Birth name Alexzandra Spencer Johnson
Born November 4, 1986(age 25)[citation needed]
New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada
Genres Pop, world, folk-pop, alternative rock
Occupations Vocalist, songwriter, musician,actress
Instruments Vocals guitar
Years active 2000–present
Labels Epic, Capitol, inDiscover Recordings, Orange Lounge Recording Co.

Early life

From age three, Johnson would frequently sing for her large extended family. By age seven, she was receiving vocal training, participating in festivals with her local youth choir, and giving solo performances at school and community functions. She entered many talent contests and festivals, winning a National Anthem Contest at the age of 11, with her rendition of the National Anthem being heard on national television. This resulted in numerous radio and television interviews, as well as interest from management. That year, she was also voted Best Anthem singer of the season by the Vancouver Sun.Johnson was born in New Westminster, British Columbia and raised in nearby Coquitlam,the sixth of ten children. One of her sisters is a stage actress, and her brother Brendan is a musician with whom she often collaborates.

Locally, Johnson was often referred to as the “West Coast Celine” and sang the Canadian National Anthem at games for the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks and the NBA’s Vancouver Grizzlies (now based in Memphis). She also performed at charity events and fairs around the province, in addition to the B.C. Summer Games. She opened the Variety Club show singing a duet with Bob McGrath, sang the first set of songs at the Molson Indy (a major car race), and entertained on New Year’s Eve at Planet Hollywood at the age of 12.

Career

2000–03: Career beginnings and So Weird

Johnson was offered the job immediately after her audition. She also showed an interest in songwriting, and co-wrote one of the songs for So Weird. After the show ended, she continued her interest in songwriting, co-writing with her brother. In 2002, after a few acting gigs under her belt, Johnson focused on her music career. Several labels offered her contracts, but she held off, wanting more creative control and a hand in the songwriting.Although she was only focused on singing at the time, Johnson decided to pursue a career in acting at the age of 11, where she “walked into an acting agency and told them [she] wanted to sing.” She landed auditions for commercials and a showcase for a pilot called “Most Talented Kids”. She auditioned for the Disney television series So Weird which, for the final season of the show, was looking for a lead actress who could also sing.

In 2001, Johnson teamed up with the production/songwriting team of Johnny Elkins and CJ Vanston and had a more bubblegum pop sound. With her work with Vanston and Elkins ending around 2003, Johnson ended up working with her brother on demos. These were the types of songs included on the demo CD she sent to the executives of Instant Star with her audition tape.

Johnson has continued with several acting projects, including the role of Angel in the Lifetime original movie Selling Innocence and guest roles in shows such asThe Chris Isaak ShowCold Squad, and The Collector.

2004–07: Instant Star and acting roles

In 2004, Johnson sent in an audition tape to the producers of Degrassi: The Next Generation for their upcoming showInstant Star. They were specifically looking for a Canadian teen actress/vocalist to play the lead role, Jude Harrison. The first audition tape Executive Producer Stephen Stohn received was Johnson’s, and he was convinced she was exactly the one who would be perfect for the role.[citation needed]Instant Star cast photo (credit to Epitome Pictures)

After its first season, Instant Star was nominated for three Gemini Awards (the Canadian equivalent of the AmericanEmmy Award) in the category of Best Children’s or Youth Fiction Program or Series, including a nomination for Best Performance (Alexz Johnson). On August 28, 2007, the show received three more Gemini Award nominations, in the category of Best Children’s or Youth Program or Series, including another for Best Performance (Alexz Johnson, in the episode, “I Fought the Law”).

Johnson sang all of the songs that her character Jude, on Instant Star performed on the show. She recorded soundtracks for each of the four seasons of Instant StarSongs from Instant StarSongs from Instant Star TwoSongs from Instant Star Three, and Songs From Instant Star Four. She wrote/co-wrote five of the songs on the first season’s soundtrack, including “24 Hours”, “Let Me Fall”, “Criminal, “Skin”, and “That Girl”, which Johnson had written before when she was fourteen.

Most of the original recordings for the originally planned debut album were written by Johnson in early 2005, but she had yet to find a major label to help create and release the songs. In early 2006, Johnson had announced she was to leave the indie Canadian label Orange Records, that had released the first two soundtracks to Instant Star, in search of something to showcase her as an artist and not her fictional counterpart, Jude Harrison.

