A Conversation with Ingrid D. Johnson – poet, spoken word recording artist, singer-songwriter, producer, social activist

Jamaican-born Ingrid D. Johnson is a Winnipeg-based, published poet, spoken word recording artist, singer-songwriter, producer, social activist, social entrepreneur, and Filmmaker. She is the owner of a socially conscious production and entertainment company called, In The Closet Productions “A Voice for The Voiceless”. Here  is our conversation with Ingrid D. Johnson.

Tell us about your background and how did you get started performing?
I was born in St.Catherine’s, Spanish Town, Jamaica. My mother was 16 years old when she had me, so I never knew my father. We immigrated to Canada with the help of my late grandmother and her ex-husband when I was 4 years old. My mother worked 2 jobs to support my baby brother and I. It was her example that taught me the value of hard work. Unfortunately, during that time my mother had to leave us with a babysitter and it was my babysitter’s husband that sexually abused me for many years. Shortly after that, my mother met and married a Jamaican man visiting Canada from Clarendon, Jamaica.
When I was 12 years old, I shared my secret of being sexually abused with him before I told my mother that same day. Months later, he also sexually abused me. Shortly after, I told a school counsellor what he was doing and I was apprehended by child services. My stepfather denied everything. He tore apart my family. In return, God gave me the courage I needed at twelve years old to testify against him in a court of law. He lost and went to jail for 6 months. It was nothing compared to what he had done to me and my family … but I was happy that he would never get a chance to abuse my baby sister or anyone else. Going through all of that put a deep desire in my heart to use my story, my music, and my art to make a positive difference in other people’s lives.
I started performing my spoken word poetry in year 2000. First, I recorded one of my poems on the album of a local hip-hop group and again in August 2004 with the help of an ex-boyfriend, who is an international hip-hop music producer. I started writing my own songs in 2005 (during the launch of my first published book of poetry), recording and releasing my songs with the help of several local vocalists in 2007, until I finally got the courage and vocal lessons I needed to sing my own songs in May 2009. It has been quite the journey thus far.

Tell how about your new album “What about love”?  Did you write the album? What was your inspiration?
‘What About Love?” is an album all about loving and unloving relationships. The relationship you may or may not have with GOD. Your relationships with others and the relationship you also have with yourself. It focuses on love, important social issues, and the strength that comes from learning to walk by faith in order to overcome adversity. I wrote all the songs on the album and my band “The Funky Fresh Crew” composed the music.
My inspiration for this album came from my deep Christian faith that commands us all to LOVE. To love GOD and to love others, as much as we love ourselves. I saw how this was lacking in a lot of my relationships, riddled with abuse, and in dysfunctional relationships all over the world.  

What is the best compliment you have gotten about the “What about love” album?
The best compliment I have gotten about my album, “What About Love?” is that it takes the listener on a journey. That is my intention as a singer, songwriter and storyteller.
What are you most proudest to date about your career?
It is a tie between being honored by the women who have told me that my lyrics and my music have touched and inspired them, and the recognition I received with my company In The Closet Productions ( “A Voice For the Voiceless”) from The Manitoba Status of Women (a part of the government of Manitoba) in their 2011 publication that honored female artists working for social change.

How would you describe your sound?
I would say that my sound is always evolving because I am always growing as a singer/songwriter. I would describe my music as a handful of Jazz, a sprinkle of R&B, a healthy serving of Gospel music, a dash of Reggae, a touch of socially conscious spoken word, and a little, taste of Pop.

Tell us about your poetry?
My poetry is honest and open. It is my first medium of expression. Meaning everything begins with a poem for me.  

How is writing poetry different from song writing?
It isn’t that much different to me. Mainly because my poems often become my songs because they are all free verse poems. I just add a catchy chorus and my lyrics are often born with their own melody, so I just sing them to my band who helps me to build the music that compliments their meaning and my singing voice. 

Have you being doing anything in the entertainment and arts field?
I have been performing my songs locally from the album “What About Love?”. I recently did a charity event for a local cafe/bookstore in November 2012 and I have some upcoming shows in The New Year. In addition, I am still taking voice lessons and piano lessons, as well.

What projects are you working on right now?
I just got married to my soul mate, on my birthday and his birthday in Hawaii. It was so beautiful!
So … for right now I am just concentrating on booking more live shows, speaking engagements, gaining licensing opportunities, selling my album, and starting radio promotion in the new year for this album. 

If you were stuck on a desert island and given the choice of 2 albums to put on your ipod which artist would it be?
Billie Holiday’s albums and my own album “What About Love?”

Seven day, six night, all expense paid, my vacation destination is…
New York City. I have not been there in 5 years and I just went to Hawaii and also Jamaica this year. 

My Mother always told me…
“Who can’t hear will surely feel.”
Thanks for your time. Do you any closing thoughts?
My mother is a proud Jamaican. She never let me forget my roots and I am so thankful to her for that. I love being Jamaica and also a Canadian.
My mother also taught me to trust in GOD, speak the truth, and to work for what I want in life. She lead by example in this teaching and she does not know the meaning of “I can’t”. So, I am very happy to see her living her dream to retire back home in Jamaica, at fifty. It inspires me to keep pursuing my dreams to make a posiive difference in other people’s lives through my company and my own music and art. 

About the author

Denise Lee