Category: photos

Josephine doing her best Buffy Saite-Marie

My best Buffy Saite-Marie




A quick check in — Winter Warm It Up is underway!

Tuesday evening was a blast with Rob (Robbie!) Kimball on his KCBX radio show, Pickin’ Up The Tempo–click it, and link to his show. You can listen live every Tuesday, 8 to 10pm, and you can link and listen to the archive of our show. Yeah, it was fun—Rob knows decades of music, musicians, instruments, who played what on which studio recording. Encyclopedic. Check it out!

Josephine & Rob Kimball, KCBX, 90.1, San Luis Obispo, Pickin' Up The Tempo

Josephine & Rob Kimball, KCBX, 90.1, San Luis Obispo, Pickin’ Up The Tempo


And, the Times Press Recorder picked up the story—click the pic of Rob and me to read what they have to say—super kind!

Being a focused, professional singer-songwriter has its very lonesome moments. Rehearsing, writing new material, emailing venues, composing press releases (sent out 28 for Winter Warm It Up), flyer design, phone calls, more rehearsing, social media, social media, social media, hours driving to/from performances, more writing, more emailing, more rehearsing—did I mention social media? I do nearly all of this all by myself. In fact, the Winter Warm It Up flyer is an excellent example: I used an iPhone selfie; designed flyer; booked all gigs; sent hard-copies to all venues, made follow up calls to ensure flyers received (Mercury retrograde until Jan 25). Yeah, I did all of that. And more! Because this is what I want. I do. Beneath the bell jar of constant diligence, though, I’m prone to losing sight of the bigger picture, that ultimately I do this lonesome work so I can share my love of and gift for singing/music, which is a lovely, happy,

droids do it digitally

because fun

golden, shining social thing with lots of wonderful people. I do this so I can connect, so that that maybe a little of how I sing my joy, love, pain, frustration will resonate, challenge, inspire, and make you think. I’m not complaining, just being real. And I know I’m not alone, other songwriters have expressed similar feelings. Basically, you have to love this to do this. And I do. Love it Please know, your words, likes, cheers, photos, links, and emojis do help buoy my faith, help bolster the fortitude necessary to keep on–Sing, baby, sing! Thank you, thank you so much!!!

And check out my gig schedule website


princess frank's guitar

royal glory

by Josephine Johnson

This all started a week ago, the Sunday before New Year’s.



suck it up

See, I need a day job to keep eating, writing, and performing. This is LA. Unless you’re JT, Katy Perry, Jimmy Iovine, or a trusty, a day job is necessary. A two-fold plan, this GET THE MUSIC  business. Part one: during the day, attack Craigslist—mostly for education, English teaching-type jobs, and some office-y positions—craft cover letters, send resumes. So far, this has yielded three interviews, and from those, I’ve been asked for two second interviews. Both went well, and so now I’m in that hurry-wait-and-see-oh-please-hire-me-now!-limbo land. Since I don’t wait very well, I keep trolling Craigslist, sending resumes…

Gerry & Omar, late night in Silverlake

Gerry & Omar, late night in Silver lake

Part two is the fun: open-mics and music-scene-mix-it-up, a.k.a get acquainted with LA double quick-like.  Thank Google for their maps! For reals, there’s at least one open-mic every night of the week, so I’m getting down the venues, streets, and freeways and how they all link up (or not!) in different parts of the city. I’m getting it, this City of Angles. And it’s fun.

Last Sunday, part two of Operation: GET THE MUSIC TO THE PEOPLE began when I ducked into the Thirsty Crow waiting for the Silverlake Lounge’s open-mic sign up to get rolling. And that’s when I met Princess Frank, a one-man whirlwind of a band who has a

princess frank

princess frank

Sunday residency at the Crow. Princess Frank. Think Prince-meets-Jack-White-meets-Stevie-Nicks for a bar top whiskey-drinking, porn-romp roll ’round. He’s sexy, sassy, kind of gender bender-y, has a great voice and won an award from the adult film industry for a little ditty called Rock and Roll in My Butthole.

princess frank

suzanne & princess frank

I can’t make this up.

There’s a movie, too…

Princess Frank has many friends. Installation artists, musicians, a local, organic hipster chef, actors, a make up artist, and porn stars, who are driven and focused on their passions, which makes this eclectic ensemble all the more real, solid, down to earth, and engaging. His bass player friend, Joey, has been all over the world with some heavy hitters. But I didn’t know any of this. Not yet. Not sitting at the bar in this first Princess Frank encounter, just being my Emily Dickinson-loving, non-pornstar self, enjoying this very new life unfolding. The wanna be open-mic queen, the LA newbie, hanging out and having a hoot with Princess Frank and his entourage.



