Cambria singer-songwriter Jude Johnstone’s new album, ‘Quiet Girl,’ features guest appearances by several big names

March 3, 2011 

With a name like Jude, it makes sense for Jude Johnstone to be a Beatles fan.

But while her name recalls the Beatles tune “Hey Jude,” her career better channels another Beatles hit, “With a Little Help From My Friends.”

It was Bruce Springsteen saxophonist Clarence Clemons who discovered her. It was country star Trisha Yearwood who recorded her song “The Woman Before Me” and took it to No. 1. And it was Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and Emmylou Harris who invited her to open for them.

So it’s no surprise that many of her best-known friends—Clemons, Raitt, Harris, and Rodney Crowell — appear on Johnstone’s newly released album, “Quiet Girl.”

Johnstone, of Cambria, just recently ended a stint opening for Raitt and spoke to The Tribune about her fifth studio album.

Q: So you’ve been opening for Bonnie Raitt. Have you done that before?

A: Oh yeah, I’ve done that quite a few times. She’s awesome. We had so much fun, singing together in her set. That’s my favorite thing. I really love opening for her, but all I’m doing is looking forward to getting into her set. We sing “Angel from Montgomery” together, and it is a highlight for me. She was my idol when I was a kid, so it’s kind of a big deal.

Q: Do you tour with her on a certain stretch?

A: I’d like to have a whole leg. She kind of spreads it around. She doesn’t take one person out, she kind of does four or five shows with somebody, then she gets somebody else. Because it’s such a big deal for people that are more under the radar, like me, and she’s well aware of that. She takes people she wants to turn her audience on to.

Q: I saw you also have a song, “Quiet Girl,” which I assume is about you. Is it tough for a quiet girl to get onstage and perform?

A: I was opening a show for Emmylou Harris once, and she had a cold and wasn’t feeling well at all. And I remember she looked up at me before she went onstage and said, “Well — it’s time to go out and be her.” And I thought, wow — that’s an interesting way to look at it. But, no, I feel more comfortable onstage probably than I do anywhere else. I love playing live. It seems to give me back my purpose every time I do it.

Q: Speaking of Emmylou Harris, there are many guest artists on this album. How does that work — do you send them text messages or e-mails?

A: It’s e-mails for me. I’m not a big phone person, so I do e-mail them. In previous records, I recorded all the background vocals live — I would go down to Santa Monica, Jackson’s studio maybe, and have everyone come down and sing. This time I did the whole high-tech thing where every guest on this record mailed me their part. I e-mailed Emmy and said, “Do you want to sing a little harmony on this thing for me?” and she said, “Yeah, I’d be glad to.” And then her engineer sent it to me a couple of days later.

Q: You have a train song on here.

A: I have a thing about trains. It’s really just an image in that song for escape — you know, trains are just very romantic. And I wrote that song while we were on a camping trip with our daughter and her school at Gaviota Beach. And there’s a train that comes through there and wakes everybody up in the middle of the night. And since I loathe camping, I got up late when the train woke me up, and the idea of that song came to me.

Q: Did you have a guitar or keyboard?

A: I didn’t have any of those things. But I can keep a thing in my head for a pretty good while, until I get home to my piano.

Q: So you’re just lying in the tent conjuring the song in your head?

A: Yes. Wherever you are — you can be in the middle of an airport — but if a thing is coming through, then it’s coming through.

Q: So you must have to just keep repeating it in your head over and over.

A: Yes, you do. I’ll write notes so that I can refer to it later. Because I would definitely forget it if I didn’t.

Q: If you get a good one, do you get impatient, thinking, “I’ve got to get back so I can get that down?”

A: Absolutely. Especially if you’re doing something you really hate — like camping.

Q: When you were following Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band around, was there a particular song they did that they knocked out of the park?

A: He had a couple of songs that I loved. One of them was called “Point Blank.” I watched them record his record “The River.” It was an early education for me to watch them work, Springsteen in particular. Ever since then I’ve never seen anyone work as hard in the recording studios as he did.

Reach Patrick S. Pemberton at 781-7903.

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