Johnson makes finals in national country music contest

By Mark Squibb/April 7, 2022

Though she said it sounds cliché to say, country artist and CBS native Mallory Johnson has been playing music her whole life — and even experienced life on the stage before birth.

“My mom is a country singer and was eight months pregnant, with me, on stage,” said Johnson, who grew up surrounded by country and traditional Newfoundland music.

When she was 11, her family formed the band The Cormiers, which consisted of Johnson, her mother Loretta, uncle Gordan, and cousin Randall. Johnson released four albums and toured much of the world with the family band.

In high school, she gravitated towards the idea of performing country music as a solo artist.

“I’ve always loved the genre,” said Johnson. “Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colours is my favorite song of all time. I still, every time I do a gig, bring my mom up on stage and we do that one together. For me, country music has a very similar foundation and backbone as Celtic folk music. It’s all about the storytelling. And I gravitate towards lyrics and that storytelling. I took any opportunity I could to do open mics and do solo gigs.”

Johnson recently entered and won a provincial country music contest. And through connections made though that contest, she ended up in Music City, Nashville Tennessee. Just recently, Johnson, who already has an EP and a number of singles under her belt, recorded her debut solo album in Nashville, which is set to be released in the fall of 2022.

Johnson, who has spent much of the last couple of years splitting her time between Nashville and Newfoundland, said that Nashville is everything a young country artist would expect it to be.

“It’s Music City. You come here, and it’s a very warm, very inspiring, very welcoming place,” said Johnson. “There’s something in the air, there’s something in the water.”

She said it’s been a privilege to record in the same studios as county legends, and work alongside staff and musicians who have worked on some of the genre’s most iconic albums. Her producer, Kent Wells, has produced albums for none other than Dolly Parton herself.

“This city forces you to step up,” said Johnson. “It kicks your butt in the best way. I love every minute of it.”

Recently, Johnson sent in an application to SiriusXM’s Top of the Country competition. Eight semi-finalists were selected from amongst the submissions — Johnson among them.

“I am so, so excited to be one of those chosen eight,” said Johnson, who has followed the contest, and its earlier iteration, for years. “I think it’s an amazing opportunity for new artists, and I’m so excited to finally say that I’m in the class of 2022.”

The eight semi-finalists have received travel grants to fly to Vancouver or Toronto to record a song and music video. Once the eight videos are posted online, voting will open, and three finalists will be selected to perform at the Canadian Country Music Association Awards. Finalists will also attend song writing sessions and benefit from industry membership. The grand prize winner, who will get $25,000, will be announced at Country Music Week 2022 in Calgary, Alberta this September.

“I was in a writing session here in Nashville with some Canadian friends of mine, and in the middle of the session I saw a Toronto number pop up on my phone,” said Johnson. “Usually, I ignore calls during a write, but I was like, ‘This is Toronto, who is calling me from Toronto?’ So, I got up from the write, and walked down the hall, and it was Nicole at SiriusXM, and I got so excited, my co-writers were like, ‘What the heck is going on, why is she flipping out?’ So, they were there to celebrate the news with me.”

As there just so happened to be a bottle of Prosecco in the fridge, the three friends put the song writing on hold for a little celebration.

As someone who chased a dream without letting go, Johnson encouraged others to step outside their own comfort zones.

“As cliché as it sounds, good things happen outside your comfort zone,” said Johnson. “I ty to live by this motto, ‘What would I regret more?”

Johnson’s recent collaboration with West Coast duo Twin Kennedy on Wise Woman earned a number of nominations, and the video was the 2021 MusicNL Video of the Year.

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