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Alexz Johnson

Background information
Birth name Alexzandra Spencer Johnson
Born November 4, 1986 (1986-11-04) (age 23)
New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada
Genres Pop, world music, indie, folk-pop, alternative
Occupations Vocalist, songwriter, musician, actress
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1997–present
Labels Orange (2005)
Capitol-EMI (2006)
Epic (2008)
inDiscover Recodings / Orange Lounge Recording Co./ Universal Music (Present)
Associated acts Brendan Johnson
Website www.alexzjohnson.com

Alexzandra "Alexz" Spencer Johnson (born November 4, 1986) is a Canadian actress and singer-songwriter. Her debut album Voodoo is expected to be independently released on March 30, 2010.

She is best known for her role as Jude Harrison in the CTV series Instant Star and as Annie Thelan in the Disney Channel series So Weird.

Contents

Early life

She was born in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada, the sixth of ten children. One of her sisters is a stage actress, and her brother Brendan is a musician with whom she often collaborates.

From age three, Alexz would frequently sing for her large extended family. By age seven, she was receiving vocal training, participating in festivals with her local youth choir, and giving solo performances at school and community functions. She entered many talent contests and festivals, winning a National Anthem Contest at the age of 11, with her rendition of the National Anthem being heard on national television. This resulted in numerous radio and television interviews, as well as interest from management. That year, she was also voted Best Anthem singer of the season by the Vancouver Sun.

Locally, she was often referred to as the "West Coast Celine" and sang the National Anthem at games for the NHL team Vancouver Canucks and the NBA team Vancouver Grizzlies (now based in Memphis). She also performed at charity events and fairs around the province, in addition to the B.C. Summer Games. She opened the Variety Club show singing a duet with Bob McGrath, sang the first set of songs at the Molson Indy (a major car race), and entertained on New Year's Eve at Planet Hollywood at the age of 12.[1]

Career

With an outgoing personality, Alexz moved into acting, where she excelled, landing auditions for commercials and a showcase for a pilot called "Most Talented Kids". She auditioned for the Disney television series So Weird which, for the final season of the show, was looking for a lead actress who could also sing.

Alexz was offered the job immediately after her audition. This role was a tough assignment, because many fans of the show had already become accustomed to a different story-line, were not happy that the show had shifted from a "darker" to a "lighter" tone, and were upset that the previous lead actress Cara DeLizia was moving on as the show approached its final season. While many long-time fans of the show continued to feel this way, the show nevertheless retained its popularity, and Alexz built up a fan base on the strength of both her acting and her singing. She also showed an interest in songwriting, and co-wrote one of the songs for So Weird. After the show ended, she continued her interest in songwriting, co-writing with her brother. In 2002, after a few acting gigs under her belt, Alexz focused on her music career. Several labels offered her contracts, but she held off, wanting more creative control and a hand in the songwriting.

Cast Photo - Instant Star (Credit to Epitome Pictures)

When Alexz's original site was put up around 1999-2000, she had two clips of demos up for listening: "Sunshine Reigns" and "Dream About You" (which Johnson co-wrote for the original Disney Channel series, So Weird). In 2001, Alexz teamed up with the production/songwriting team of Johnny Elkins and CJ Vanston and had a more bubblegum pop sound.

With her work with Vanston and Elkins ending around 2003, Alexz ended up working with her brother on demos that showed her music in a new direction, with deeper lyrics, prominent guitar, and stronger vocals. These were the types of songs included on the demo CD she sent to the executives of Instant Star with her audition tape.

Johnson has continued with several acting projects, including the role of Angel in the Lifetime original Selling Innocence and guest roles in shows such as The Chris Isaak Show, Cold Squad, and The Collector.

In 2004, Alexz sent in an audition tape to the producers of Degrassi: The Next Generation for their upcoming show Instant Star. They were specifically looking for a Canadian teen actress/vocalist to play the lead role, Jude Harrison. The first audition tape Executive Producer Stephen Stohn received was Alexz's, and he was convinced she was exactly the one who would be perfect for the role. The auditioning continued, returning to Alexz in the end.

After its first season, Instant Star was nominated for three Gemini Awards (Canadian equivalent of the American Emmy Award) in the category of Best Children's or Youth Fiction Program or Series. Nominations included: (1) Best Series; (2) Best Performance (Alexz Johnson); and (3) Best Direction (Graeme Campbell). The show won the award for Best Direction. On August 28, 2007, the show received three more Gemini Award nominations, in the category of Best Children's or Youth Program or Series - two for best direction (Pat Williams and Graeme Campbell), and one for Best Performance (Alexz Johnson, in the episode, "I Fought the Law").

