In Musikreview.com, Dana Wright summed up singer/ songwriter Jude Johnstone’s appeal: Her music “scrapes at the bottom of your soul and leaves a trace of itself behind … .”
The Cambria singer-songwriter rarely appears locally, but SLOfolks snagged her for their Nov. 14-15 concert series at Coalesce Bookstore in Morro Bay and Castoro Cellars in Paso Robles.
“I’m a storyteller,” Johnstone said, noting that she’ll share stories about the songs she wrote for many of the best in the business. “I remember exercising on the treadmill willing Don Henley to call about a song I’d sent him. The phone rang and it was him.”
She wrote Trisha Yearwood’s BMI winner “The Woman Before Me.” Johnny Cash’s Grammy award-winning album “Unchained” features her work. Bonnie Raitt, Bette Midler and Stevie Nicks have recorded her songs. The television series “Army Wives” incorporated her music.
At age 18, Johnstone met Clarence Clemons (of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band) on a plane.
“He said, ‘Send something,’ ” she recalled with a laugh. “I got a telegram telling me to call immediately. I’d forgotten to send my telephone number.”
The group flew her to L.A. to meet their manager, Chuck Plotkin.
“The match didn’t fit,” she said. “My music was so diverse it baffled them, but in publishing you can be diverse.”
She stayed to work the L.A. clubs and snagged a publication deal with Pat Sajak, her link to movie and television deals.
In 2013, Johnstone’s song “Quiet Girl” with Emmylou Harris garnered a first-place prize in the International Acoustic Music Awards. While performing a Leonard Cohen tribute concert at Steynberg Gallery in San Luis Obispo, she recalled working with Cohen on his “I’m Your Man” album.
Johnstone said she enjoys performing and would love to tour, but realizes her popularity within the industry is as a songwriter.
“I don’t go to the piano unless I have something to say,” she said. “When something is speaking to me — when it hurts — the music comes. Then I write the lyrics.”
She said her songs are autobiographical, adding that “the truth of my life
at the moment, sometimes embellished.” For example, her newest album, “Shatter,” features the song “Touchdown Jesus,” about times she spent with Dr. John. Could he be the “Underground Man?”
During Hurricane Katrina, Rev. Goat Carson sent her reams of angry poetry, which became “Cry, Cry, Cry (for New Orleans.)” She changed the tone to a sad one.
Her favorite track is “ … the one I just finished,” she said, which is “Before You.”
An international talent, Johnstone has many more songs and stories planned for the two SLOfolks performances (www.slofolks.org). Find her music via Facebook or at www.judejohnstone.com.