Culture / Entertainment

Dallas Native Releases Her First Album at 32, Proving It’s Never Too Late to be a Hometown Music Star

Sarah Johnson Talks "Volcano," Turning a Passion Into Action and Sticking With Dallas Over Nashville

BY // 08.03.20

Dallas native and Americana artist Sarah Johnson started playing her dad’s old Yamaha guitar in the fifth grade. Three decades later at age 32 years old, Johnson will be releasing her first six-song EP record titled Volcano on September 18. Some might say that Johnson had a late start to her music career, but she wants to show people that it’s never too late to pursue your dream and that Dallas is a great place to do it.

“It started as a huge passion of mine and more of a hobby,” Johnson tells PaperCity.

Growing up in a musical family, Johnson says that her dad was a guitarist who had a great ear for music and her mom was always making up songs — even if it was just about cleaning up the house. Her two sisters are also singers.

“I started taking music more seriously in the fifth grade,” she says. “I did worship at church and have actually written a lot of faith-based songs.”

Sarah Johnson Dallas
Dallas Americana singer-songwriter Sarah Johnson(Photo by Sarah Yarbrough)

Four or five years ago, Johnson started getting more personal with her songwriting. She began to dive into the subject of relationships.

“I always liked Americana music and wanted to emulate it,” she says. Her earliest influence was The (Dixie) Chicks. “I got over my stage fright singing “Traveling Soldier” on the bus coming home from cross country meets in high school,” Johnson remembers. Seeing Brandi Carlile on stage at the Cactus Cafe as a University of Texas freshman was probably the biggest influence in her desire to go into the Americana genre.

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Later on, a performance by David Ramirez inspired her songwriting. “The first time I heard him (Ramirez) at The Kessler Theatre in 2011, he entranced me,” Johnson says. “I absolutely loved his voice, melodies, and lyrics. He was raw and told real stories. I think that’s a huge inspiration for me.”

Johnson was performing at house concerts and doing open mics before she decided to take the leap of going into the studio.

“People will always say you should’ve started earlier,” she says. “But I feel more mature as a songwriter and artist now.”

There was a time when she was even going to move to Nashville and leave her family and business behind. Oh yeah, Johnson also owns a business called King’s Daughters where she is an author and painter, as well. But in the process of moving to Nashville, the idea of having to sacrifice these things she loved made her wonder what she could find in Dallas.

“I was looking at Dallas artists, specifically Frankie Leonie, and saw that she recorded at Modern Electric,” Sarah Johnson says. “I thought this is amazing. I don’t want people to have to feel like they have to leave.” Eventually, she got connected with Modern Electric producer Beau Bedford and Volcano was born.

“I feel like a lot of times what you’re passionate about seems far-fetched, like too much work, or too big, but I feel more energized now than ever,” she says.” Besides gaining life experience, Johnson says time also gave her entrepreneurial skills. As for the EP, “everything is so autobiographical and based off real moments, relationships, and real life experience,” she notes.

The title track, “Volcano,” was inspired by Johnson’s journey of finally bursting forth onto the Dallas music scene. “I’m excited about being a part of the Dallas scene,” she says. Johnson also wants people to know that if you look for something you really want in her hometown, you can find it.

“I’m 32, not-married, and a lot of times people feel like they should’ve pursued their dream when they were young,” she says. “But I just don’t have that mindset at all. If Volcano can be inspiring to anyone, I hope it tells them, ‘If you love something, go for it.’ ”

Sarah Johnson’s debut EP Volcano will be available for purchase on Apple Music and streaming on Spotify and other platforms September 18. First two singles — the title track “Volcano” (August 14) and “Red Bandana” (September 4) — will be released.

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