Johnson auditioned for the role of Julie Christenson in the thriller Final Destination 3. She showed up at the audition in an all black, punk rockish outfit, later claiming that she had also been in a bad mood. The casting directors concluded she was a better fit for the role of Erin Ulmer, a character with a bad attitude. Her performance attracted praise from some critics, even from one (writing for The Philadelphia Inquirer) who said: “The characters are so loathsome, you’re glad to see them go. Except for two: the goth couple Ian (Kris Lemche) and Erin (Alexz Johnson). He’s a cynical know-it-all, like Dennis Miller with black fingernails; she’s like Parker Posey with raccoon mascara..” In 2007, Johnson starred in theLifetime movie, Devil’s Diary, for which she received a Leo Award nomination, in the category of Best Lead Performance by a Female in a Feature-Length Drama.

2008–09: Struggles with starting her music career

On August 26, 2008, Johnson was nominated a third time for a Gemini award. On October 21, 2008, she won the Gemini Award for Best Performance in a Children’s or Youth Program or Series, for the Instant Star episode “Let It Be.” Johnson continued with Instant Star for four seasons, and expected to return for a fifth. This was interrupted when CTV and The N both pulled funding following the fourth season, which led to the cancellation of the series. This allowed Johnson to go back to focusing on her music.

After a showcase in New York City, Johnson met with several labels and producers and chose Capitol Records, which allowed her to work with Paul Buckmaster, though her brother was the main producer of the material at the time. In writing songs for the album, she worked with UK writers Martin Terefe and Sacha Skarbek as well as producer/songwriter Brio Taliaferro. On June 25, 2007, Johnson appeared on MTV Canada. She confirmed that all of her songs had been written and recorded. She planned on shopping for a label over the next few months and hoped to release the album in the winter.

On February 15, 2008, she announced in her MySpace blog that she had signed a record deal with label Epic Records (part of the Sony BMG group), expecting the album to be released in the fall. Having heard the first six songs, Stephen Stohn, in his MySpace blog of Feb. 16, 2008, commented that, “they are just incredibly good – very different from the songs you’ve come to know through Instant Star, much more rhythmic, with almost a world beat.”

In an interview in 2008, she described her upcoming album as “pop with eclectic world rhythms and influences”, citing influences from “older artists” such as Paul Simon, Kate Bush, and Annie Lennox, and saying that she was “trying to find a way to make those great older songs younger.”

The producer for the album became Greg Wells after Johnson was introduced to him through his brother Rob Wells, one of the songwriters for Instant Star. The new arrangement with Epic Records also affected the line-up of artists for the Instant Star 4 soundtrack, as the record label allowed her a maximum of four songs onInstant Star 4. In her MySpace blog of February 15, 2008, Johnson indicated that she was planning an extensive tour around her new album, saying of her songs that, “I can’t wait to perform them live! Looking forward to seeing all of your faces!” Johnson also began working with multi instrumentalist Luis Conte and legendary strings expert Paul Buckmaster. Five songs were posted on her MySpace page by her record company on June 11, 2008. These songs were supposed to appear in her upcoming album and were entitled: “Easy”, “Swallowed”, “Chicago”, “Golden”, and “Running With the Devil”.

Johnson appeared in the hit CW series Smallville episode “Legion”, as the super heroine Saturn Girl. The episode aired on January 15, 2009. She was the second actress from Instant Star to appear in the show, the first one being Laura Vandervoort. She also appeared in the TV-movie version of the Lois Duncan novel Stranger with My Face, in which she plays twin sisters who were separated at birth. She stated that the filming—which included a dramatic scene in which her two characters conflict through astral projection, leading to a fall off a cliff and into a waterfall—was so mentally and physically demanding, that she felt like she could never take on another role like it again. It premiered on Lifetime Movie network on August 29, 2009. The director of Stranger with My Face, Jeff Renfroe, greatly praised what he saw when working with Johnson and her costar Andrew Francis. “They’re both young actors who came from the school of working from the gut and not trying to intellectualize everything.”[citation needed]

In a February 2009 interview with the Times-Colonist, a newspaper in Victoria, British Columbia, Johnson said that her album was completely finished, noting that she was simply waiting for changes to be finalized with the new head of her label, Amanda Ghost, who had worked with Johnson on the album. She hoped to have the album out by September 2009, followed by tours through parts of Europe and North America.

