Johnson performing at the Hotel Café in Hollywood, February 2015
|Birth name||Alexzandra Spencer Johnson|
|Born||(1986-11-04) November 4, 1986
New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada
|Genres||Pop, world, folk-pop, alternative rock|
|Occupation(s)||Vocalist, songwriter, musician, actress, director|
|Labels||Epic, Capitol, inDiscover Recordings, Orange Lounge Recording Co.|
Alexzandra Spencer “Alexz” Johnson (born November 4, 1986) is a Canadian singer-songwriter, record producer, actress and philanthropist. Her debut album Voodoo was independently released in 2010, followed by the demo release of The Basement Recordings in 2011, with its sequel, The Basement Recordings II, and EP Skipping Stone in 2012. The Basement Recordings III was released in 2013. A follow-up extended play Heart followed in 2014; with her sophomore effort Let ‘Em Eat Cake being released October of that year. Johnson’s third studio album A Stranger Time was released in 2017.
She is best known for her roles as Jude Harrison in the CTV series Instant Star, as Annie Thelen in the Disney Channel series So Weird, and as Erin Ulmer in the 2006 horror film Final Destination 3. She was nominated three times for a Gemini Award for Best Performance in a Children’s or Youth Program or Series (Instant Star), winning the award in 2008.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Career
- 2.1 1999–2003: Beginnings and So Weird
- 2.2 2004–2007: Instant Star and acting Roles
- 2.3 2008–2009: Starting her music career
- 2.4 2009–2011: Voodoo, Reloaded and internet promotion
- 2.5 2011–2013: The Basement Recordings, Skipping Stone and Live From The Skipping Stone Tour
- 2.6 2013–2015: Further touring, Heart and Let ‘Em Eat Cake
- 2.7 2016–present: Johnson & McAuley, directorial debut, and A Stranger Time
- 3 Influences and musical style
- 4 Philanthropy
- 5 Filmography
- 6 Discography
- 7 Awards and nominations
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Johnson was born in New Westminster, British Columbia and raised in nearby Coquitlam. The sixth of ten children, Johnson says her family embraced the arts and being creative. One brother is an actor and screenwriter, a sister is a stage actress, and her brother Brendan is a singer-songwriter and music producer with whom she often collaborates.
From age three, Johnson often sang 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 talent contests and festivals, winning a National Anthem Contest at the age of 11, with her rendition of the Canadian National Anthem, “O Canada“, heard on national television. This resulted in radio and television interviews, as well as interest from management. That year, she was voted Best Anthem singer of the season by the Vancouver Sun.
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. She performed at charity events and fairs around the province, in addition to the BC 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.
1999–2003: Beginnings and So Weird
Although Johnson was only focused on a music career at the time, she 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 television pilot entitled “Most Talented Kids”.
Johnson auditioned for the Disney Channel original series So Weird, which was casting for a lead actress who could also sing for the final season of the show. At the age of 13, Johnson replaced the lead character in the Disney Channel series So Weird for the show’s final season. Johnson portrayed the lead role of Annie Thelen, which combined her acting and musical talents. The role featured her singing alongside Mackenzie Phillips. She showed an interest in songwriting, co-writing one of the songs for the show.
On July 22, 2000, Johnson was featured in Billboard for the first time, she went on to be featured in sixteen different issues. Her highest ranking was number two in “The Top 10 Favorite Artist Picks” for “The Most Popular New Talent on Broadband Talent Net” as of June 2, 2001 after 33 weeks on. Her song “Dream About You” charted six different times and came in at number one in “Radio Play Favorite Song Requests” for “The Most Listened-to New Tracks On Brandband Talent Net” on November 11, 2000. Her song “Wishing On A Star” came in at number five in the same issue. Also “Sunshine Reigns” charted at number three on July 22, 2000.
In the year 2000, a song performed by Johnson entitled “Everything (Feels Like New)” was featured in the Disney Channel Original Movie The Other Me, starring Andrew Lawrence. A full studio version of the song was never released.
After the cancellation of So Weird, Johnson continued her interest in songwriting, co-writing with her brother Brendan Johnson. Several labels offered her contracts, but she held off, wanting more creative control and a hand in the songwriting. In 2001 Johnson teamed up with the production/songwriting team of Johnny Elkins and CJ Vanston. Her song “Transparent Lies”, was recorded for a compilation album titled Fill Your Head. The album was compiled featuring several different artists with songs using certain words in order to help students with their SAT scores. Her work with Vanston and Elkins featured a more bubblegum pop sound than what she preferred and ended around 2003. Johnson continued to work with her brother Brendan recording their own music. These were the songs included on the demo CD sent to the executives of Instant Star with her audition tape.
