You can find Jade Johnson of Paradise Valley among the girls in plaid at Xavier College Preparatory. She’s another voice in the honor choir. She’s rocking a tough college-prep curriculum. But when the dismissal bell rings, Jade, a junior, heads for the stage.
She’s been singing, dancing and acting since the age of 8. She’s performed in more than 30 musical productions with local community theaters. Maybe you’ve heard her sing the national anthem at a Phoenix Suns game, exploding in song on the very same court where her father, Eddie Johnson, played for the Suns between 1987 and 1990. That was before Jade was born.
Now, at 16, she’s entering a different phase in her career: vocal recording artist. Jade recently celebrated the release of her first CD, Young Girls Love. She wrote the title song, as well as another cut, “Move Over.” She’s determined to join the likes of Beyoncé or Alicia Keys, but with a Jade kind of style. With pipes like hers…well, it definitely could happen.
Vicki: So, Jade, when did you first realize you might have some vocal talent?
Jade: Probably when I was about 9, because my main focus was acting at that point. I wouldn’t have known if the acting that I was doing didn’t require me to sing.
Vicki: What kind of music do you personally enjoy listening to?
Jade: I love old school, and I love R&B, hip-hop. All the modern music comes from old school—so it kind of goes back to that old soulful, jazz-type music. So I just like it all.
Vicki: How would you describe your style, the kind of music genre that you’ve got going on the CD?
Jade: My style is more R&B, or urban with a little bit of a pop twist to it. I didn’t want to lean too much toward the hip-hop sound. I wanted to have kind of a fresh, new sound that no one’s really heard before. I wanted to be unique and different.
Vicki: Talk about a particular cut on the CD that is your favorite, or that stands out for you.
Jade: I love my song “Move Over.” I wrote it in 10 minutes—it just came to the top of my head. The song is about a girl who is basically telling her boyfriend that she’s moving on. She’s over him and, you know, she loves herself way more than she ever loved him. And I think that that’s a message that a lot of young teens need to hear.
Vicki: Is that based on anything personal that happened to you or to a friend?
Jade: I’m way too young to worry about boys right now. But I do have a lot of friends who are older who have experienced heartbreak and have had guys that have, you know, done them wrong. I’m always the shoulder to cry on it seems. Just from seeing that and being around that I was able to formulate the song.
Vicki: Why do you want to be a performer?
Jade: I feel most at home when I’m on stage. I feel like I can be anyone I want to be and it’s my time to shine. I think that’s what a lot of people are striving for—whatever talent they have. They want to be recognized for their accomplishments. I feel strongest singing and dancing, performing and overall just being on stage.
Vicki: You’re so at home with it that you don’t get butterflies before a performance—or do you?
Jade: I always get butterflies before a performance! I think that if you’re nervous then that’s how you know that you really want to do well. As soon as I get on stage, it all goes away and I’m ready, and I do what I do best.
Vicki: How do you feel about singing choral music? You have to blend a lot with other people—and you have to share the stage.
Jade: Choral music is not my favorite thing in the world but it definitely helps with technique. My teacher [has been] very helpful with teaching me how to breathe, with vowel sounds—I can apply that to any style of music. Choir is more of a team sport. When it’s just me on stage, it’s just me that I have to worry about.
Vicki: How do you think the girls in the choir feel about the fact that they’ve got a fellow performer who just released her own CD?
Jade: I like to keep that kind of quiet. I don’t like to go to school, and you know, brag about what I’m doing on the outside. When I’m at school, that’s a completely different world than when I’m doing my music. RAK
Vicki Louk Balint, of Phoenix, is the mother of Cory (26), Frankie (21), Robert (17) and Annie (16). Read her blog on our website or write to her at email@example.com.