Before the album’s release date, Epic Records removed Johnson from their Artist Lists. Johnson later gave clarification on her website that launched August 11, 2009, saying “Epic has released over a third of their artists from their contracts and, la dee da… I’m one of those artists…” She also later clarified in an interview that the “head of the label who signed [her] ended up shifting to a different company. It led a lot of artists on Epic astray.” She confirmed that due to losing her deal with Epic, she would be releasing a different album independently with her brother Brendan producing. She said she hopes that her unreleased debut album with Epic would see the light one day, noting that for now, the songs are still tied up in the arrangement with Epic.

2009–11: VoodooReloaded, and Internet promotion

The independent release will be by the company which also runs her website – Laydee Spencer Music, Inc. On August 27, 2009, Johnson released a list of songs that are going to be on her album in alphabetical order, and later requested fans to go through the clips of five upcoming songs on her site, and to recommend which should be the lead-off single. The tracks posted were: “L.A. Made Me”, “Hurricane Girl”, “Voodoo”, “A Little Bit”, and “Trip Around the World”. On December 1, 2009 it was announced that her debut album Voodoo would be released on March 30, 2010. The debut single, Trip Around The World, was released on February 2, 2010 along with a music video shot by Michael Maxxis. Johnson shared in an interview that her favourite songs of Voodoo are “Look At Those Eyes”, “Voodoo”, and “Gonna Get It”.

Later in 2010, Johnson informed her fans through her Twitter account and her official website that all the songs from Voodoo would be remixed by The Demolition Crew due to lack of airplay. The Demolition Crew undertook to make the songs more radio-friendly. Reloaded, as the remix album’s name is, was released on April 26, 2011. The first single, “Boogie Love (The Demolition Crew Remix)” was released on January 11, 2011 while the second one, “Look At Those Eyes (The Demolition Crew Remix)”, was released on March 29, 2011.

While awaiting the release of Reloaded, Johnson became a trending topic on Twitter for four days. This was due to the ABC Family television series Pretty Little Liars playing “Time to Be Your 21,” a song sung by Johnson in the series Instant Star, in the season finale. While trending on Twitter, she garnered attention fromDemi Lovato and Nelly Furtado. Lovato has spoken several times about Johnson being her inspiration to start a career in music, while Furtado spoke about her single “Look At Those Eyes” calling it “an event”. With the help of the Twitter trend, Johnson made the homepage of several online sites, including L.A. Times Ministry of Gossip Blog.

Johnson created a YouTube account where she posts videos of herself performing along with her brother Brendan James Johnson, and Jimmy Robbins. On June 22, 2011 Johnson held two live concerts on Stage It for fans around the world. The concerts were performed online via webcam along with her band “The Bed”. On June 24, 2011 it was announced that Johnson was the new voice of television series Degrassi: The Next Generation Season 11 new opening theme song. The idea came naturally as Demacio “Demo” Castellón was producing the track and asked her if she could contribute to it.

2011-present: The Basement Recordings and Skipping Stone

Johnson has revealed that she is writing for her next album and hoping to enter the studio by the end of the Summer to start recording. Her brother and Johnson released a digital album of demos entitled, The Basement Recordings, on August 26th, 2011.

In October, via Twitter, Johnson announced her plans to release an EP featuring new material, and confirmed on October 29, that she was in New York filming the music video for her new single Skipping Stone. Johnson confirmed that her EP, Skipping Stone would be out in January 2012, with the video premiere released in December.

Other work

Philanthropy

During the peak of her run on So Weird, Johnson ended up performing and visiting the Nashville Kids Fair where she also hosted the event. During her time in Nashville, Johnson ended up visiting ill children in a local hospital. The trip was made as a part of an outreach by Disney Channel, as Johnson visited the children with the dog who starred in the Disney original film Air Bud.During 2001, Johnson worked with World Vision, and had a section on her official site where fans could order shirts with a design done by Johnson and also featuring her autograph. Unfortunately, there were production problems and the shirts were never sent out. Johnson made an apology on her site and provided refunds to everyone who ordered one. In 2002, she performed as the opening act at Wayne Gretzky’s celebrity dinner and auction, held in Edmonton, Alberta, to raise funds for the Ronald McDonald children’s charity.

During 2002 and 2003, Johnson focused on her music, but decided to perform with several charitable organizations. She worked with David Foster, opening for his charity events for the David Foster Foundation. After the season premiere of the second season of Instant Star on The N she also did a public service announcement for Second Harvest which was assisting the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

On November 21, 2008, Johnson was a special guest performer for a Women In Leadership (a Vancouver organization promoting women’s role in the media) foundation called SuperWomen & Friends – A Red Carpet Gala.

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