Kaydi Johnson
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Kaydi Johnson

Matawan, New Jersey, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014

Matawan, New Jersey, United States
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter

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A review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Bob Gottlieb
(taoboy@cox.net)


This is an interesting disc because at times it seems to collide with itself and yet it isn't in a way that is jarring or disconcerting. It is an album that has to be listened to closely in order to pick up the subtle and often witty or at time ominous word play Johnson employs to drive her points home. Some of the songs/stories are depict quite disturbing incidents that show the seamier side of American society; the bewildering, often perplexing behavior or lack there of that is often swept under rugs and not acknowledged as happening. This in a voice that holds your attention to it and to the stories it is slowly unveiling, pieces at a time, each move radically shifting the subject of the picture so that it is as if, during the removal of the blindfold, it isn't until it is completely removed that you get the full picture. Sometimes what started out as an idyllic picture turns into a horror movie or vice versa.

Ms Johnson wrote all twelve of the songs except for Bed, which she wrote the words and Jeremy Swarsky did the music, he also plays all the instruments on this track. She has solid support from the backing musicians and there is some excellent and tasteful playing behind her. She co-produced this, her third disc, with David Seitz. - Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange


Kaydi Johnson's 'Peasant of the Wreck' one of the best regional CDs of the year -- WITH MUSIC
By David Malachowski, Reviewer
10/17/2008
DailyFreeman.com

ARTIST: Kaydi Johnson
ALBUM: "Peasant of the Wreck" (Fifty Fifty Music)

Andes resident Kaydi Johnson has an intriguing album full of nuance and shadows. Produced by Johnson and keyboardist David Seitz (Dar Williams, Eric Andersen, Jeff Buckley) "Peasant of the Wreck" also features famed bassist Mike Visceglia (Suzanne Vega) and Railroad Earth's violinist Tim Carbone.

The title track has a lovely Beatle-esque vibe. It's followed by "Bonsai," which is powered by bass bombs from Visceglia and Johnson's urgent delivery. "Bed" holds some quasi-rapping concerning the journey of life and its twists and turns. "Dashboard Jesus" is a sunny drive down a country road, while "Mary" is a moving ode about dysfunctional families.
Johnson has a strong, distinctive voice, compelling tunes and a sensual style that is certainly enticing. This CD is full of layers and textures that perfectly prop up her well-crafted tunes, and is one of the best regional CDs of the year.

Visit www.fiftyfiftymusic.com.

David Malachowski is a guitarist, producer and freelance journalist living in Woodstock. The Freeman seeks CDs by local artists or artists appearing locally for review. Please send all CDs (please no CD-Rs or demo CDs) to Daily Freeman c/o Preview, 79 Hurley Avenue, Kingston, NY 12401. - David Malchowski


Ask someone who's familiar with the work of Kaydi Johnson about what she does and they'll probably tell you she's a singer/songwriter, although they might add "poet," since she incorporates spoken word sections in songs like "Eddie" (often leading to Rickie Lee Jones comparisons). Kaydi's part of a makeshift online social network called "Six Sentences," where you're invited to describe yourself in, that's right, six sentences. She only uses four:

"About Me: I am a poet, novelist and singer/songwriter. I was a fiction editor for the Cortland Review. I hold an MFA in Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College. My third CD, Peasant of the Wreck, was released on Fifty Fifty Music, NYC, in June 2008."

Note that singer/songwriter comes third.

"Singer songwriter should be first -- that's what I do most -- but that's a writers' site," she explained when I asked about it. "Anyway, it all rolls together," she added. When you listen to Kaydi's songs with writing in mind, you'll see that many are like short sketches that could be worked into novels, and literary allusions abound.

