Interview with Boston rock artist Carissa Johnson

Carissa Johnson has been recognized for her debut album “For Now.” The debut release won Album of the Year 2016 by Limelight Magazine and her band was nominated for Best Punk Act by the Worcester Music Awards. She is known for her straight-forward lyrics and live energy, playing shows both with her band and acoustically. She started out in a punk band in 2010 called Left Hand Blue, but left in 2014 to pursue her own project after joining various Boston bands as a bassist. She continues to tour periodically and play shows throughout the United States in promotion of her sophomore album “Only Roses” released in May 2016.

We recently got an opportunity to interview her for our magazine.

Twist Online : First of all tell us about the start of your music career?
Carissa Johnson : I began playing guitar around 9 years old, where my dad always had guitars around the house. I wanted to learn after going to my first concert (Avril Lavigne and Simple Plan in 2003) I was in third grade, and I was so inspired by that. I didn’t join a band until 2009, when the local band at my high school asked if I’d be interested in playing bass. I decided to try and ended up gigging with them for five years. That was really the start to it all, and a great education and introduction into the world of it all.

Twist Online : You started with Left Hand Blue a few years back. What made you decide to leave the band?
Carissa Johnson : I left that band because things just started to fall apart. That band was our baby, the singer Matt and I put everything we had into that project and always struggled to keep the same drummer. After a few lineup changes, and as we progressed through high school to college together, we started growing apart musically and realized we were somewhat boxing ourselves in and it got harder to breathe. It was important to branch off and do our own solo projects and keep that band behind us.
It seems like ultimately we just grew out of it, where we had started so young and were growing into ourselves.

Twist Online : Tell us about your recent music projects?
Carissa Johnson : I now front my own band, which goes under my name. Nick Hall plays drums and Steph Curran plays guitar. I sing and play bass in that project, as well as write the songs. We just started touring outside of New England and are working on our third album release which is slated for late 2017/ early 2018. This past July I joined a band called Swivel, which is composed of Noelle Leblanc, Ken Susi, and Pat Politano. That project leans towards harder rock and grunge, and I’m psyched to be a part of that. Luckily I’ve been able to balance both projects and play shows with both bands, in Boston and everywhere else!

Twist Online : Your debut Album “For Now” was largely appreciated. You must be happy with the response?
Carissa Johnson : Yeah! That was really the beginning of it all. That album is very dear to me and I’m so glad it was received well by my friends and supporters. That album holds a lot of frustration inside it and it really was the catalyst to beginning my own band and getting myself out there as an artist and as a solo performer.

Twist Online : How was the response to your tours for promotion of your album “Only Roses”?
Carissa Johnson : The response has been pretty great so far. Our first tour for that album was in the northwest and we met a lot of great people, bands, and had a really great time. The band lineup was in flux around that time but we were still received really well out there. That album has a lot of hard hitters on it and songs that are easy to sing along to, so people were able to connect pretty fast with us and that was really magical.

Twist Online : Performing on stage or working in studios, what attracts you more?
Carissa Johnson: Performing on stage. I like knowing that everything can go wrong in an instant and I have to figure out how to make it work. I like the spontaneity of live crowds and shows and the connection between the audience and myself. It’s a constant challenge and it’s hard to prepare for it because every time it’s different. I’m very OCD and very perfectionist, and live there are so many variables that can interfere with that. Where as in a studio, it’s a very controlled environment, and each time you pretty much know what you’re getting yourself into. I love the studio just as much, I guess I just don’t find it as challenging.

Twist Online : Are you inspired by someone in the music industry?
Carissa Johnson : I’m inspired by anybody who puts all of themselves into their art and doesn’t make excuses as to why they can’t create it. I admire anybody in the music world who forces themselves to grow, who allows themselves to be uncomfortable and to be brutally honest without apologizing for it. There are a lot of specific people I admire, but it’d take a long time to name them all! I would say most of their influences show in my songs.

Twist Online : What are your goals as a music artist?
Carissa Johnson : When I sit down to write a song it’s usually because I’m going insane about something, and it’s really just my way of getting it out and turning whatever the situation is into something positive. So much goes on in my head that I want to share with the world and I can only hope it somehow resonates with people and that it speaks to other people. Music has always been there for me and I’ve always found songs at times when I really needed them. If it weren’t for certain bands and artists, my life would really be so different. I want to pay forward what music has done for me.

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