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Johanna Graham: Don't Let Me Be Lonely

Fiona Ord-Shrimpton By

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AAJ: What was it?

JG: It was a snake venom one—good for throats, the pill only contains a memory of the venom. That definitely helped me start singing, I would say. So then, Martin and I started gigging around Cornwall. I started getting weddings, jazz clubs and bars. I'd just been doing that for about 3-4 years. Then we wanted to make the band bigger so we found a bassist, Tim Greenhalgh, who I've known since my youth. We all work really well together. In the last three years we've been working with Damian Rodd, a drummer who's very dynamic, it's exciting with all four of us.

AAJ: So you've been developing the band?

JG: Yes, and I've just been honing my craft, getting freer with my vocals.

AAJ: Do you find it as daunting working with a new artist in the band as you did when you first performed as a singer?

JG: It's all learning, I expect that will continue. You are very vulnerable and open.

AAJ: You have a top level band behind you....

JG: Yeah and heartfelt, which is really important to me, because I just love singing. It puts me in a nice place. I feel connected up, in the zone, I can just flow. It's such a feeling of freedom, I love it.

AAJ: It's good that you found that.

JG: It's a very spiritual practice for me. I contact that creative part of myself that connects with a greater creative energy. It's really hard to describe.

AAJ: Having multiple careers, it seems you've found your place after a long journey.

JG: Yeah, it's definitely a life journey and I wouldn't have been ready for it when I was younger. Certainly I don't think I would have had the depth of emotions and all the heartbreak and knocks....

AAJ: The album does come over as a 'heal the heartache' set of tunes, especially in the delivery of the old standards.

JG: Absolutely, I love the old standards. I just love them and that's why I sing jazz. I do like writing my own, but it's hard to find time to get them polished. I have suffered depression quite a lot in my life. If I'm not being creative I do sink into a depression. I love the creative process, the ups and the downs as well. And then I decided a year ago I was going to make a debut album so I could do a gig at Pizza Express. And everyone was like, "Yeah, yeah."

AAJ: You just decided that's what you wanted to do?

JG: Yeah, that was my aim, my vision.

AAJ: Do you find it an ordeal doing crowdfunding?

JG: Yeah, it was a real ordeal, and I hadn't prepared myself for it. It was really uncomfortable asking for money. Even though I was pre-selling something it still felt very hassle-y and it was really uncomfortable but it was a means to an end and I had to achieve it and lots of people were very supportive and they understood that I was trying to achieve a goal.

AAJ What was your approach?

JG: You have to have a big mailing list. I'm good at admin, which is why I get so many gigs, although it's hard to flip, I'm looking for a really good manager to help with this side, someone to reflect with. It's hard to flip from the creative side to the other side of the brain so quickly.

I was doing all the thing, I raised around £2000 and then put some money in myself and we got the record made and had fun making it.

AAJ: You're on 33 Records now aren't you, it's a great label? How did you go about that?

JG: Yeah, Paul Jolly is really down to earth and nice, I'm so grateful for his support. I was introduced to him by a friend, and he loved the album and wanted to help me out. And he has been encouraging and helpful.

AAJ: That's a nice quote from Chrissie Hynde, how did that come about?

JG: Years ago I worked at the Groucho Club in London, when I was a trainee actress. And once a year we'd do a gig where we entertained the members. I sang with a friend of mine, "When love goes wrong, nothing goes right" from the film "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." We walked out to do it and Chrissie Hynde and Annie Lennox were sitting on the front row. It WAS scary. We just looked at each other and went "Oh Mmmmy God."

And we sang and then afterwards I think I remember coming off stage and having a big drink.

I was sitting with the pianist afterwards and he seemed a bit low. And I asked him if he was OK, and he said, "Oh yeah, I'm alright, I'd be better if Chrissie Hynde was sitting here singing with me." I knew where she was so I said, "Wait there" and I went and got her. And I took her by the hand and I went "Come with me." (I was drunk)

She was like, "You have got beautiful vocals, you need to pursue this. " and I was like, "Shh, come with me, come with me." And she said, "I want to make sure you've heard this."

It's a quote to me! And then she came with me and I sat her next to the pianist and she carried on singing with him happily for the rest of the evening.

AAJ: Brilliant. That's a good story.

JG: It's a sweet story. I suppose I didn't take much heed of it then because it was a few years later that I decided that singing was what I wanted to do. It's taken me a while to find my passion in life, but now I've found where I need to be, in the right place at the right time.


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