And then later in the week Joey invites me to an Un-poppables gig in Pasadena.  Addi, the leader of the three piece (drums, bass & Addi), is a balloon artist. A professional balloon twister guy with a show on TLC.  He’s figured out how to get music out of a balloon with a Piezo mic, a gynormous board of pedals, and an electric tooth brush, and actually, it’s way more musical than you’d think. You can definitely move to it, though that a-tonal, avante garde jazziness does figure in. But it’s Joey and his bass that really help keep it together. He’s got pedals, dextrous fingers, a bow, and keen intuition guiding him through the changes and slight onstage hiccups inevitable when rubber and electricity are focal points of music-making. Of course, the drums help, keeping it smooth and toe-tappable.

So, yesterday, Sunday, when I received this text:

not jerk chicken!

jerk pork

ok me and my landlord are going to Hollywood farmers market…and we are gonna put on a cccchicken cccostume and a rabbit costume and terrorize!

I knew I had to be there.

And so I went, and it wasn’t long before I spotted Joey and Suzanne. Suzanne also happens to run a booth at market every Sunday. She makes hand-crafted, organic jerk sauces and pirates elixirs. With acoustic bass in-hand, the rabbit and the chicken were working the

crowd guerrilla marketing-style with a song in favor of jerk pork. Not jerk Chicken! Not jerk rabbit! I’m not sure they understood, but the kids seemed to dig it.

Somewhere in all the market mayhem, Suzanne hollers out, “Princess Frank is shooting a music video this afternoon at the Crow. We should all go!”


And suffice it to say, I spent my Sunday afternoon, evening, and night partying with rockstars.

LA rockstars. Who work really, really hard and are oddly humble and nothin’ but(t) real.



princess frank thirsty crow silverlake

princess frank thirsty crow silverlake

Happy Thanksgiving and So Much More

On this Thanksgiving morning, thankful for all this and much more.

by Josephine Johnson


Delicious organic produce comes from here.


I should be writing about KickStarter, that I have an active campaign up and running. I do.  A really, really big deal that I’ve not shared or documented here. It’s been more work than I imagined, managing and promoting the ol’ KickStarter. But it’s also been a valuable learning adventure in time management and prioritization. Posting updates, acknowledging supporters, promoting on FB and other internet/print media outlets have filled any free time I may have had these past weeks to post something here. And yes, then, I should be writing about the gratitude I feel that so many friends and fans stepped up so quickly to get behind the new album project. And I am. I am really, genuinely thankful to have generous people in my life, who not only believe in and appreciate my music but who are also willing to help me see this album through to completion. For sure, I am lucky to live in Humboldt County and to be able to perform and share music here. Thank you for all your support. The CD is a reality now because a whole lot of Humboldt folks pitched in to make it happen.

Monica Topping made this. Kikki & I wrangled the agates.

Monica Topping made this. Kikki & I wrangled the agates.

How DID it happen? How’d we do it? How’d this come about, and really, what does it take to be an indie artist and musician in a small, rural community notorious for low wages and less-than-stellar day-job opportunities? I’d like to share my perspective, what’s it’s been like to see this through. What it’s like to be an artist at the edge, near the margin, on the verge. I AM on the verge, I know it, the verge of something grand, a breakthrough. Sharing this part of the story, I think, is the best way for me to show you how thankful I am to be where I am doing what I do. This, an active exercise in gratitude.

If you know me in my day-to-day or Facebook life, then it’s no secret I’ve been Humboldt shuffling’, cobbling things together to keep the bills paid, to keep it all rolling. Working retail, an organic farm, freelance writing, English and ESL tutoring, yard work, odd jobs, housesitting, music gigs. At any given time at least four jobs are spinning in the air around me.

Wait, you’re not teaching this semester? Not at College of the Redwoods?

No. I’m not.


If you could work here, wouldn't you?

If you could work here, wouldn’t you?

In the August burglary at my former Eureka apartment, much of my English teaching resources were either taken or destroyed–computers with lesson plans, thumb drives, syllabi, handouts, ESL resources. Gone. All this a week and a half before school. Re-creating and pulling these materials back together on top of securing new housing—I could not live in that space any longer—was not feasible. Plus, I was not entirely at ease with my course schedule. I was slated to teach 6:30 pm to 7:50pm Monday thru Thursday and Saturday morning 9am to noon. Not absolutely impossible, but certainly less than ideal for a working musician.

