Gabriel Wolfchild and the Northern Light, HALEY JOHNSEN
130 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ, 85004
Doors 7:30 PM / Show 8:00 PM
This event is 16 and over
Watch & Listen
18 year old Singer-songwriter Sawyer Fredericks, hailing from his family's farm in central New York State, is fast establishing himself as an authentic, original, Americana artist with an old soul. His deep, beyond-his-years lyrics and melodies, raw, soulful vocals, and powerful live performances have attracted an ever growing number of devoted fans of all ages, selling out shows throughout the US. As a folk/blues singer-songwriter, who cut his teeth at local farmers markets, open mics, and iconic New York venues like Caffe Lena, the Towne Crier Cafe, and The Bitter End, Sawyer seemed an unlikely match for reality tv, but quickly won over broad audiences with his genuine delivery and unique arrangements of classic songs, going on to win season 8 of NBC's The Voice. Fresh from that whirlwind, Sawyer went forward with the release of his major label debut, A Good Storm, with Republic Records, an impressive blend of soulful Folk, blues, and rock, entirely written or cowritten by Sawyer. His 2016 A Good Storm Tour included 62 shows across the US. For 2017, Sawyer has once again gone independent, is busy crafting his sophomore offering, with full artistic freedom, and continuing to tour. Follow him at www.sawyerfredericks.com, and on FB, IG, and Twitter, to stay updated on new music releases and upcoming shows.
The daughter of a professional drummer, 26 year-old Haley Johnsen grew up in the rain-soaked atmosphere of the Northwest surrounded by musicians in the industry, but managed to keep her own love of music and perfect pitch a secret. Shy and fearful about her ability to sing when a child, Johnsen kept her obsession with finding the perfect harmonies to herself; she would only sing hidden in her closet or when she knew she was home alone. "I couldn't handle attention…I never knew what to do with it," she remembers, " I was so self-conscious for so much of my life, even raising my hand in class left my heart pounding. Being the center of attention was my worst nightmare and my greatest dream at the same time."
It would be a dedication to gymnastics that would take this shy girl who preferred to blend in with the background and turn her into a daredevil, dancer, and performer. "This sort of athletic expression didn't feel as nerve wracking to me. I could be silent and allow my physical my strength and flexibility to do the talking. As strange as it sounds, hurling my body around rather than my voice just felt safer."
Whether she knew it or not at the time, Johnsen was building not just physical strength, but discipline and self-confidence that that would ultimately challenge her to put herself out in front of a million people to face her biggest fear – singing.
It was a last minute decision to join the thousands of people in line that February afternoon in Portland, Oregon in 2011 when American Idol auditions rolled into town, and she knew what a long shot it was. Still, she could afford to roll the dice; she was on the cusp of finishing her degree at Oregon State University where she had spent four years slowly cultivating a discipline for singing and performance through classical vocal training and performance as a hobby alongside her studies and really had no plans post graduation.
Johnsen would be cast into the national spotlight when she captivated American Idol Season 11 viewers making it all the way through to the Top 24 semifinals before conceding.
For artists that come through the Idol machine, the experience can be either a make it or break it one. What it did for Johnsen was confirm that she could - and should - pursue a professional music career based on the response judges and audiences had to her performances. "Idol was the stepping-stone that persuaded me to believe in myself as an artist and performer, and it confirmed that I had the talent to make music my ultimate focus," Johnsen reflects. "Being surrounded by so many other gifted and passionate musicians ignited a fire in me to carry out my dream as a singer/songwriter that I hadn't thought I was capable of before."
Over the course of the last three years, Johnsen has written and recorded over 100 songs. With the help of Portland-based producer, Rob Daiker (Katy Perry, The Fame Riot, Christian Burghardt), the two began a collaborative process of selecting the ones that would best represent Johnsen's range and songwriting abilities.
"The songs are mostly about the extremes in life that I was faced with – sort of like a scrapbook of what I was going through: leaving Hollywood to come back home to Oregon; figuring out what I wanted my life to look like; and finding my own authenticity as a songwriter. My best songs are the blatantly honest ones. Sometimes my lyrics are things that I wanted to say to someone, but couldn't find the words in the moment. Later those words show up perfectly as the chorus to a song. Other times, I was just trying to work out a problem or express to myself a sense of acceptance of whatever I was going through. They are cathartic that way," Johnsen revealed.
Johnsen's influences range from the eccentricities of bands like Radiohead and Pink Floyd; to classic, folk and indie-rock vocalists such as of Eva Cassidy, Nicole Atkins, Florence Welch and Brandi Carlile – all artists with a flair for the dramatic in their delivery. "From a melodic standpoint, I have a hard time writing songs that don't build to an epic moment. As a naturally a loud singer, it is really fun for me to play with intricate melodies that reach a point where I can just belt it out with a big lunged chorus, taking the song in a direction the listener wouldn't expect it to go. I visualize my songs in a linear way when I write them, but imagine the places where the song needs to rest, climb, and then soar – sort of like a journey to a destination."
The final result of Johnsen and Daiker's collaboration is a seven song EP Through the Blue written by Johnsen, arranged and produced by Daiker and recorded with guest instrumentalists including drummer Joe Mengis (Priory, Climber, Casey Neill and the Norway Rats). It serves as a personal reflection upon this season in Johnsen's life – the transitions she faced, the relationships that were impacted, and the lessons that came from her experiences. "What I have discovered in writing these songs is that there is peace in struggle. As I grow, I am learning to accept the ambiguity of life."
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