(Listen to one of the band’s newest releases found at the end of this article)
A Nashville-based band is using the Cambridge stage to promote a new album, as well as benefit local homeless families with children.
The Anna Johnson Band will perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 27, at the Richard G. Hardy Performing Arts Center at Cambridge-Isanti High School. The proceeds will go toward New Pathways’ Cambridge Site Shelter (Path to Home Program) for local homeless families with children.
New Pathways’ Path to Home program serves local homeless families with children from the central Minnesota region. New Pathways provides the day shelter, along with comprehensive support services. In the evenings, New Pathways partners with area churches to provide the night shelter, including meals and hospitality.
Tickets are available at www.eventbrite.com (search Cambridge, MN) or at the New Pathways Cambridge Office, 310 S. Ashland St. VIP tickets are $40 and includes seating in front, a meet-and-greet with the band, a private mini-concert and an autographed CD. VIP ticket holders need to arrive at 5:30 p.m. and purchase their tickets prior to the event. General seating tickets are $20, students 13-18 are $15 and children under 12 are free. General admission seating will open at 6:30 p.m., and general admission tickets will be available the night of the event.
Mary Westlund, program manager and family educator for New Pathways, explained since New Pathways opened in 2000, it has served 463 families, including 848 children. It has turned away 645 households due to being at capacity. It serves an average of 36 families per year, and last year, 91 percent of families successfully completed the program and moved into permanent housing.
Westlund encourages all community members to attend the concert.
“It will be a fun and enjoyable night out all while supporting our programming. It’s a win-win, if you ask me,” Westlund said. “The Anna Johnson Band is a nationally known band coming all this way to support us; I think that alone is quite amazing. It’s a great family event; that is why 12 and under are free and we have the special student price. Every year we need to raise money in order to keep our doors open. This event will help us move closer to our fundraising goal, allowing us to continue to serve local homeless families with children. We are a highly efficient program that operates on a bare-bones budget, so every dollar is stretched and desperately needed.”
The Anna Johnson Band is composed of Anna Johnson; her husband David Mitchell, guitarist and co-writer; her sister Julia Johnson, vocalist and violinist; Chris Wright, vocalist and drummer; and Jason Navo, bass player and vocalist.
Westlund explained New Pathways’ board president, Don Claveau Jr., has a connection to Johnson who helped arrange the benefit concert.
Johnson grew up in Chippewa Falls, Wis., graduated from small private high school in Eau Claire, Wis., in 2006, and attended a couple of colleges, where she studied studio art, before landing at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul. There she was awarded an $80,000 scholarship to study songwriting and competition. The scholarship was funded by the legendary rock band Queen.
“I didn’t know I wanted to pursue music as a career until I was in college,” Johnson said. “I had been musical my entire life – piano lessons, church and school choirs, singing with my father and his gospel trio, praise band, etc. – but never dreamt of making a career out of it until I was studying art and realized I longed to spend my time writing songs and playing the guitar. My father helped teach me to play and allowed me to use his instrument, and both he and my mother were incredibly supportive. Their encouragement and belief in me led me to work hard and do my best, which ultimately led to many opportunities as a young musician.”
Johnson’s move to Nashville in 2009 led to many opportunities. She’s been a finalist in various songwriting competitions, including the prestigious International Songwriting Competition in 2013, which had more than 20,000 entrants. She’s also endorsed by McPherson Guitars; has performed with artists Colbie Caillat, Amy Grant, Bryan White and John Carter Cash; and has released three professional, independent albums.
Johnson’s fourth album, “Here,” technically debuts April 1; however, the Cambridge concert will be the first opportunity the public has the chance to buy the album.
“‘Here’ is an album that was crafted over the past several months while I was learning, growing and adjusting to life as a new mother,” Johnson said. “Along with the sleepless nights came a flood of emotions and endless inspiration. These songs are based on feelings of hope and love, fear and memories of heartbreak, but mostly on joy and excitement for whatever the future holds. This album was funded by my incredible supporters via Kickstarter. It features my live band and a few special guest musicians. It’s the first album of songs I’ve written and designed specifically to belong together as a whole.
“My past several releases have been compilations of songs from various seasons of life, so they aren’t as congruent or intentional as this. I suppose that’s one of the reasons I’m so very excited about it. With the release of ‘Here,’ I am, in a sense, re-entering the music world with a clearer understanding of who I am as a musician, what I want to portray as a wife, mother and artist who desires to be a positive role model and example, and where I want to go with my career. It’s exciting. I’m thrilled to share my heart by sharing ‘Here’ with the world,” Johnson added.
Aside from the debut of “Here,” concert-goers can expect to hear a variety of original songs that are appropriate for all ages that feature Johnson’s live band; two guitars, a violin, three voices, bass and drums.
Johnson said her music falls somewhere between the Americana and pop genres.
“It focuses on lyrics, clear, lovely vocals, thick harmonies, catchy melodies, and warm, rich guitars,” Johnson said. “I write songs about life, love, friendship and the road. There’s always hope in my music, and I’m determined to maintain an authenticity that so much of the entertainment industry tosses out. It’s important to me that I’m real and honest, and that I portray a positive image. My husband plays guitar with me and writes a lot of the music by my side. My sister is also a part of my band, so it’s a family affair that’s so dear to my heart. My music has been compared to the likes of Alison Krauss, Norah Jones, Sara Groves, Sara Bareilles, Sheryl Crow and Colbie Caillat. It’s fresh and unique, so I’m not ‘the next so-and-so,’ which can be challenging, but allows me the chance to start something new. I like the challenge, and thankfully people seem to like the music.”
Johnson hopes her music connects with everyone who listens.
“I hope they feel real heartfelt emotions, hope, joy, something fresh and honest, something rejuvenating, and a desire to breathe in and let it go,” Johnson said. “I want them to be honest with their feelings and happy from the inside out. I write all my own music based on experiences I’ve had, challenges I’ve faced or emotions from the deepest parts of my heart. I’m inspired by creation and human feelings. I love love. I love friendship. I love travel and adventure and sentimental things.”
<<Listen to the latest music from the band, exclusive to ICN>>
Westlund explained New Pathways is still in need of event sponsors. A platinum sponsor ($1,000) will receive 20 VIP passes, Gold ($500) 10 VIP passes, Silver ($250) 6 VIP passes and Bronze ($100) a family pass for general seating. Contact Westlund at 763-691-0121, ext. 5, for details or email email@example.com. New Pathways’ Facebook page will also be updated with event details.