2004–2007: Instant Star and acting Roles
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Throughout 2004, Johnson made various appearances on Canadian television series including The Chris Isaak Show, The Collector, and Cold Squad. In 2005 she made guest appearances in the made-for-TV films including Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical, as well as the role of Angel DeSousa in the Lifetime original movie Selling Innocence.
In 2004 Johnson sent in an audition tape to the producers of Degrassi: The Next Generation for their upcoming show Instant 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 perfect for the role. After its first season, Instant Star was nominated for three Gemini Awards (the Canadian equivalent of the American Emmy 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 Star: Songs from Instant Star, Songs from Instant Star Two, Songs from Instant Star Three, and Songs From Instant Star Four. She wrote or 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 announced she was leaving the indie Canadian label Orange Records that 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 Christensen in the thriller Final Destination 3. She showed up at the audition in an all-black, punk rockish outfit, later claiming that she was 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, including 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 the Lifetime 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.
2008–2009: 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.[vague] 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 February 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 on Instant 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.”
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.
2009–2011: Voodoo, Reloaded 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 10, 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 performed by Johnson in the series Instant Star, in the season finale. While trending on Twitter, she garnered attention from Demi 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”. Though many of her songs had already been featured in several episodes; 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 would contribute to it.
2011–2013: The Basement Recordings, Skipping Stone and Live From The Skipping Stone Tour
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. Johnson and her brother, Brendan Johnson, released a digital album of demos entitled, The Basement Recordings, on August 26, 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 on January 24, 2012. She also confirmed that it would originally be a digital release, and following her Kickstarters Campaign, a physical release would follow. The video for Skipping Stone was released in December.
Beginning on January 24, 2012, Johnson launched a Kickstarter Campaign in order to raise funds for her upcoming U.S tour. She set her goal for $30,000 in 60 days. For different money denominations, Johnson is offering prizes. Examples include, digital downloads of her upcoming EP, Skipping Stone, signed T-shirts and CDs, signed scripts and clothing from Instant Star, concert tickets, personalized emails and phone calls, live performances, dinner and a broadway show, etc. Johnson unexpectedly reached her goal within 24 hours, confirming her ability to tour during the summer of 2012. Johnson reached $50,000 on day three, allowing her the opportunity to expand the tour and travel overseas. All money donated goes toward touring, recording, merchandise, and anything music related.
The sequel to the 2011 demo album The Basement Recordings, named The Basement Recordings II was released on May 1, 2012. On February 22, 2013, Johnson and her brother Brendan released the third installment of the series, The Basement Recordings III.
On October 26, 2012, Johnson released a trailer for The Skipping Stone Tour Documentary which chronicles her summer on tour. Johnson released the documentary, a live album, Live From The Skipping Stone Tour, and a photo book containing photos from The Skipping Stone Tour on December 4, 2012.
2013–2015: Further touring, Heart and Let ‘Em Eat Cake
Johnson launched a joint North American tour with Charlene Kaye, Misty Boyce, and Jay Stolar in the spring of 2013. On August 22, 2012, Johnson posted a video from a recording session for her upcoming album. Alexz has worked with Bleu, Boots Ottestad, Wax Ltd, Jamie Hartman, Theo Katzman, and her brother Brendan James Johnson on writing the album. Johnson later announced that she would collaborate with her fans in funding her next studio project through PledgeMusic.com. According to the site, Johnson has managed to gather 156% of the money needed for the production and release of her second album. On Christmas Day of 2013, Johnson released the lead single from the album, “American Dreamer”, exclusively to pledgers. The single was released publicly on January 10, 2014.
On January 29, 2014, Johnson released a 4-track EP, Heart exclusively to pledgers. It includes “American Dreamer” as well as three other tracks. While the EP was originally intended to be an album sampler, Johnson clarified in an interview that the EP will stand alone as its own work and that the album will feature all new tracks. Johnson was part of a European tour in support of the EP in early 2014, opening for Ron Pope and Wakey!Wakey!. Johnson was also the opening act for MAX on a North American tour.
Pledgers received digital copies of Johnson’s sophomore album Let ‘Em Eat Cake one week before the official release date of October 14, 2014. Alexz embarked on a tour in support of the album from October until December of the same year. Jared & The Mill and Patrick Droney joined her as special guests.
From February to March 2015, Johnson had a five-week residency at The Hotel Cafe in Hollywood, CA.
