By Alec Kissoondyal
Johanna Warren is a multi-talented musician, who will be performing at the Tom Petty Weekend Festival, at Heartwood Soundstage, on October 19th here in Gainesville. In this interview she talks about what music means to her, and its overall significance, as well as her own unique creative process.
Q: How did you get into music? Where did your passion start?
A: I've always been a musical being. I just kind of have a natural way of producing sound of producing sound as I move through the world. I'm always whistling or humming. It's kind of been a thing since before I could talk. Home videos of me as a pre verbal child are just me walking around the house going "aaaaaa." It was definitely a natural inclination and it sort of got conditioned out of me as I became self-conscious, and shy, and it had to be re-learned and reclaimed as an adult. And I think because of that, it's been an aspect of what I do and why I do it. As an adult who had my voice kind of shut down for a long time by schooling and society and shitty things that little kids said to me, I feel very strongly about helping others reclaim their voice and find their true voice. Because I think even the people who are using their voices in the world right now want to sound like somebody else whose voice they heard and liked and I think we all have an authentic voice that is purely ours, and that's work that I'm constantly doing as a vocalist. We're always making choices. The voice is such a versatile instrument, and it's interesting to me why we make the choices we do about how to use it even just in our speaking lives.
Q: I read on your website about the healing services you offer. The description about voice healing says that the throat links the heart to the mind. In relation to that, do your views pertaining to music tie into that at all?
A: Absolutely. Especially in this time when language is so broken and people are so divided. Everything is so divisive and inflammatory when it comes to expressing ourselves through words. Music is such a powerful way to drop beneath that and just feel an expression from the heart that exists in a dimension that transcends and sinks beneath language. It's a universal language. I know that's kind of cheesy to say, but in times like these, with political strife and division everywhere, music is such an amazing way for us to come together and literally tune our consciousness to the same shared vibratory frequencies and have this collective shared experience in a way that we can all understand in our own way but share collectively.
Q: Speaking of language, another thing that you have on your website is the lyrics to all of your songs. When it comes to the writing process, how do you go about it? What is your process, and what do you try to convey in the lyrics?
A: It's been a shifting process for me over the years. When I first started writing, I didn't feel like I had anything in particular to say, so the music would come first. In general, my process begins with guitar or piano. I'm not trained, I haven't taken lessons in either of those instruments, but I use it as kind of a mental meditation to pick out a pattern or a shape, then I have to enter a state of focus and concentration to get the pattern moving in my fingertips. That state of concentration opens some kind of portal in my mind. It's a form of meditation. It opens the doors to a state of consciousness where the song can flow through. It feels like a sort of channeling process, but on another level it's an improvisation. I have a pattern, then I start improvising vocal melodies over it. Sometimes words come out immediately attached to those melodies, sometimes they don't.
Lyrically, I used to just focus on the sound of the words and surreal imagery. I would do a lot of stream-of-conscious writing when I was younger and just pick images that I thought were interesting and try to fit them into the lines of a song in a way that worked, because I didn't have that much specifically that I wanted to express thematically. But this last couple of years, as I've become more introspective and gotten into therapy and started unpacking my mind, it's become a more direct form of catharsis and processing for me. I think my songs have taken a turn for the direct, autobiographical and self-healing. The most recent bodies of work I've put out have been sort of transcriptions of my own internal introspective processes in a way that I hope can serve as a sort of map or guide for people who are also engaging in that process of unflinching self-examination.