Jillette Johnson is the girl in high school whom all the nerds openly adored and all the jocks secretly loved -- all the other girls would have been jealous, if it weren't that the pretty, bubbly brunet was just so darned sincere.
She listens to everything from Radiohead to Josh Ritter, and when asked what she absolutely couldn't live without on the road, the singer doesn't hesitate a moment before blurting out, "Really good bacon."
Well-spoken, unassuming, and charmingly offbeat, the young singer/songwriter who turned down a contract with The Voice to take a gamble on her own luck has declared herself Gryffindor house material and has no problem admitting she's a huge dork.
If you ask Johnson why she decided to pass up a spot on The Voice, she'll tell you assuredly, but without pretension: "I had to decide whether I wanted to sign away eight years of my life to a company that was thousands and thousands of miles away from me and really didn't know who I was or if I wanted to just keep going down my path and believe in myself and my songwriting."
As a New York native who's been on that grind auditioning and gigging since her tweens, she may know how to laugh at herself, but make no mistakes: Jillette Johnson knows what she wants and isn't afraid to go after it.
"I hear a lot of 'can't,'" she told us of her distaste for excuses. "If you're trying to get something done, figure out how to get it done, no matter how hard it is."
It's that kind of serious commitment, combined with an undeniable charisma and a pretty clear zest for life -- not to mention lots of talent -- that makes Jillette Johnson a pretty likable alternative to your run-of-the-mill pop singer.
On a day off in San Francisco during her tour, she tells us her goal was simply to remember to appreciate a beautiful part of the country, to "take a minute to look around. I think it's easy to forget to do, when you're working every day. So I'm proud of myself that I did. I let myself appreciate it."
The last year and a half on the road with her tour manager have whet the singer's appetite for bigger adventures, so in 2014, Johnson will head back out with a full backing band for the first time.
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"I have this incredible itch to have more people onstage with me and to fill up my show. So, in 2014, I think my road life and my record life are gonna really open up. I'd say, definitely, you're gonna see a lot more of me in the new year."
Before the new year, those who plan to attend the inaugural Lauderdale Live can look forward to the singer/songwriter as she belts out her emotionally powered, story-like piano ballads as part of the two-day downtown music festival.
As for Johnson, she just can't wait to warm up. "All I can think about is how cold it's gonna be in New York when I get to get on a plane and go to Fort Lauderdale."
Lauderdale Live with Jillette Johnson, Lyle Lovett, and more. December 6 to 8 at Fort Lauderdale downtown waterfront. Visit lauderdalelivemusic.com.
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