Collier is following in his dad, Rick Johnson’s, footsteps. photo provided
Collier is following in his dad, Rick Johnson’s, footsteps. photo provided

Rick Johnson makes his living inspiring students to sing. Now the Americana Project and choir teacher has been inspired by those same students to create his own original songs, released this month on the CD "All That Matters."

The new CD features 18 original songs penned by Johnson, accompanying himself on guitar or ukulele, with harmony vocals by his wife Tara.

"It just evolved organically," Johnson told The Nugget. "I spend a lot of my summer up in the mountains and I bring my guitar with me and just let the music come through me. I think the songs reflect how much I appreciate my family and the place where I live."

Indeed, the songs extol the simple life and love of family, which includes two-and-half-year-old Collier.

The youngest member of the Johnson family is already picking up the music bug, playing his ukulele and drumming on a mini-cajon (a box drum) with his dad in the evenings.

"We even sampled my son saying 'ukulele' and slapped it on the end of one of the songs," Johnson said.

Johnson recorded the CD himself in his home studio.

The teacher has an extensive background in musical theater - which means his accustomed singing voice is "big" and stagy. That wouldn't do for straightforward songs with solo acoustic accompaniment. He had to change his approach.

"That was one of the hurdles in making the CD," he acknowledged. "It's really about the story. It's really about the lyrics. It's about getting across the meaning of the song."

This is Johnson's first writing endeavor in many years. His music theater and teaching careers are a long interlude between songwriting efforts, which started when he wrote lyrics for his high school thrash-metal band.

He's a long way down the road from those days. He credits the influence of the Sisters Folk Festival and his Americana Project students with inspiring him to pick up the guitar and get back to writing, with a whole life's worth of material to draw from.

"To be inspired by that on a daily basis pushed me to taking the serious steps to writing and carrying a guitar with me every day," Johnson said.

Though he is busy with his music-teaching day job and a young family, Johnson plans to be booking local gigs to get his new music out into the community. All That Matters is available locally at Paulina Springs Books. For more information visit Johnson's Facebook page, Rick Johnson Songs.