First up in the photo section on Kaydi's website (www.kaydijohnsong.com) is a snap of Kaydi with David Crosby taken when she opened for his show at the Eureka Theater a while back. Crosby's guitarist on that gig was Jeff Pevar, who just happens to be playing with Kaydi this weekend for a pair of gigs at the Lost Whale Inn. (Coincidence?) They'll be joined by Jeff's partner Inger Jorgensen (an artist/singer who also happens to be an HSU alum) for an intimate house concert-type show. Kaydi will be back at the Lost Whale the following weekend (Feb. 6 and 7) with jazzy folkies Allison Scull and Victor Martin. In between, Thursday, Feb. 5, Kaydi plays solo at Mosgo's. Expect some new songs: She's been winning songwriting contests at various folk festivals and she's working on a solo album. "I play by myself all the time and I'm getting better on guitar," she says. "Simpler, with just vocals and guitar seems to be the way things are going -- plus when you're recording, it's cheaper." - North Coast Journal



NEW VOICES
Discovering Kaydi Johnson

By John Aiello
In the last ten years, all female singer-songwriters are condemned to be measured against the success and depth of Norah Jones. And during the past decade, few have been able to match the raw talent of Jones – whose sultry voice and uncanny ability to capture the emotion of the moment in four-minute pop symphonies has gone largely unchallenged.
However, in terms of pure raw talent, Jones might have found some formidable competition in Kaydi Johnson, a brilliant songwriter who hails from upstate New York. Johnson is, quite simply, the most original voice I've discovered in the last several years – her writing sensual and honest, her heart naked on the table, revealed in the tumbling stories that make up the best of her body of work.
Johnson has released three CDS to date (“Tied,” “No goDs Allowed” and “Peasant of The Wreck”), and the thing that really separates her from the pack is the writing. In these 'moviescapes' full of bloodied faces, Johnson records the paths of broken people with lost eyes, writing about the ones who have been hit hard but who still somehow remain standing. In sum, these are men and women who have multiple scars but who nonetheless are comfortable with their blemishes – each tear in the skin brings them closer to the edge of the light:
“...I say acting because I don't really think he knows who he is. But one thing is sure, he has a body that is very consistent. He might have differences of mind roaming through it but the body moves like clock-work like clock-work. Like music. Like poetry...”
(From “Eddie”)
“Eddie” is Johnson's true masterwork as she unravels life into the threads of an epic poem. Here, Johnson stamps out her style with indelible flair as the piece moves back and forth between recitation and soft singing: The poet on stage overtaken by the purpose of her own story takes us deep into the labyrinths of herself. And there she kneels: Making love to each and every image in her mind; and there she kneels, reconnecting with spirits just beyond the tongues of this human sphere:
“I turn around to look and see nothing but the dark snatching the shadows of trees as we drive away...”
(From “Eddie”)
“Eddie” is not so much a song as it is a short story or a musical mini-movie. And herein lies the true beauty of Johnson's work. At once, her performances simultaneously intersect various genres and mediums, painting pictures of a half-hidden America (see “American Grocery Store”) where shadows stumble about in the ultimate search for self and contentment.
Yet, what's most haunting about Johnson's stories is that she actually allows you to see and taste yourself in her lines – the jumble of words frozen on the paper finding their random order as we stop to breathe. Yes, squint hard and it's not Eddie's face but your own visage flying down that highway in the moonlight – there, lost among the leaves, thirsty to touch what cannot be named or comprehended.
Still, listeners should not be misled into thinking that Johnson's work is only about the writing. Instead, you will find her voice absolutely captivating, its petals blooming into a subtle diamond-honed blade, guided by spirits in the night. Like some unique amalgamation of Rosanne Cash, Bobbie Gentry, Suzzane Vega and Nico, Johnson's delivery soothes and comforts as it searches and aches, polishing the melody of each number into this perfect sun-spotted piece of sky:
“Those stars are not really stars, you said, they're lingering reflections of burnt out lights gone dead, they're worlds gone by we can still see – the light-blast twinkling pulse of eternity...”
(From “Night Student”)
The best music-moments have the knack of infiltrating the consciousness, ending as an extension of the listener's soul. And the best moments in Kaydi Johnson's songs celebrate this magic ritual. The minute you spin one of her records you're embarking on a journey back into yourself – because her “Mary” and her “Eddie” are only archetypes of the hidden self as the universal questions of “Who am I?” and “Where am I going?” are met head-on and with deep urgency.
But as Johnson deftly shows us, the lesson is not to look for answers – since there are none to be found. Rather, the point of the exercise is about digging through the delicate rubble of skin and bone and confronting your own demons still lost on the shelf.
Alas, the sole point of the exercise is to ask yourself endless questions without turning tail and running away from the stale waves of confusion, fear and isolation:
“The more I look the more I see, there's something hot inside of me. I'm sister to those burning spheres that shine but have been gone for years...”
(From “Night Student”)