That schedule meant I’d likely have to give up the Siren’s Song open-mic that I host and worked so hard to build; certainly no pints for non-profits gigs, or any weeknight slots at Mad River Brewery. It also meant that rehearsing and recording with Piet and the guys would have to go on the back burner. If I taught fall semester, it’d be nearly impossible to finish the CD before Christmas, the key project we’d so diligently focused on all summer. With my world upturned and I in search of a safe place to live, the only thing I felt secure and happy about was my music and finishing the CD with the guys. And so I committed to music. I decided not to teach fall semester fully knowing that I would have to work hard at a multitude of things to make ends meet. I would do it. Humboldt shuffle and juggle it. Again, if you’ve been following my posts on Facebook, then you know the crazy

I & I Farm, organic rainbow chard

I & I Farm, organic rainbow chard

schedules I keep, the jobs I juggle to be able to keep the music happening. And in the end (or beginning?) I think the shuffle has been my best teacher—teaching me grace and how to honor commitments across a broad range of job deadlines and expectations; how to be punctual and complete the things I say I’m going to; how to prioritize and keep organized. I’ve also become pretty snazzy with timely completion of paperwork, which is a darn handy skill to have. I’m a whiz at making phone calls, meeting deadlines, and chasing down details. I’ve got a good attitude, too, mostly positive and upbeat in spite of all the potential time management pitfalls. Ah, time management Tetris!

Yes, in the face of one of the greatest physical losses I’ve ever experienced, I committed to finishing the CD. I had to.  To honor the core part of what makes me, ‘me’. To shift my life to better nurture and love the creative, music,

Steampunk thresher you know what this is?

Steampunk thresher thing…do you know what this is?

singing, voice inside. And by that, I think, stepping out of the classroom and committing to honoring myself—to making and sharing music and leading a loving and creatively inspired life—I have been the best teacher within my power to be. By example. Humbly, with kindness I strive to continue doing so everyday, being both a creative musician and teacher. When you wake up in the morning and at the end of the day, if you believe in yourself  and know without a shadow of a doubt what you want, make it so. Do it. One of the most effective ways to encourage and inspire, to teach, is by honoring what you know to be true in your life and then living that truth. For me, that’s singing, music, and writing.

I am a sharp lady and talented teacher. I love teaching and know one day I will return to the classroom. But for now, I have more life experiences to gain, a whole lotta music to do, and so much more to learn before I get back there. On my return “I’ll be bringing back the melodies and rhythm that I find”. Thank you, Townes.

That I (we!) have completed a CD in the midst of all this is no small feat.

That I’ve (we’ve!!) launched and landed a successful KickStarter campaign, just shy of a minor miracle.

So thankful that I live where I do and am able to make it. And Imma MAKE IT, now.  Again, thank you Humboldt for helping make this happen. Having jobs to shuffle was key to making it go; having great friends and fans here makes it all worthwhile. We did it. CDs by Christmas. Love. WE DID IT!!!


***Next post: how the Humboldt Shuffle best qualified me to assist with production on Animal Planet’s ‘Treehouse Masters’. For real. There are no coincidences. It’s all connected. For a reason.

Nelson Treehouse Supply

Nelson Treehouse Supply

Taking Care of Business

Folks have been asking how I’m doing, if everything’s back to normal post break-in. (Much more cautious about what is posted on Facebook)

Josephine Johnson in studio

Josephine Johnson in studio

Update: I live in a safe place. I have a couple of great jobs (farm & retail); am freelancing for the North Coast Journal; hosting monthly open-mic at Siren’s Song; gigging various venues in Humboldt. Most importantly, I am finishing a new CD at Universal Balance Studio in Arcata. Am very busy taking care of business, getting things done for big changes and am thankful for all your kind words & support. Some images from the studio last week. Thank you Sasha! And now to get back to KickStarter campaign design 🙂

Josephine Johnson in the studio

Josephine Johnson in the studio

by Josephine Johnson


Doug Green, Joanne Rand, Darryl Cherney

I didn’t know Doug Green. Never went to an event he emceed or hung out with him after a show

Peter Rowan

Peter Rowan

he produced. That’s right, I’ve never been to Reggae on the River–the Humboldt jewel in the crown music festival for which Doug is most famous as founding member and Master of Ceremonies.  He’s been a fixture on the music and entertainment scene in Humboldt County for more than 30 years, a real mover and shaker and genuine supporter of local SoHum community and talent. But I didn’t know any of that not until I went to the LoveFest in his honor this past Saturday. Doug Green is now very ill and wheelchair-bound. That’s why the whole of southern Hulmboldt, under the direction of Darryl Cherney, came together at the Mateel Community Center in Redway, California, to celebrate Doug’s life and community contributions. Joanne Rand, Alice Dimicele, Peter Rowan, Tina Malia, even Darryl himself all took the stage for him.

