LAURA JOHNSON (Pictured at left) former Hallock, Minn., resident shars her inspiration for her CD “I Need To Be Singing” (picture right). Johnson has written several songs that have special meaning to her and hopefully to others as well.
By Linda Andersen
Current Thief River Falls resident and former Hallock resident Laurel Johnson has recorded a CD of her original songs entitled, “I Need To Be Singing.” The CD is available on the Internet at CD Baby Music Store, at Nordisk Hemslöjd in Karlstad, or by contacting Laurel (Find more contact information at the end of the article).
Laurel possesses a beautiful, easy to listen to alto voice through which she expresses meaningful lyrics on the subjects of marriage, Christmas, patriotism, cancer survival, and more.
The Northwest Minnesota Arts Council and The McKnight Foundation partially funded her project. Laurel provided the CD’s music, piano, vocals, and artwork. Kristian Eylands, who owns FASTRAK Studio in Grand Forks, where Laurel recorded the CD, provided guitars, organ, and synthesizer. (Kristian’s wife, Leanne Eylands, has Kittson County roots, being from Halma).
Contacted by phone, Laurel talked about musical influences in her life, the CD, and her hopes for the future. She grew up in Hallock, the daughter of Morris and Phyllis Johnson and sister of Lyndon and Lynnae. She described her mother as being “gifted” in music even though she had no formal training in the area and didn’t read music. “Anything she picked up she’d try to get sound out of,” said Laurel as she mentioned that her mother regularly played the piano, guitar, and accordion. She added that there was “always a time for singing” when the relatives got together and that she and her siblings regularly sang at community events.
She described the music teachers at Hallock as “really fine,” mentioning Mr. and Mrs. Bratland as teachers who provided a “big boost” in her musical endeavors.
After graduation from Hallock High School, Laurel went on to earn a B.S. degree in vocal music, K-12 teaching, and vocal performance from Northwestern College (now the University of Northwestern) in St. Paul, Minn. While at Northwest-ern, she sang with an outreach team, The Communique Singers, and the concert choir. She credits her music theory instructor, Maxine Posegate, with encouraging her to write her own music, saying Posegate was “very encouraging of my compositions…She herself was a published composer of choral music.”
Laurel has also been influenced by her favorite singer, Anne Murray. “I’ve always loved the sound of her voice,” she said, and mentioned “You Needed Me,” as her favorite Murray song.
The 11 songs on Laurel’s CD are her original compositions from the 1980’s to the present. She referred this writer to the CD Baby website (https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/laureljjohnson) for information about the background of her songs.
The inspiration for the title song, “I Need To Be Singing,” is rather surprising. “The title song was born of the experience of having my purse stolen while attending a symphony concert in Winnipeg,” she noted on the website. (Readers should visit the website to read the whole disturbing story of what lengths thieves will go to steal a purse).
She wrote the song, “In Love” for the bridal shower of a colleague who was getting married when she worked as an interpreter for the deaf in Warren in the 1980’s.
She wrote “Land of the Free” with thoughts of her uncle Raymond W. Johnson, a Word War II hero. Veteran’s organizations frequently ask her to sing the song at programs.
She wrote “I Will Survive” after her 2012 battle with breast cancer and after attending a class, Healing through the Arts, taught by Kimberly Forness Wilson. She has sung the song at Relay for Life in several counties. Lyrics early in the song are “Scared to death/lost in emotions…/I hope I will, I think I will…/I will survive.” Some concluding words are “I HAVE survived! /I am here, yes, I’m alive-/I have survived!”
What are Laurel’s plans for the future? “I’m still dreaming big,” she responded. She is especially hopeful that a country artist will “pick up” “Land of the Free.” She would like to see proceeds from the song go to veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
She plans to keep singing and writing and hopes to do a concert in Kittson County.
She has written a new song, “Come Sing a Song with Me,” She said the theme of the song has to do with being “united in how we look at each other…we’re all human, though all very different.” She’s hoping the choir at the Thief River Falls High School will perform the song one day.
Interested in hearing Laurel’s music? To obtain a download card (for $10.00) or a CD (for $12.00), send a check to Laurel at 119 Kendall Avenue North, Thief River Falls, Mn 56701. Or, to download songs or order the CD, visit the CD Baby website mentioned above. Or, purchase a copy of the CD at Nordisk Hemslöjd in Karlstad.