TEN MINUTES
WITH SONGWRITER
KAYDI JOHNSON

Can you tell me a bit about your writing background and education?
Well, I studied literature and secondary education at the State University of New York and then went on to take my MFA - John Aiello


David Seitz/RECORD PRODUCER

Hi All,
2008, it is a new year! I am predicting a great year for the music business when artists and small record labels can take full control of their projects and the means to market and publicize them. It is about time!
Looking back to 2007, it was a very rewarding year for my staff and I. A few highlights are listed below:
Moby taught me what it is like to be truly independent (on every level) in thought, artistic sensibility,production esthetic, etc. I am proud of the work we did together, both on his solo projects and with his rock band. Check out his new album this spring. There are many copies, but only one Moby.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN/PETE SEEGER: It was a privilege to produce tracks for Sowing the Seeds, which I understand was the #1 album on Folk-DJ in autumn, 2007. Thank you to all the great musicians who made it possible: Mark Dann (acoustic guitar), Tim Carbone (fiddle), Michael Visceglia (bass), Ken Lovelett (percussion) and David Hamburger (dobro) and, of course, to Pete and Bruce.

BONNIE RAITT/WEEPIN WILLIE ROBINSON: This recording really shows what Bonnie and Willie can do. It is earthy and powerful. When this kind of talent comes to town, the best production is just to get out of the way and let the magic happen.

FEATURED ALBUM/KAYDI JOHNSON
Working with the well-known artists listed above was a privilege. But sometimes a new artist (one who is relatively unknown) captures my interest. Such was the case with Kaydi Johnson and her new album Peasant of the Wreck (to be released in May 2008) is going to turn some heads.
A true song poet, Kaydi creates a world where fact and fiction collide effortlessly weaving a web of wordplay that is always captivating, moving and sometimes downright scary. And the word is getting out. Thanks to Vin Scelsa (Idiots Delight) and Pete Fornitale (Sunday Breakfast) at WFUV, New Yorkers have heard her literary pop music and have become devoted fans. And thanks to such artists as David Crosby, Robert Earl Keene and Lucy Kaplansky, as well as appearances at such venues as the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival and the Mountain Stage songwriting competition, word is leaking out about this one-of-a-kind songwriter who explores uncharted and dangerous waters.

Look for her new album Peasant of the Wreck, to be released by Fifty Fifty Music, in May 2008.

Learn more about her at kaydijohnson.com










- FIFTY/FIFTY MUSIC


By Jayson Blocksidge

Huntington, New York resident, Kaydi Johnson just finished a Midwestern musical tour, traveling throughout Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio with a stop in Chicago. Relatively new to the business, Johnson has already made a name for herself—it’s not every day that a young boy riding his bike in Pierceton, Indiana would recognize an up and coming singer/songwriter from Long Island, New York.
But that’s what happened when Johnson drove into town and bumped into 11 year old-Trevor before one of her gigs.
“Are you Kaydi Johnson?” he asked while straddling his bike. Trevor had heard her songs on the local radio station promoting her appearance and said that her music inspired him to play the guitar.
She invited Trevor to the show where he sat up close to the stage transfixed by her haunting melodies—a unique blend of rock, pop and folk music.
Johnson also performed during a fundraiser at a local radio station in Champaign, Illinois. Her music was well received by the listeners of WEFT which prompted them to donate what she called a small fortune.
Receiving all these accolades is a bit overwhelming for Johnson who released her first CD, Tied, only two years ago. But she’s taking everything in stride and concentrating all her efforts on a new CD called No gods Allowed.
Although Tied marked Johnson’s first serious foray into the music business, she is no stranger to performing. She grew up in Great Neck in a family of Irish immigrants who loved Irish folk music. Surrounded by plenty of singing and dancing, Johnson’s rich childhood breathed life into her lyrics and helped develop her skills as a performer.
When she was ten years old she found an old guitar in her attic that had only three strings and was badly out of tune. As simple as it was the guitar still ignited her passion for playing music and writing songs. She taught herself how to play guitar and began filling notebooks with stories and poetry, which have since formed the basis of her lyrics.
At 18 years old she formed her own band, Cruisin’ Zeke, which played for together for two years before disbanding. She later performed as a solo artist at small venues sharing her music and poetry with the audience.
Before making her first CD, Johnson went to Stony Brook to become an English teacher. Her heart though, was set on music and writing. Johnson decided to get a masters degree in Fine Arts in Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville.
Johnson is enjoying the success of her music. She has landed performances at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, The Bitter End, “Acoustic Breakfast” on WDST radio in Woodstock along with touring the country playing live radio and venues alike.
Her Cd has been selling off the shelves in local record stores and the internet, like Amazon.com and cdbaby.com. Johnson produced her CD on her own label—telltalerecords.com.
Despite her newfound success, Johnson says she isn’t in the business for the money—although making money doing what you love is always a perk. Like Trevor who she inspired to play the guitar, Johnson hopes to have a similar effect on others. “I want to touch people’s lives,” she said. “If money comes that’s great. It’s not the fame and fortune that matters in the end, it’s touching people’s hearts and souls.”