One of the most touching moments of the evening was when Tina Malia shared how she came to know Doug. Tina and Sasha Butterfly were fresh

Joanne Rand

Joanne Rand


Alice Dimicele & her band

from a Rainbow gathering where they wooed folks with their enchanting, ephemeral sounds. Both self-described hippie kids impressed Doug with their fledgling songwriting and harmonizing skills. He also appreciated their uplifting message of love and spirituality. Doug became their diligent supporter and helped them connect with folks who could further develop and share their musical gifts. Now, Tina is a recording artist in Los Angeles with three albums under her belt and tours the U.S. and beyond. She spoke with great reverence about Doug and how his belief in her talent helped her realize her dream of being a professional musician.

So many people packed the Mateel that night to support him and listen to the performers whom Doug so loved and worked with.  By night’s end more than 600 people had graced the community center, listening, singing, dancing, even participating in a singing bowl prayer offering. A genuinely heart-felt good time. We were all blessed by spirit that Saturday night.
…After Peter Rowan’s set (Free Mexican Air Force was clear as a bell, by the way), I had a hankering for dessert. Ah, something sweet to keep me moving on the dance floor! But I didn’t have any cash. Jan, with whom I’d ride-shared, had a $20 dollar bill to spot my sugar craving.
Mmmmm, pound cake with raspberries and vanilla ice cream–lactose intolerance be damned! I selected the biggest slice, asked for extra ice cream & deposited the $20 into the donation can. Only enough to make $10 in change, though. Dang. What to do?  Select another slice of cake, of course, which I initially intended to take to Jan, but…
…I made my way to a back corner of the Mateel, placed one slice on an empty table and began devouring the other in myCIMG5717 hand. So good. The melting ice cream seeped and saturated the cake in sweet creamy bliss. The raspberries added the perfect amount of tart. I was within two bites of finishing the big slice and thinking about eating the second when Peter Rowan strode over with a small paper plate of the same cake in hand also within micro bites of finishing.
“Hi, would you like to share a second piece of cake with me? I was either going to take it to my friend or eat it myself, which is why I’m in this corner  contemplating having two pieces of cake. Like maybe hide and eat them both? But actually it’s nicer to share,” I said.
Peter Rowan smiled.
“It is good cake, isn’t it?” He replied.
“Yes, it is,and I am happy to share.”
So there we stood eating cake, me attempting to remain nonchalant, non-goofy.CIMG5722
“Do you live here?” He asked.
“I live in NorHum, in Eureka, no wait, I mean McKinleyville now, but I’ve moved a couple times recently and have had a string of house sitting gigs. I’m not so sure where I live these days.” (Goodness, was I flubbing this?)
But we continued!
Chatting. He asked how I got here, and I told him I came to Humboldt for grad school to pursue something lucrative like a Master’s in English. He laughed. We talked about community and how some folks in these parts may not have a lot of material wealth, but that in Humboldt we all have an abundance of spirit and heart, great relationships to make up for the money we may not have.
“And weed. There’s good weed,” he chuckled, dark eyes twinkling.
“Right? What is that saying?” I mused, trying really, really hard not to trip over my tongue, “in tough times it’s better to have weed and no money than money and no weed,” I quipped.
Another smile. Pause. Me, deep breath.CIMG5723
“I took some photos of you. Can I show you?”
“I saw you out there. Let’s see.”
We crowded around my camera, and he beamed a solid confident smile.
“I don’t know if you can see it in these pics, but you glowed on stage, especially on the high notes. You’re in line with that thing that’s bigger than us,” I said.
No response. Another pause.
“Are you staying down here tonight?” He asked.
“No, I have to leave. I have a gig tomorrow morning and have to be there as close to 9 as possible,” I said.
Another pause. Both of us.
“I’m a musician, too. I get to play music tomorrow. Early.”
Another pause. Standing. looking between me, the cake, my camera.
“Are you getting support up here?” he asked.
And I wasn’t sure what he meant.
“You’re getting some positive support up here for your music, aren’t you?”
“Yes, yes, I am. In so many ways. This community seems to enjoy what I do, very thankful for that.”
He put the last bites of the cake back on the table. Another pause.
“You’re really good. Keep at it, keep doing it,” he said.
He looked me in the eyes, smiled, then gracefully, slowly strode away.
Speechless. No sounds. Words gone. The implications… Did he know before I told him I was a singer-songwriter? Had he seen a tweet, blog post, a video–goodness knows a lot of my stuff’s all over the internet.  (Google Josephine Johnson. It comes up first!)
Or was it something else?
I was glowing that night, too, feeling positively buoyant. Confident. Could he see my connection to that thing so much bigger than myself? The

Peter Rowan

Peter Rowan

golden cord we all have but that resonates and shimmers especially bright when we are comfortable and surrounded by our own? That thing that right now urges me to finish recording my CD (so close to being DONE) then GET my music out to a broader audience.

