Singer/guitarist Steph Johnson is an award-winning, multi-dimensional recording artist whose music deftly blends jazz, soul, funk and blues. She’s a captivating performer whose engaging smile is complemented by a lush and distinctive voice.
Johnson recently released her new album So In Love, a 10-song collection of Johnson’s favorite jazz standards and ballads. The record features pianist Josh Nelson (Natalie Cole), guitarist Anthony Wilson (Diana Krall), trumpeter Chris Lawrence, bassist Rob Thorsen, and drummer Richard Sellers.
“With her recent release of So In Love, Steph continues her spiral upward towards bright, musical horizons,” writes DeeDee McNeil from LA Jazz Scene. “This may be her best recording to date.”
Johnson’s fourth album, Music is Art is a collaboration with Grammy Award-winning producer Kamau Kenyatta and features nine soulful, accessible, and evocative original compositions by Johnson, plus “Human Race,” a unique take on Wayne Shorter’s classic “Night Dreamer.”
Johnson burst onto the music scene after winning the San Diego Magazine Songwriter Award, and has received a San Diego Music Award for Best Jazz Album.
Growing up, she was influenced by her grandmother’s favorite singers: Ike and Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and Stevie Wonder; and by the ’70s icons beloved by her mother, including James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. Johnson discovered jazz through Miles Davis’ classic album, Kind of Blue, which led her to the great female jazz vocalists: Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughn.
Jazz critic Robert Bush wrote that Johnson’s core strength “is as a communicator with rhythmic depth and smoky, pliant power … her sweet yearning vocal really soars.”
Johnson’s recording career has taken a back seat in recent years to social activism. She co-founded and is now executive director and music director of the Voices of Our City Choir, whose members are experiencing homelessness. The choir is a nonprofit that provides community and case management and has helped find housing for 60 of its 250 members. Voices of Our City Choir is now feeding approximately 1,000 individuals a week, providing meals and phone charging stations.
Voices of Our City Choir is an inspirational musical ensemble that has garnered plenty of headlines. The choir has been the focus of a documentary The Homeless Chorus Speaks that aired nationally on PBS stations. The group has performed with the San Diego Symphony, and opened a benefit concert at the historic Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles on a bill that featured Jason Mraz and founding members of the Doors.
More recently, Voices of Our City Choir performed on season 15 of America’s Got Talent, and was given the coveted Golden Buzzer by host Terry Crews. This catapulted them to the live shows where they became semifinalists on America’s Got Talent Season 15.
Johnson has been recognized as one of San Diego CityBeat’s People of the Year. She was also named 2020 Woman of the Year by San Diego Assembly member Todd Gloria. Californians for the Arts highlighted the impact Johnson’s work has by coining her a California Arts Champion.