- The Long Islander, April 2003


THE CORTLAND REVIEW


KAYDI JOHNSON - DECEMBER 2000 FEATURE

FEATURE

Kaydi Johnson
Kaydi Johnson discusses Greta Garbo’s legs, dirty rooms, and carpal tunnel syndrome with Renee Bandazian.

Robert Danberg
Robert Danberg reviews the words of experience and wisdom in Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver.

John Kinsella
A Brief Tour of the Cocos Atoll: The next installment in John Kinsella’s fast paced and exclusive autobiography series.
Kaydi Johnson

Kaydi Johnson is a singer/songwriter and novelist whose first CD is entitled Tied. She is in the process of completing her second CD, No goDs Allowed, and her first novel, Dizzy Me a Monkey. Kaydi received an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and leads an online writers' group as well as a local group in Huntington, NY where she resides.
Kaydi Johnson Interview




I first met Kaydi Johnson at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, when we were graduate students in Marie Howe's Craft Class. We exchanged few words privately, but I knew she had written and recorded a critically acclaimed CD, Tied. Her lyrics and music were visual, lush, sensuous, and resonating, and she had a knack for effortlessly blending music and the spoken word.

This interview was conducted at The Whitney Museum in New York City, during the time she was working on her second CD, "No goD's Allowed." It contains audio clips of the songs, "Eddie," "The Way She Loves," and "Carpal Tunnel," from the new album.

—Renee Bandazian

The Interview with Kaydi Johnson


Renee Bandazian: Do you feel that your work has a Long Island sensibility—a sense of "place"? When I read your poems or listen to your songs, I hear movement: cars and trucks, traveling, leaves, parks, Ferris wheels—a suburban sensibility that takes us back to simpler times. Some of your songs sound nostalgic for the 1950's, a "lost America" so to speak.

Kaydi Johnson: I would say the sensibility in my work is probably not Long Island or any specific place, but rather what I subconsciously gathered from a lot of Irish folklore and literature that was read to me as a child. It's more of a universal sensibility. I don't really know what a Long Island sensibility would be. I'm also influenced by the fact that I live part of the time in the Catskill Mountains, so there are rural connotations as well as suburban ones. It's a kind of mixture of the two. I also guess a song like "Eddie" would have a 1950's feeling. I was born in 1961, so I really didn't grow up in the 1950's, but my parents did, and that probably carried over. My family lived in a suburban area, but I would also consider them rural since they came from a very poor, rural area of Ireland. We were living in this hub of wealth and suburban atmosphere, but in the center of my family, it was something very much other than that.

RB: You're a singer, you play the guitar, and you're a songwriter, poet, and novelist. How would you rank these if you had to?