Could he see I have  BIG thoughts? That Los Angeles, scary as it is, is on my mind?
Or was he just being polite?
Saying what any singer-songwriter would want to hear from a Grammy-winning blue grass legend?
I don’t know.
But I was so happy and goose-bumpy, I went outside to gather my thoughts and watch the rising moon.
Goodness and Doug’s great force of spirit.
With us.
And will be.

Well, howdy.

Title of the post reveals it all: I got robbed.


Ah, the view from my former crack shack. That dumpster? Tweeker paradise. Damn

Ah, the view from my former crack shack. That dumpster? Tweeker paradise. Damn

Brief backstory: I moved into a new space in Eureka, my very, very own artist abode (with working bathroom and kitchen!). Unfortunately, it was across the street from a run-down apartment unit. And believe me that place was no artist’s haven—it hummed a black frequency that only meth and heroine addiction can resonate. Artist abode. Drug den. Never the twain shall meet and resolve harmoniously. I may have lost this fight to looters and opportunists, but I am not giving up. I am not done. Josephine Johnson is a winner, and mark these words: I WILL BE BACK ON TOP.  Minor setback.  True, my computer’s gone (thank you Jennifer Savage for use of yours), as are my sound system, ukulele, cameras, bedding, toilet paper, soap—bastards even took my Q-tips!!!—but it will all be ok. I live in a very kind community that’s showing me nothing but love.

Example: today Greg Gehr, Ken Terrill Dave Isley Buddy Reed & many more are hosting a benefit fundraiser to help get my things back.

Today, Sunday, August 11 from 2 pm to 7:30 at the Mad River Brewery in Blue Lake, Josephine Johnson music equipment recovery benefit.

Know what else is amazing? My friend Greg Beaumont also set up a donation page–it’s handled through Paypal & your donations go directly to my account.

Click on this link to get to the donation page

*Since it’s Paypal, donors must also list their mailing address—excellent! I can send thank you cards and let you know how I am using your dollars to purchase stolen items.

Computer, sound system & ukulele are the most important items to replace quickly 🙂 We’ll git ‘er done—thank you!

Below is the post from the Lost Coast Outpost:


You can click all through the story to land on donation page 🙂


Eureka Musician and All-Around Good Person Josephine Johnson Comes Home to Find All Her Stuff Stolen
Hank Sims / Wednesday, Aug. 7 @ 12:44 p.m. / Crime

Eureka singer-songwriter Josephine Johnson went out to play music for the girls at North Star Quest Camp yesterday. When she got back to her downtown Eureka home this morning, her front door was busted in and all her stuff was gone — her computer, her sound system, even her ukulele.

“I’m barely keeping it together,” Johnson told the Outpost in between making the rounds at local pawn shops, looking for the tools she uses to make her art. “Welcome to Humboldt County. I’m just frustrated and angry.”

The Eureka Police Department came to the scene, took a report and were very sympathetic and helpful, Johnson said. Helpfully, the burglars left a box of donuts at the scene of the crime. That box could well crack the case. In the meanwhile, Johnson is asking the public to keep an eye out for the following items, which were taken from her:

Sony handheld digital camera
Peavey 8-channel sound sound system with two speakers
Canon SLR film camera
Tascam portable digital recorder
Tenor ukulele
Macbook Pro

If you think you may have a lead on the thief or thieves, give the EPD a ring — 441-4060. No one deserves to be have their important stuff stolen, but it’s particularly galling when it happens to a selfless starving artist like Josephine.

Let’s listen to her playing her ukulele at the Jambalaya last year.

around the bend

around the bend

Songwriting, Saturday,
June 15, 2013
Gracewinds Music
Corvallis, Oregon

Hey! Thanks for being part of songwriting class  I’ve re-typed our song and have included it in two versions—the first is the way we completed it at the end of class; the second is how I have edited the song to ‘tighten’ it up. In my edit, you’ll see that I changed some of the structure that we began with—this is part of songwriting! In many ways it is very much like solving a puzzle, like playing a super fun language game that involves pushing and pulling language and music so that words and melody fit and work together. And of course much like writing essays for school (remember, songwriting has its parallels with academic writing—who’da thought?!), writing songs involves multiple drafts, editing, and peer feedback to make it as sparkle-y good as possible.

I will share your song on my blog at so more folks can have a look at what and how we did this. Thanks so much, Eva, Sonja, Sequoia and Ginger!!! Thank you, Gracewinds Music!

