Born with a Musical Destiny
Kenya Johnson is a sultry songbird with a natural jazz feel who hails from Denver, Colorado. Growing up a fanatical fan of Stevie Wonder and the daughter of a musician, gave little Kenya no choice but to fall completely in love with music. By the age of eight, the songstress had developed a musical sound beyond her years, performing her first solo in the third grade.
As the young singer grew older, she fully immersed herself into the arts. In addition to singing, Kenya learned to play the piano, the flute, joined citywide choirs, and performed in statewide musicals. In addition, she became a member of the citywide jazz ensemble. Kenya attended Howard University where she got involved in acting. As a thespian there, she often flexed her acting skills throughout several productions that gave her the opportunity to travel internationally.
The multi-talented student continued to nurture her gifts and express herself creatively any chance she got. Yet, she still didn’t see her creative abilities as an option for her career.
“I loved music and the arts,” she said. “I just didn’t see my hobby as a career.”
Tough Choice: Tradition or Passion
Choosing to take a more traditional approach with her career and academia, Kenya chose to study physical therapy. With a knack for health and fitness and the love of helping others, it seemed like the best decision was to pursue her degree in physical therapy.
Committing to Family, Nurturing, and Mentoring
After graduating from Howard University the once vibrant and vivacious soul that came alive on stage chose to leave the world of performing behind. She chose to focus solely on her career in physical therapy.
Settling into a Traditional Life
Shortly thereafter, a whirlwind of life events reshaped her responsibilities and her priorities. The young clinician fell in love, married, and became a mother of two beautiful boys. And, while all of this was happening, she was still practicing physical therapy and treating patients. Just when you might think that she couldn’t possibly take on more, Kenya embarked on the pursuit of her master’s degree in counseling.
The tenacious therapist often found herself in the position of teaching her young peers and being asked for advice and guidance. Kenya being a person to not take any position lightly decided to delve into counseling, student development, and coaching. She wanted to ensure that she’d provide the best assistance and advice to those under her instruction.
A New City and a New Career
The Johnson family found themselves forced to relocate due to a career requirement for the man of the house who was a sought after physician. Being the go-getter that she is, Kenya immediately got to work at Chicago State University in Health Sciences. While things were seemingly going well the accomplished medical professional had become uneasy, as if something was missing.
“I felt restless,” she expressed. “Mildly depressed.”
“I knew that I should be doing something creative, but I just didn’t know what or how,” she said.
The young wife, mother and career woman had found herself navigating through life without her passion.
Finally Reconnecting to Her Passion
“I decided to get counseling because I could feel that something was wrong,” Kenya said. “My counselor basically told me that you’re not doing anything that you say that you are.”
It was in that moment that the destined musical diva realized that she needed to incorporate her first loves back into her life.
“So I tried to get it back into my life as a hobby again,” Kenya said as she discussed pursuing her musical career once again.
The first leap back into music was taking a music theory course at Prairie State.
“That was the beginning of where we are now.”
Feeling revived by the course, Kenya knew that this was exactly what was going to complete her.
“Once I took that class I felt very much at home. It felt like I was breathing again,” she insisted. “I could tell that this was it. It was time for me to do something different again.”
Divine Confirmation of Divine Purpose
In 2009 Kenya started to feel her divine purpose being confirmed.
“2009 after a spiritual retreat, I recognized something going on spiritually and it gave me the courage for me to do what I needed to do,” she said. “I think seeking counseling gave me the intellectual, but the retreat gave me the courage.”
Kenya left the retreat feeling confident in why she was created.
“It showed me, this is your purpose. This is why you were put here.”
The creative soul began writing music, recording her songs and opening herself up for opportunities to sing and perform. Through networking, she crossed paths with Grammy award winning producer Maurice Joshua. The soon to be international superstar took her collection of songs to the super producer. Impressed by her indisputable talent, Joshua offered to produce her first EP.
“He was the first person to teach me that as an independent artist I did not have to wait on a major label.”
The journey in recording her first EP in 2010 was like a rebirth. Intentionally titled “Starting Over,” due to the process feeling like aspiring singer was starting her life over.
“Getting back to music was like a rebirth for me and I wrote that song deliberately for the album,” she said.
Feeling accomplished by finally completing one of her goals, Kenya still didn’t fathom just how much more she could achieve and how many she could impact.
“I was recording for myself and I thought and I thought if I can just perform in Starbucks I’d be happy.”
The fanfare and sales upon and immediately following the release of “Starting Over” actually surprised She admits, “That’s when it got serious.”
Let’s Get Busy
Getting serious to the songstress meant taking care of business. Kenya had a website created, pitched herself to perform often including landing a regular monthly gig at a suburban restaurant, networked more and also released her second EP.
Showcasing her growth in her singing, songwriting, and style, the second EP was a fusion of jazz and soul.
“I love soul music, but jazz music comes more naturally to me,” the singer explained.
The new sound started getting a more international appeal. Somehow she caught the attention of a London DJ who reached out and requested more of her music. Basking in her success Kenya wondered, “wow, could I actually do music in Europe? That became my next big dream.”
Kenya has a Spiritual Reset
“I was starting to feel a little off in 2012, feeling a little stagnant, just doing shows in Chicago. I knew I could do more with the right team,” she said reminiscing.
In desperate need of a reboot, Kenya decided to take 40 days after her 40th birthday to “relax, relate and release.”
The spiritual break allowed her to get away from distractions and get in tune with God. She ate clean, stayed prayed up and made her desires of her heart to be an international star known to God. In pure divinely orchestrated order, a producer approached Kenya at one of her shows. Ends up that he had been following her and was eager to work with her. He’d expressed his belief in her and how he knew she’d do well in Europe. Amazed that her prayers were seemingly being answered, Kenya accepted the producer’s proposal to remix a song she’d previously recorded and pitch it in Europe.
Kenya Breaks Free to Live Her Dream
During this period Kenya was also still teaching and doing all of the mandatory courses, conferences and training required to keep her licenses. She was becoming overwhelmed and irritable with trying to both maintain traditional living and pursue her passions. Still a health professional, she had a heart to heart with her husband, created a budget, business plan and listed everything she needed to be free and flourish. Then she finally released the fear of not being successful following her passion. She let go of the nice salary, freeing herself to leave her profession and live her dream.
Kenya knew that whatever song she and her new producer chose needed to be a breakout song.
“I needed this song to be a breakout song for me,” she recalls. She quickly added, “I needed a video. I needed it to be a commercial for me,” she asserted.
She remixed her previously recorded cover of Michael Jackson’s “I can’t help it”. She saved her money and gathered a great team to create a strong video with a leading man that every woman loves, the handsome Malik Yoba.
Hard Work, Faith, Detours and Divine Connections
The song started moving in Europe and landing on the UK Soul charts.
“It peaked at number 4 on the charts. Now I felt like I can do this.”
Hard work, perseverance, a few detours, divine connections, and faith converged to allow Kenya to be a full-time musician and an international success. 1AM asked her about advice for young artists. The well-rounded businesswoman and artist revealed that she’s now coaching new artists through her program Creating Crimson. Kenya added that “Being an independent artist should only mean that you own your stuff, not that it looks and sounds below industry standard.”
There’s no doubt that her star is shining brightly. Her following quadrupled in both Europe and America. She’s admittedly very busy managing her own label, her team, her career and upcoming tour. She introduced the world to her voice in “Starting Over”. Then she showed fans her full potential in “My Own Skin.” Without a doubt, whatever she does next will leave her fans in pure awe and wanting more.