Orange County Register, Friday, November 1, 2002
Love, music, in that
By ROBERT KINSLER
Special to the Register
has seemingly approached things backward, at least when it comes to forging a
"I had a kid, bought a house and thought (a singing
career) was over," explained Johnson, who spent much of her late teens and
early 20s studying music in college and performing with a Top 40 band, even touring
But she eventually got burned out singing music that was neither
her own or artistically challenging, so she quit.
"In 1997, it was the
birth of my son that inspired me to finally find the courage to put my own pen
to paper. Shortly thereafter, I enrolled in a songwriting class at Saddleback
College where I met Randy Rusk."
A longtime songwriting teacher
at the Mission Viejo college, Rusk proved to be a mentor to Johnson and her husband
and songwriting partner, Greg Johnson. Rusk encouraged Charlene to take her writings
and turn them into songs.
In 2000, after spending more than a year writing
and crafting their original material, the couple began to perform live. Although
not always the rule, Charlene handles lyrics and Greg pens the music.
songs evolve in our live shows," Greg said. The Tustin-based musical duo
has been married almost nine years and their son, Shane, is 5.
usually performs at shows with Greg (acoustic and electric guitars) and Anton
Shmerkin (bass, violin). On her newly released debut CD "Blossom," additional
musicians were brought into the studio to augment the recordings; guest players
included drummer John Ray, lap steel guitarist Greg DeCastro, backup singer Steve
Carson and Rusk on guitar.
"Blossom" was recorded and engineered
by Bill Bowman at The Shop in Huntington Beach. Although originally intended to
be a demo, the six songs proved to be strong enough to release as a commercial
"The main thing now is not to think about that (the image
and marketing side of pop music), but to write the most honest songs I can that,"
said Charlene, noting the lyrical themes vary from song to song but are usually
unified by a sense of hope. The music itself blends rock, country and folk elements
in the sonic territory positioned between Shawn Colvin and Sixpence None the Richer.
"Somebody Help Me" was actually a journal entry that explored
Charlene's emotions about breaking "out of her shell," while "I
Crave You" - although commonly mistaken by audiences as having a sexual theme
- is about finding joy and reaching a more satisfying place in one's own life.
"My music is my art, I look at it strictly like that," Charlene
said. "If it (commercial success) happens, great. If not, we're happy with
Greg agreed: "We like artistic freedom. It's not
about the money for us; we love to perform and love to write songs and share that
Added Charlene: "It's great for us as a couple too."