Version 1, the song at the end of class:

Verse The warm rain that joins the beat of crystal waves that shine with heat
Cannot dislodge your perfect day from its hold on love in every way
I’m paddling towards my future I must take this journey alone
To find my heart, soul, and self to find my own way home
Bridge: You never know just how far you’ll go to be yourself and finally show
Just who you are and what you’ll do to show this world
That you are you
Verse: The dark clouds came to spoil my day it started to pour but I know everything
Is OK and I think to myself there is no need to worry the wind and rain
Won’t blow my perfect day away

Pacific Ocean

Pacific Ocean!

So, we have a lot of great stuff here, but we need to shift things around a bit to give the song a sense of symmetry and completeness. For example, it still needs some kind of chorus or ‘hook’ and it needs a sense of story or narrative movement. And that main idea? The song’s gotta have a point, right? Most importantly, it needs a TITLE!
I’ll show you how I did it, BUT you can—and please do— play with the words, timing, and chords to create your own edit for the song. Great thing about songwriting? There’re multiple ways to make it the way YOU want it to be. So, feel free to edit and play with this song—push it to be even more than it is! Thanks for all your hard work. It was a blast spending a Saturday afternoon with you 
Version 2, Josephine edit
D Gbm
The warm rain that joins the beat of crystal waves that shine with heat
Cannot dislodge your perfect day from its hold on love in every way
D Gbm
I’m paddling toward my future I must take this journey alone
To find my heart, soul, and self to find my own way home
Gm D Gm D Gbm G
Wish I knew how far I had to go to be myself and finally know
G D Gbm G D
Love is all I need to show

D Gbm
Dark clouds try to spoil my day it may pour but I know everything’s OK
I know there’s no need to worry wind and rain won’t wash this away
D Gbm
shining toward the future and I am really not alone
Because my heart, soul and self are my home
Gm D Gm D Gbm G
No matter how far I have to go to be myself and proudly know
G D Gbm G D

Love is all I need to grow


Em D Em D
You never know how far you’ll go to be yourself and show
Em D Gbm G
who you are and what you’ll do to show
G D Gbm G D
That you are you

D Gbm
Waves will crash and storms will blow But I carry deep what I always know
that love is key to heart, soul, self connecting all our mystery
D Gbm
future, past, and present certain I am my own
Laugh out loud I am strong I am home
Gm D Gm D Gbm G
So very far I have come to find out what I knew all along
D Gbm G D
I am love, I am loved, I am love

West End Road

West End Road Barn

Josephine at Chill Haus, Surat Thani, Thailand

Josephine Johnson & Jock Mackay open for Peck Palichoke & Bowling Manida

by Josephine Johnson

the staff table

all us farang!

A fine evening indeed!

Wow, not only did I get to meet some great people from SMOOTH 97.5, but I also got to hear and meet Peck Palitchoke and Bowling Manida. Very, very kind and down to earth folks, those two. Here’s what I learned:

Turns out, Peck got his start in Thai-Disney media and entertainment—think Siam’s answer to Justin Timberlake. From there he went on to record a parade of Thai pop hits. When he’s not performing and recording music, he does Thai-voice over work in Harry Potter films as well as Thai-only Disney animation releases.

Bowling, who  is mostly known for her vocals, hasn’t done any TV or film work yet. She says singing, recording and traveling keep her busy. And they’re busy! Many more shows (didn’t get an exact number) over the next month

Chill Haus, packed, July 18, 2012, Surat Thani, Thailand

Peck sings to a packed Chill Haus, July 18, 2012, Surat Thani, Thailand

then back to Bangkok for a couple stadium-style performances.

Fine entertainers and lovely people.Check out Peck’s website & listen to a couple of Bowling’s song. It’s fun, Thai pop. And they’re both gorgeous—you’ll get a kick out of it 🙂

Josephine and Head Media president, DJ Kaah

Josephine and Head Media president, DJ Kaah

But the real star of the evening? That’d be DJ Kaah. With the help of her staff, she seamlessly, magically put the big event together. Really, no hitches, glitches or upsets the whole night. Just seamless professionalism. And I learned a little about her, too. Ready?

When Kaah was 17 she started working at a little pop station in Surat. In ten year’s time she worked her way into a top dj position meeting people, networking and making music business contacts from Surat to Bangkok.

She paid attention to the business.

When she was 28 Kaah decided she wanted to go out on her own. So, she made local history: Kaah became the first woman to own a radio station in Surat. She launched Freeze 97 FM. Then, she started Pro 103 FM. The current crowning jewel of her

Ping Pong (drummer), Josephine Johnson, Jock Mackay, Chill Haus, Surat Thani, Thailand, July 18, 2012

Ping Pong (drummer), Josephine Johnson, Jock Mackay, Chill Haus, Surat Thani, Thailand

media kingdom is Surat’s Smooth 97.5. Kaah now owns and is president of Head Media the parent company of all three of her stations.