Alexz sang all of the songs that her character Jude, on Instant Star performed on the show. She recorded soundtracks for each of the four seasons of Instant Star: Songs from Instant Star, Songs from Instant Star Two, Songs from Instant Star Three, and Songs From Instant Star Four . She wrote/co-wrote five of the songs on the first season's soundtrack, including "24 Hours", "Let Me Fall", "Criminal, "Skin", and "That Girl", which Alexz had written before when she was fourteen. She did not write songs on the albums for the next three seasons, however her brother Brendan continued to write songs for the show.

Most of the original recordings for the originally planned debut album were written by Alexz in early 2005, but she had yet to find a major label to help create and release the songs. In early 2006, Alexz had announced she was to leave the indie Canadian label Orange Records, that had released the first two soundtracks to Instant Star, in search of something to showcase her as an artist and not her ficitional counterpart Jude Harrison on Instant Star.

Johnson also decided to audition for the role of Julie Christenson in the thriller Final Destination 3 . As it turned out, she showed up at the audition in an all black, punk rockish outfit, later claiming that she had also been in a bad mood. The casting directors concluded that she would be perfect for the role of Erin Ulmer, a character with a bad attitude. This was not a large part, but she played it convincingly, right to the gruesome end. Her performance attracted praise from some critics, even from one (writing for The Philadelphia Inquirer) who said: "The characters are so loathsome, you're glad to see them go. Except for two: the goth couple Ian (Kris Lemche) and Erin (Alexz Johnson). He's a cynical know-it-all, like Dennis Miller with black fingernails; she's like Parker Posey with raccoon mascara.." [2] In 2007, Alexz starred in the Lifetime movie,Devil's Diary, for which she received a Leo Award nomination, in the category of Best Lead Performance by a Female in a Feature-Length Drama.

On August 26, 2008, Alexz Johnson was nominated a third time for a Gemini award. On October 21, 2008, she won the Gemini Award for Best Performance in a Children's or Youth Program or Series, for the Instant Star episode Let It Be. Johnson continued with Instant Star for four seasons, and expected to return for a fifth. This was interrupted when CTV and The N both pulled funding following the fourth season, which led to the cancellation of the series after the fourth season that aired on CTV and The-N in the summer and fall of 2008 respectively. This allowed Alexz to go back to focusing on her music.

After a showcase in New York City, Alexz met with several labels and producers including Martin Terefe, Guy Sigsworth, and Marius DeVries. Eventually, Johnson chose Capitol Records, which allowed her to work with Paul Buckmaster though her brother was the main producer of the material at the time.

In writing songs for the album, she had worked with UK writers Martin Terefe and Sacha Skarbek as well as producer/songwriter Brio Taliaferro. On June 25, 2007, Alexz appeared on the Canadian version of MTV. She confirmed that all of her songs had been written and recorded. She planned on shopping for a label over the next few months and hoped to release the album in the winter.

On February 15, 2008, she announced in her MySpace blog [3] that she had signed a record deal with label Epic Records (part of the Sony BMG group), expecting the album to be released in the fall. Having heard the first six songs, Stephen Stohn, in his MySpace blog of Feb. 16, 2008, commented that, "they are just incredibly good - very different from the songs you've come to know through Instant Star, much more rhythmic, with almost a world beat." [4]

In an interview in 2008,[5] she described her upcoming album as "pop with eclectic world rhythms and influences", citing influences from "older artists" such as Paul Simon, Kate Bush, and Annie Lennox, and saying that she was "trying to find a way to make those great older songs younger."

The producer for the album became Greg Wells after Johnson was introduced to him through his brother Rob Wells, one of the songwriters for Instant Star. The new arrangement with Epic Records also affected the line-up of artists for the Instant Star 4 soundtrack, as the record label allowed her a maximum of four songs on Instant Star 4. In her MySpace blog of February 15, 2008, Alexz Johnson indicated that she was planning an extensive tour around her new album, saying of her songs that, "I can't wait to perform them live! Looking forward to seeing all of your faces!" Johnson also began working with multi instrumentalist Luis Conte and legendary strings expert Paul Buckmaster.

On June 11, 2008, Epic Records posted five new songs from Johnson's upcoming album on her MySpace site: "Easy", "Swallowed", "Chicago", "Golden" and "Running With the Devil".[3]

Alexz appeared in the hit CW series Smallville episode "Legion", as the super heroine Saturn Girl. The episode aired on January 15, 2009. She was the second actress from Instant Star to appear in the show, the first one being Laura Vandervoort.

She also appeared in the TV-movie version of the Lois Duncan novel Stranger with My Face, in which she plays twin sisters who were separated at birth. She stated that the filming—which included a dramatic scene in which her two characters conflict through astral projection, leading to a fall off a cliff and into a waterfall—was so mentally and physically demanding, that she felt like she could never take on another role like it again. It premiered on Lifetime Movie network on August 29, 2009. The director of Stranger with My Face, Jeff Renfroe, greatly praised what he saw when working with Alexz and her costar Andrew Francis. "They're both young actors who came from the school of working from the gut and not trying to intellectualize everything."

