Albertan steps into spotlight

ANIKA VAN WYK

, Last Updated: 9:39 PM ET

Songwriters toiling away in a room often dream of fame.

But it's not always easy when you get it.

Former Albertan Carolyn Dawn Johnson is loving her new-found spot in the limelight -- including a Juno and Academy of Country Music nomination -- but admits it can be hard on the nerves.

"It's awesome to have the album out there, but when I first recorded it I was so nervous. I was bearing my soul ... it's so scary," Johnson tells the Sun.

Johnson, who was born in Deadwood, Alta., has been working as a demo singer and songwriter for years. Even before her outstanding debut, Room With A View and its first hit Georgia, she had a No. 1 hit under her belt -- Chely Wright's Single White Female. Others who have benefited from her writing include Jo Dee Messina, Patty Loveless, Linda Davis, Lila McCann, Shedaisy, Suzy Bogguss, Pam Tillis, Kathy Mattea and Mindy McCready.

"I've gone through these emotions and so has a lot of people. I'm OK with it now, but it was really hard at first," says Johnson. "When someone else sings them, you don't have to explain them."

Her debut is a powerful one which kicks off with Georgia followed by Just Another Girl, which has her realize now that her ex is getting married she's just another girl in his life. The songs then move on to acceptance and finally finding a new love.

"I specifically sequenced them in that order, I wanted it to be a love journey."

That journey includes Masterpiece a tribute to the love between her aunt, uncle and nephew, who after moving from High River, were killed in an auto accident.

"It's kind of a healing song."

When it comes to the title track, Johnson clams up.

She'll admit it's about a death and believing someone has gone on to a better place, but she won't say who.

"I don't want to talk about it. I'm still going through it and it still hurts," says the usually open artist.

The two final songs are bonus tracks for Canadians only. Due to contracts south of the border Tumble and Roll and Not Enough to Say can't be included on her U.S. album.

"You guys get a bonus. Some people on the fansite have said they've ordered the CD from Canada, just to get the extra songs," says Johnson, who also shares a producing credit with Paul Worley.

Calgarians will get the chance to hear CDJ (her nickname) tonight when she opens for Kenny Rogers.

"We are very different. Unfortunately, since we came in so late, many of my friends and family couldn't get a ticket to the show because it was sold out."

But there's always an up side.

"I might be in front of an audience I might not normally be in front of, which is good because could mean some new fans," she adds.

When Johnson met Rogers after their first show, she reminded him that she had sung back up on a song on his Wild Horses album. He placed her voice right away.

"I'm hoping he went back to his bus and listened to it again," she laughs.


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