And she’s not even 40—I can’t tell you her exact age. She’d kill me. But she’s a whirlwind, a git ‘er done kinda ga,l a natural bubbly charmer, not to mention a popular MC in Surat. Yeah, she’s super cute and fun—and oh yes, gentlemen—DJ Kaah’s single! Smart, young, funny, successful. Kaah’s a catch!

But really, thank you, thank you, Kaah, for putting on such a wonderful and successful night. As my Granny would say, ya did good, and I’m honored to have been part of it. Just so you know, if you’re ever lookin’ to add a farang, I’d be part of your staff any day. You’re incredible. A true inspiration!

And many thanks to Chatchawan Detkasem who photographed the night—check out more of his work on Facebook

Smooth Concert 4 with Josephine Johnson, Jock Mackay & DJ Kaah and her amazing staff

Smooth Concert 4 with Josephine Johnson, Jock Mackay & DJ Kaah and her amazing staff

My friend Jock Mackay,  Surat’s Smooth 97.5 English hour host, asked me to join him for Smooth Concert 4 at Chill Haus. We’re the warmers for the Move & Strike party and we’re doing all the farang mega-hits—‘Lucky’ (Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat), ‘Someone Like You’ (Adele), ‘Lazy Song’ (Bruno Mars) and more with a full band behind us. Good times!  But here’s the embarrassing part: I don’t have an English translation of the names of  the two Thai pop performers we’re opening for.  I know they’re touring the country and south east Asia in support of their albums ‘Move’ (the guy’s) and ‘Strike’ (the woman’s). I know folks in Thailand love them. I know they’re beautiful. I know it’s going to be a FUN night! If only I knew their NAMES! Argh. When I know, I’ll give you an update with links to photos and their music. Goodness!

Tables are 3,500 Baht for this party, an evening of food, drinks and great music. Email me: I can put you in touch with the reservation goddesses.  See you there!

Smooth Concert 4 Chill Haus Surat Thani Thailand

Smooth Concert 4, Chill Haus, Surat Thani, Thailand— Josephine Johnson & Jock Mackay

map of Thailand

map of Thailand

a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction —Virginia Woolf

*equally applicable to women who write and sing

SuratThani is Thailand’s largest southern province. It’s also, confusingly, the moniker of the region’s capital

blue betty, hot, hot, hot G ride!

Blue Betty

city which frequently gets a bad rap. Guide books profess there’s not much to do, little spoken English, and that it’s a dirty, working-class backwater. And partly that is Surat, but a lively night market—chock full of traditional Thai dishes, fresh fruits and veggies, roasted insects, larvae!—nice roads and bike lanes, low cost of living and many near-by tourist hot spots make this hard-working city of farmers and fishers a very nice place to live. Really. Maybe this southern almost-coastal city doesn’t have galleria shopping or medical spas, Sirocco’s or an abundance of blinged out temples like some up-north metropolises, but what Surat lacks in iconic Thai attractions, it makes up for with its location near some of the country’s most amazing natural wonders.
Ready for this? Check that map. Uh, huh:

Surat is a seven hour night boat ride from Koh Tao—spectacular diving, snorkeling in the Gulf of Thailand; a two hour ferry from Koh Phangnan—long, white beaches, clear water and full moon parties; less than two hours from Krabi—Thailand’s rock climbing and caving mecca; two hours from Kao Sok National Park—home to the world’s oldest evergreen rainforest, elephants, waterfalls and floating bungalows; an hour by motor bike from a series of waterfalls mostly known by Thai locals. And these are just a few of the

sunset koh phangan

sunset koh phangan

biggies. There’s so much more—monkey training camps, Buddhist meditation centers, coconut plantations, mountain biking everywhere—Surat’s a great, great place to live and work, well-suited as a centrally-located adventure base!

So, I live in a veritable adventure zone. This is great! But I also appreciate that Surat is a real Thai city. There are maybe 120 foreigners, roughly 40 are teachers. (In China, I was ‘laowai.’ In Thailand, I am ‘Farang.’ Foreigner.) Not a big ex-pat community, so I will have to learn and negotiate the culture if I am to thrive. 🙂  Embrace and thrive!

Are there places to play if there aren’t many westerners? Ahh, Yes! Maybe not as many as in Xi’an (for those just tuning in, I spent a year teaching college English in Xi’an, China, a city of nearly 10 million), but I know, now, of at least four places, and really, one is all you need! Just down the street is Old Coffee, and then of course, there’s Big’s Bar.  Big’s is my favorite so far and caters to the teacher crowd…it’s where I went last night…

saturday night market, surat thani

saturday night market, surat thani

…On my bike at night after the air had cooled and traffic subsided, was mostly me and my thoughts riding on Donnok over to Big’s. Pedaling and singing, in my blue flower tank, smiling and thinking, happy to be in light clothing, sandals, no sleeves. No hat! A lovely exercise.  Elegance. On two wheels and thinking of nine months past, returning from China, digging in, getting bearings to focus and be Humboldt and work and sing, make music.

