Carolyn Dawn Johnson stays in control

-- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

When Carolyn Dawn Johnson sings about insecurity, she does so with heartbreaking conviction.

However, CDJ showed no insecurity when it came to defending her music. Instead, the Albertan displayed incredible bravery when she risked it all and asked her record label to release her.

"It's the biggest leap of faith I've ever taken. Even more than going to Nashville the first time," says CDJ, who left for the country music capital right after graduating from RF Staples high school in Westlock.

Being signed to a major label, Arista Nashville, was what CDJ had dreamed of, but when it tried to force her to morph into an artist she wasn't, she chose to cut the ties.

"I was open to other people's songs, which they wanted, but they didn't like the ones I did. And my songs also weren't right for me. What they wanted me to do wasn't me and my fans would see through that.

"I wasn't ungrateful, it wasn't that. But I have to be on stage and sell the music."

So the singer/songwriter made an appointment to see the record company president and put an end to her dreams.

"Waiting to go see him was brutal," she confesses. "I said, 'I told you I'd do what ever it took, but I can't ... can you let me go?' "

Thankfully, he was understanding and CDJ was unemployed.

"I was broken. I've definitely had some valleys. But when they come you have to get through them."

And through them she did.

Last month, she released Love & Negotiation via the Toronto-based Angeline Entertainment, and Universal Music Canada.

The album sees CDJ return to what she does best -- serve up songs on a full plate of emotion.

"It happened for a reason and I feel like I'm on a completely different journey now. I'm excited," says CDJ, who will showcase her new tunes Sunday at the Nashville North tent.

"I'm in control of the music," says CDJ, who also produced Love & Negotiation. "It is more gratifying to live and die on your own sword, or whatever that saying is."

Through it all, CDJ's husband Matt Fisher has stood by her.

CDJ's music can be so convincing when Fisher heard his wife working on Dreaming Without You, a song about lost love, he was concerned.

She recalls him asking: "Honey, there is no way that is about me right?"

She reassured him it was not and wants her fans to rest assured she remains very happily married.

And though she did not get an invite to the "very exclusive" wedding of her friend and colleague Keith Urban, she's thrilled he is also now happily wed to Nicole Kidman.

"I'm very happy for him. He seems very happy and peaceful. She's great and they seem comfortable together."


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