Long time Las Vegas homeowner and singer Michelle Johnson’s very first full-time regional gig was at the Golden Nugget, singing in the chorus for a program called “Country Fever.” At that time, she says, Steve Wynn owned the downtown gambling establishment resort, and he was paying the performers in the show as real casino workers, consisting of medical insurance coverage, a 401k plan and the works.
When the program closed, and Johnson carried out briefly in a replacement production that didn’t last, she wound up remaining on at the Nugget to work in a brand-new counseling program serving at-risk youth. “It was my first real day task here,” says Johnson, who moved here from New york city in 1995 and is frequently described as Las Vegas’ very first woman of jazz. “I did that for a while and kept singing, and eventually my schedule picked up so I had to leave that job helping kids deal with their stress and has a hard time.
“I have actually constantly believed if I might wave a wand I ‘d create a center for at-risk kids using music to recover, some kind of music and treatment foundation. It definitely has actually been my medicine for all these years.”
Empathy and music are definitely related on some deep level that we may not fully understand. “I believe so,” she says. “If you think of jazz zingers, and why there are many that appear so sad, and why when you check out that category there’s a lot catastrophe, I think it exposes a natural tie in between music and healing. Everyone has some type of monkey on their back, something they’re resolving. Music has a way of night individuals out. Even when you don’t speak the same language, you can link to people through your voice when you’re singing, and that’s what I attempt to do.”
Johnson, who has tape-recorded and/or shared a phase with just about everybody from Gladys Knight to Elton John to Paul McCartney, won’t have a problem connecting with her audience with her newest program at the Smith Center. She’s as soon as again performing “Tapestry Unraveled” this week, digging deep into the renowned 1971 album by Carole King. She sang the totality of “Tapestry” the very first time last fall, her first program at the Cabaret Jazz theater “that was really my program,” she states. “I have the tendency to produce things with a big cast of characters, like the Prince tribute we did last year. So I was a little afraid the very first time since it was my program and it’s about my life. It’s a combination of speaking about my life which album and the synergy of maturing with her.”
“Tapestry,” of course, contains a few of the beloved singer-songwriter’s best-known hits: “I Feel the Earth Move,” “It’s Too Late,” “Home Again,” “You’ve Got a Good friend” and “Natural Female,” among others.
“It was the 2nd album I owned,” states Johnson. (The very first was James Taylor’s “Mud Slide Slim and heaven Horizon.”) “It resonated with me due to the fact that I knew she had actually composed the songs. My moms and dads are both very musical and played a lot of records, however when my mama told me [Carole King] wrote these, it turned a switch inside me. I recognized you don’t have to simply sing tunes by other people, that you can compose your own stories. I likewise discovered how to play piano by ear using ‘Tapestry,’ and that’s why many of my chord progressions sound like that album.”
Johnson, who also runs her own busy entertainment backline business called Diva Las Vegas Productions, has satisfied a number of her showbiz idols throughout her years visiting as a background singer, but she hasn’t fulfilled King. “I would like to meet her and just state thank you for enabling me to pursue exactly what I desire fearlessly,” she says. “One of the important things I like about Carole is she doesn’t just blog about love and relationships. She takes you through various viewpoints of various people. And this album is almost like an unique with different chapters, so I attempt to take those songs and develop a theatrical program, not simply a show, but a story about love and loss and those universal styles.”
Michelle Johnson presents “Tapestry Unraveled” at 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 15, in the Cabaret Jazz theater at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Find tickets and details at thesmithcenter.com.