And then the incline how it lifted slowly steeper, steeper, measured, steady, gradual. The slope, rise over run, then over-run and no rise but clinging, clawing, tearing to make it, to hang on. Just hang on. Grasping, gasping. Hang on!

But I slid the slide slowly, pieces falling, chunks, who I thought I was and thought I wanted, sloughing from me, burning, burnt, exhausted, cast off, vertical slipping, slide down. When I let go, I relinquished but didn’t give in.

(that tiny flame somewhere, so far inside— still there burning—white hot and searing)
and landed here, Thailand, teaching. No more pushing, striving—just be and be renewed, renewed for writing, singing, performing, loving. That little white heat inside held itself to me, my soul heart beating a torch forced, examined, to acknowledge, reconcile me to that thing I love most. Forced me to admit, acknowledge, embrace:
I love singing. I love performing. I love writing.

And the breath of that tiny flame roared back, “Girl, thank you, love these, honor them, DO them.”

And I promised I would never again deny that I can write, sing, and perform. I love these. LOVE. And I am good at them.
Love to word wrestle and melody make. Love practicing a song over and over until it is seared into me. Am smitten when wrapped in that silver chain connecting a soul and mind to the ether flame where forged all great lines, turns of phrase, melodies.

Money, profit are not connected, here, not related to this. Money, no relationship to love. I embrace the fact that honoring these truths—all this love—may not ever be profitable. I accept this.

But I must: love writing, love singing, love performing. That’s all I need to do.



No more money-competition-blah-blah-blah, who’s-who-what’s-what. NO MORE!
I love what I do and that is enough.

All this thinking and singing out loud on the bike in the short mile from home to Big’s bar… No one was there when I arrived, an empty 10 o’clock Tuesday. Roofed but open-sided, the night breezes pass gently, street noises drift subtle—this is not China, the air is not loud, but soft with easy bursts of laughter, sweet with big, whole-toned Thai pop…parked by the frog pond, the bike leaning against slightly leaking cement. The pond, cluttered with jungle plants, a desk, maybe, other random furniture?… sang to him, the frog, this new understanding of honor, love, expression— his low croaks, rhythmic and resonant, intoning agreement, like how butterflies know when you know of them and they flirt and hover so closely, teasing with their awareness…

a Steady Boat, part of the collaboration…Sam.

…and then chatted with owners Big and Champ, who were busy working on their first edition of Surat’s new art, music and culture

passing it on

from one to the next

magazine—deliberately lo-fi and hand-drawn indie but assembled deftly in latest InDesign crack. These guys, four total, alties bent over screens, smoking cigarettes, gesturing and speaking fast Thai, a pause, exhale, laughter and cigarette smoke. Through the speakers, Dylan croaked Maggie’s Farm, and Marley wailed, then Brandi Carlyle.  Joni Mitchell.  Indigo Girls? And  Sarah Mclachlan—an ENTIRE Sarah McLachlan album/mix (the one with the rainbow connection). Girl music, these guys?  Softies for Sarah and the rainbow chicks…

Behind the counter Big turns down the music and  hands me his classical guitar: Play.

And so I did…sang for them until midnight while they worked on layout, ads and design. I let it all out, the real love …because I really,

really have to sing….because I love to sing…I love to share this love for singing, music…got lost in words and singing, the rhythmic frog honking, floor fans blowing. Two hours passed? Honest, unobtrusive, the sound tapestry for the working art-alti-writerly-Surat fringe trust.

As I gathered my things to leave, Big grabbed my hands and all alive and serious says, “You need to sing. Your voice can help people.”

koh tao super sunset

koh tao super sunset

Cannot speak words to respond.  Instead, a warm smile, pause, bow head: Gratitude, grateful for the compliment—perhaps the best thing ever heard after singing, really, like someone had faithfully peered through, knew and felt all the psychic battles, wars waged and recent reconciliation of the soul. That, really, more than anything I want this love—this singing, song, writing—to be soothing and healing. To help. As if Big got all of this and knew beyond the language and culture gap the kindest, most genuine thing to say—like he knew what my soul needed to hear.

That’s what love does. One of the things, anyway. It  helps people.

It does.

It transcends.

It heals.


12 plants 3 passenegrs 1 bike

12 plants 3 passenegrs 1 bike