2016–present: Johnson & McAuley, directorial debut, and A Stranger Time
On May 24, 2016, Johnson made her directorial debut with “Weekend” a music video for the band Dress Black. June 27, 2017, a second video for Dress Black’s song “Single File Girl” was released also directed by Johnson.
Johnson began working on her third studio album in November 2016, with Mark Howard producing the record. “Right Now” was released as the lead single from Johnson’s third studio album, A Stranger Time, on July 4, 2017. A Stranger Time was released on September 1, 2017.
Influences and musical style
Johnson, In an interview with Fearless Radio, dated November 4, 2014.
Alexz Johnson could be seen in 2001 during her episode with Disney Channel’s Express Yourself citing Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Sarah McLachlan as vocal influences. She states: “Women who just write their own music and sing what they feel, it just really inspires me.”
Johnson was quoted saying, “I love pop music, but kind of eclectic, creative pop.” She has said her influences include Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, and Annie Lennox. She is also an admirer of Jason Mraz, The Civil Wars, and Sara Bareilles.
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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 featuring her autograph. 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 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 visited ill children in a local hospital. The trip was made as a part of an outreach by Disney Channel, and Johnson visited the children with the dog who starred in the Disney original film Air Bud.
During 2002 and 2003, Johnson focused on her music, and 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 had been assisting 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.
|2004||Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed||Fred fan||Cameo|
|2006||Final Destination 3||Erin Ulmer|
|2013||House of Bodies||Kelli|
|2017||The Wasting||Grace||Also co-producer|
|2000–01||So Weird||Annie Thelen||26 episodes; Lead role (Season 3)|
|2001||Express Yourself||Herself||Interstitial series|
|2004||Chris Isaak Show, TheThe Chris Isaak Show||Jennifer||“Taking Off” (Season 3: episode 11)|
|2004||Collector, TheThe Collector||Isabelle Van Sant||“The Ice Skater” (Season 1: episode 4)|
|2004–08||Instant Star||Jude Harrison||52 episodes; Lead role (Seasons 1–4)|
|2004||Cold Squad||Deirdre Spence / Tricia Spence||“Teen Angel” (Season 7: episode 3)|
|2005||Falcon Beach||Beach girl||Cameo; television film|
|2005||Reefer Madness||The Arc-ettes / Vocal Ensemble||Television film|
|2005||Selling Innocence||Angel DeSousa||Television film|
|2006||Degrassi: Minis||Jude Harrison||“I’m a Degrassi, I’m an Instant Star” (Season 2: episode 18)|
|2007||Devil’s Diary||Dominique||Television film|
|2009||Smallville||Imra Ardeen / Saturn Girl||“Legion” (Season 8: episode 11)|
|2009||Stranger with My Face||Laurie Stratton / Lia Abbot||Television film|
|2011||Listener, TheThe Listener||Marissa ‘Hack Grrl’ Patterson||“Jericho” (Season 2: episode 9)|
|2011||Haven||Moira Keegan||“Roots” (Season 2: episode 5)|
|2014||Blue||Satya||4 episodes; Recurring role (Season 3)|
|2012||Walking||Producer||Her own music video|
|2016||The Dishwasher||Producer||Short film|
|2017||The Wasting||Co-producer||Also actress|
Awards and nominations
|2001||Young Artist Awards||“Best Ensemble in a TV Series (Drama or Comedy)” (shared with cast)||So Weird||Nominated|
|2005||Gemini Awards||“Best Performance in a Children’s or Youth Program or Series”||Instant Star||Nominated|
|2007||Gemini Awards||“Best Performance in a Children’s or Youth Program or Series”||Nominated|
|2008||Leo Awards||“Best Lead Performance by a Female in a Feature Length Drama”||Devil’s Diary||Nominated|
|2008||Gemini Awards||“Best Performance in a Children’s or Youth Program or Series”||Instant Star||Won|
|2016||Storyhive Awards||“Storyhive Digital Shorts – British Columbia”||The Dishwasher||Won|
|2016||Best Shorts Competition||“Film Short”||Won|
|2016||Kerry Film Festival||“Best Original Score” (shared with Matthew Chung and Marko Koumoulas)||Nominated|
|2016||Independent Music Awards||“Best Pop Album”||Let ‘Em Eat Cake||Nominated|
|2017||21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition||“Songwriting Competition” (shared with Bleu)||Thank You For Breaking My Heart ||Nominated|
|2017||Leo Awards||“Best Musical Score in a Short Drama” (shared with Matthew Chung and Marko Koumoulas)||The Dishwasher||Nominated|