B.  Jeff's skilled guitar playing is the perfect compliment to what Erin is singing- whether it's a heartfelt ballad, an uptempo swing tune, a bawdy blues, or a reimagined Pop song.  

Band Members