BWW Interview: Michelle Johnson of SPOTLIGHT: THE MUSIC OF ICONS at Myron's Cabaret Jazz At The Smith Center For The Performing Arts
International vocalist Michelle Johnson has worked with some of the biggest music legends. When she sings their songs in her show, it is from the heart and soul of a performer who understands the lyrics and music. Johnson will be performing "Spotlight: The Music of Icons" in Myron's Cabaret Jazz at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts on March 2.
"I have been blessed to work and sing with many different artists," Johnson told BroadwayWorld.com. "I wanted to perform a show spotlighting the music of the people I worked with in the past. I want to honor them." This includes performing on stage, recording and touring. A few of the artists were a one-time performance while others were a long-term professional relationship.
Artists to be spotlighted in the show include Gladys Knight, Elton John, Paul McCartney and Sheena Easton to name just a few. The list of artists Johnson has worked with read like a Who's Who of music greatness. This includes Barbara Streisand, Slash, Paul Rogers, Rosanne Cash, Neal Schon (of Journey), David Cassidy, David Foster, Josh Groban, Spyro Gyra, Wynonna, Vince Gill and Cher. Her television appearances include "The Tonight Show starring Jay Leno," "The Arsenio Hall Show" and "Soul Train."
She was the vocal arranger/soloist opposite Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal and Robin Williams in HBO's "Comic Relief," and performed with Sugarland at the AMC Awards on CBS. She has performed on Broadway in the play, "Some Americans Abroad," and has acted in other venues. The gospel choir she founded was handpicked to perform with Barbara Streisand at the MGM Garden Arena and has appeared with countless celebrities under Johnson's direction.
While she is known as a jazz singer, as Johnson explained, "My roots are in rock 'n' roll, pop and classic rock. I am a well-rounded performer."
Johnson is also a songwriter and performed her original song, "I'm All In," during The Composers Showcase of Las Vegas. "It is about being ready to embrace a new phase in my career. I am being presented with new opportunities, which will take my career to a whole new level." In fact, Johnson is working on a new album release to be produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Kamau Kenyatta, (producer for Gregory Porter) as well as other projects including writing another book and creating a nonprofit music therapy foundation.
But the song also addresses her career at different times in her life. "Carole King was my biggest influence and it is also about pursuing a passion, which for me is music and songwriting."
Born in New York City, her father was a diplomat and when she was very young, her family moved to Egypt. Raised in Cairo (attending an American school), she also lived in Hong Kong. Johnson returned to the United States, graduated from Yale University and moved back to New York City. Her planned career path to Harvard Law School was diverted when Johnson decided to pursue her passion for the entertainment industry. It is because of her diverse background that Johnson can incorporate versatility, affinity for languages, a unique voice and impressive range.
She started singing in New York with several artists and performed with the group PM Dawn. Johnson never planned to move to Las Vegas, but originally came to help out a friend with a legal issue and had every intention of returning to New York. Johnson fell in love with Las Vegas and has made it her home, even though she will always consider herself a New Yorker.