In a February 2009 interview with the Times-Colonist, a newspaper in Victoria, British Columbia, Alexz said that her album was completely finished, noting that she was simply waiting for changes to be finalized with the new head of her label, Amanda Ghost, who had worked with Alexz on the album. She hoped to have the album out by September 2009, followed by tours through parts of Europe and North America.

Before the album's release date, Epic Records removed Alexz from their Artist Lists. Alexz later gave clarification on her website that launched August 11, 2009,[6] saying "Epic has released over a third of their artists from their contracts and, la dee da... I'm one of those artists..." She confirmed that due to losing her deal with Epic Records, she would be releasing a different album independently with her brother Brendan producing. She said she hopes that her unreleased debut album with Epic Records would see the light one day, noting that for now, the songs are still tied up in the arrangement with Epic.

The independent release will be by the company which also runs her website - Laydee Spencer Music, Inc. On August 27, 2009, Johnson released a list of songs that are going to be on her album in alphabetical order, [7] and later requested fans to go through the clips of five upcoming songs on her site, and to recommend which should be the lead-off single. The tracks posted were: "L.A. Made Me"; "Hurricane Girl"; "Voodoo"; "A Little Bit"; and "Trip Around the World". On December 1, 2009 it was announced that her debut album Voodoo would be released in March 30, 2010. The debut single, Trip Around The World, was released on February 2, 2010.

Personal life

When it came to writing songs as a child, Alexz stated (in an 2009 interview with Amanda Mack) she had trouble writing uptempo, joyous songs. "I was always watching the world as a kid. Being in the middle of ten kids, I had a lot of older siblings and I was definitely an observer when I was younger." She added, "I just watched a lot of things that were happening when everybody else was really happy. I was definitely a happy kid but I noticed people’s pain and I would notice what people were going through. It was difficult for me when I was younger to write really happy songs."

Charity Work

During 2001, Alexz worked with World Vision, and had a section on her official site where fans could order shirts with a design done by Johnson and also featuring her autograph. Unfortunately, there were production problems and the shirts were never sent out. Alexz made an apology on her site and provided refunds to everyone who ordered one. In 2002, she performed as the opening act at Wayne Gretzky's celebrity dinner and auction, held in Edmonton, Alberta, to raise funds for the Ronald McDonald children's charity.

During the peak of her run on So Weird, Alexz ended up performing and visiting the Nashville Kids Fair where she also hosted the event. During her time in Nashville, Alexz ended up visiting ill children in a local hospital. The trip was made as a part of an outreach by Disney Channel, as Alexz visited the children with the dog who starred in the Disney original film Air Bud.

During 2002 and 2003, Alexz focused on her music, but decided to perform with several charitable organizations. She worked with David Foster, opening for his charity events for the David Foster Foundation. After the season premiere of the second season of Instant Star on The N she also did a public service announcement for Second Harvest which was assisting the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

On November 21, 2008, Alexz was a special guest performer for a Women In Leadership (a Vancouver organization promoting women's role in the media) foundation called SuperWomen & Friends - A Red Carpet Gala.

Discography

Studio Albums

Soundtracks

Filmography

Film

Year Film Role Notes
2004 Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed Freddy Fan Extra
2005 Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical The Arc-ettes / Vocal Ensemble 2005 Deauville Film Festival
Premiere Audience Award
2006 Final Destination 3 Erin Ulmer First feature film

Television

Year Film Role Notes
2000-2001 So Weird Annie Thelan 26 episodes
2005 The Chris Isaak Show Jennifer Episode: "Taking Off"
The Collector Isabelle Van Sant Episode: "The Ice Skater"
Cold Squad Deirdre Spence / Tricia Spence Episode: "Teen Angel"
Falcon Beach Beach Girl TV movie
Selling Innocence Angel TV movie
2007 Devil's Diary Dominique Davies TV movie
2004-2008 Instant Star Jude Harrison 4 Seasons
2009 Smallville Irma Ardeen Episode: "Legion"
Stranger With My Face Laurie Stratton / Lia Abbot TV movie

References

  1. ^ Key facts in this section were originally drawn from the biography posted on the web site of the Orange Record Label, but no longer there because she changed record labels.
  2. ^ Movie: Final Destination 3
  3. ^ a b http://www.myspace.com/alexzjohnson
  4. ^ http://www.myspace.com/StephenStohn
  5. ^ http://www.alloy.com/5/86/7328/6/ref/5/86/7328/5/
  6. ^ http://www.alexzjohnson.com/news.html
  7. ^ http://alexzonline.com/pages.php

External links








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