KJ: That's a difficult question because of the nature of who I am. There might be a week when I consider myself singer/songwriter first and foremost. Then there might be another week when I put the guitar away and consider myself a novelist first and foremost. Then I'll write a poem that strikes a cord in my heart, and I'll say, "I'm a poet first and foremost." So I don't think I can really say what I am first and foremost, but I will say the singer/songwriter aspect is enjoyable to me because the material is immediately accessible to people. I can play live, sing, and get feedback, bring groups of people together and emote. I can create this little universe, which is what music does. Today, I would say singer/songwriter, but it varies.

RB: When you're writing lyrics, a poem, or a novel, do you start with a character, a plot, or an image?

KJ: When I'm writing, I always start with a character. Then the character takes on a life of its own and guides me. That's the beauty of writing—the euphoria—when you write up a character and they start to move around and your whole life is consumed by thinking about this fictional person.

I write a song differently than a story or poem. The difficulty with poetry is that the music has to be built in using rhythm and line breaks. Fiction is also very lyrical. I find myself using my whole body when I write—moving it to the rhythm of the lines and sentences. For me, that's the real enjoyment outside of the characters.

Lately, I've been setting short stories to music, then editing them so they're like story/song. I'm very interested in that genre. Music and story used to be separate for me, but now I'm merging them.

RB: How old were you when you started writing? Who were your earliest influences? Who are your influences now in fiction, poetry, and songwriting?

KJ: I started writing when I was 8. I remember starting my first novel then, but I didn't finis - The Cortland Review


Discography

"Tied" Tell Tale Records, 1999.

"No goDs Allowed" Tell Tale Records, 2002.

"Peasant of the Wreck" Fifty Fifty Music, 2008

Photos

Bio

Kaydi rolls forceful and racy lyrics into short stories and cinematic slices of life. She finds new ways to explore the old and old ways to explore the new. Twisting, turning and challenging the ordianry themes of living, loving, politics and love lost, Kaydis songs stay with you long after they have ended. Haunting and joyous. Provocative and poetic. She's a master at creating magnetic and musically delicious word plays that always grab the ears, hearts and minds of her listeners.

FEATURED PERFOMANCES:

*Kaydi has supported DAVID CROSBY, ROBERT EARLE KEENE, PURE PRAIRIE LEAGUE and Lucy Kaplansky.
*Kaydi has been selected as a songwriting judge for the 2013 Baltimore Songwriters' Association.
*Kaydi was selected, "Best Of," New Jersey singer/songwriters in 2013, for the New Jersey Folk Festival and awarded a featured performance slot on Saturday, April 27th, on the Shore Stage at 2:30 P.M. Rutgers University. Attendance--18,000 +

*Appeared LIVE on WFUV, 90.7 NYC--Pete Fornatale's
"Mixed Bag" February 19, 2011.

*30A, 2013, Songwriter Festival, Seaside, Florida.

*WINNER, 2010 NJ Folk Festival singer/songwriter contest & showcase.

*FINALIST, 2010 Susquehanna Folk Festival songwriting contest, Havre de Grace, Maryland.

*Selected for "Director's Cuts" 2009 Great Lakes Songwriting Contest.

*Selected for Cape May, NJ, 2009 singer/songwriter CD Compilation.

*Selected for the Falcon Ridge Emerging Artist Showcase, New York.

*She has appeared on Vin Scelsa's "IDIOT"S DELIGHT" on WFUV, in NYC. Pete Fornatele of WFUV, Fordam University, NY, gave her honorable mention when selecting his "top ten" albums of 2002.

*MOUNTAIN STAGE Top ten regional New York finalist for the 2006 Mountain Stage New Song Festival at River to River Festival in NYC (with Ingrid Michaelson).

*Featured Narrative songwriter for the International Narrative Song Competition in Canada.

*Finalist in the South Florida Festival Songwriting Competition.

*Snowbird, Utah Singer Songwriter Finalist, 2008

*WINNER!! Avalonfest song writing competition,2008

*Honorable Mention, 2009 North Carolina Song Co-op Songwriting Contest

*Nominated for The Better Late than Never award 2009 for her song "Eddie," on Catskill Community Radio, NY--WUOW 104.7 FM (They got a hold of this song a few years after it's release. Cool they have an award for this category!)

*"Spotlight Artist" 2010 Orion/Sundance Independent Music Festival, Park City, Utah

See Press for more info...

Band Members