Marisa Johnson: Her Own Way

Interview and Photography by Jorge Lara


VIMMAG: Greetings Marisa, you've had an incredible time this month, you recently released your first album of classical crossover genre music "My Own Way" and had a sell out concert. You've also been a bit of a media darling this past couple of days, having featured in the Review-Journal and other media outlets. How has it been for you? 


MARISA JOHNSON: It has been a dream come true. I am so glad that people are really receptive to me and my music. This bodes well for the Classical Crossover genre!


VIMMAG:  You wrote a song with Jay DIllen for your album. How has the writing process been for this album and how has it differentiated from your past work? How did the song come about?


Jay was the solo songwriter for “Your Time.” I just had the honor of singing it. I love working with songwriters, and co-wrote the title track of my album, “My Own Way,” with my good friend and amazing songwriter, Austen Courter.  I feel very strongly about writing my own music, but that doesn’t mean I am not willing to collaborate!

Marisa Johnson for VIM Magazine No 4.jpg

VIMMAG: You've enlisted the help of David Blaze as your cellist and Joan Zajac as your vocal coach. How has it been like working with them? 

MARISA JOHNSON: David Blaze is a star. He is incredible and original, and the best and most unique cellist I have ever worked with. Joan Zajac is a wonderful teacher and has sang at the Met and so she is a great inspiration to me and I am so blessed to have a great “guardian of my voice.”

VIMMAG:  Tell us a bit about your band. How did you all form? Have you worked with different musicians in the past?

MARISA JOHNSON: Well, I wouldn't exactly call it a “band,” haha. It’s more like a rock chamber orchestra. I like working with different musicians, but a solid ensemble of loyal players is definitely in the works right now for my future gigs.

VIMMAG:  I  had the opportunity to see you perform at the Viva Las Vegas Event Center which was lived streamed to all your fans worldwide. You have also performed at the Fremont Country Club and have opened for artists such as Enrique Iglesias and sang with Andrea Bocelli. How do you like that artists can now stream their performances to all over the world?  How was it like opening for Enrique and singing with Bocelli?

MARISA JOHNSON: I love live stream. I think it’s a great way to get my fans involved in my music and I am so glad that TuneGO  and was able to help me with the live stream production of my concert. Log on to to watch the concert! Opening for Enrique Iglesias was a great experience because I got to sing my classical crossover music to young people who may have never been exposed to that sort of music. I was very happy that they responded so positively to it because that bodes well for the future of classical crossover.

VIMMAG: You moved to Las Vegas after getting a gig singing opera at The Venetian. What was that experience like? 

MARISA JOHNSON: Since moving to Las Vegas I’ve been very fortunate to have a variety of singing gigs. I’ve sang everywhere from opera at the Venetian, pop music in Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding, and headlined several different hotels on the strip.  Las Vegas has been a great town for me to hone my skills, which is why I chose to have my very special album release concert in this city.

VIMMAG: Your gown designer is Dayana Rueda Soto. Tell us a bit about the fashion designer and the dress that you wore for your concert. 

MARISA JOHNSON: Dayana is a wonderful designer in town and I’m so lucky I had the opportunity to work with her. We went with a royal blue dress with gold trimming because I wanted a bold and regal look.  I love collaborating with different artists- be it musicians, orchestrators, or fashion designers. Megan of Mina Olive designed the dress on my album cover and my gown that I wore to the GRAMMYs was designed by Teodora Atanasov of Fashion A’Studio.

VIMMAG: You are a native Californian. How was it growing up in California? Do you remember your earliest musical influences? 

MARISA JOHNSON: My first experience with classical crossover/opera was when I was 11. Charlotte Church on the PBS station and I thought it was the most beautiful singing I had ever heard and from that moment I knew I wanted to sing like that for the rest of my life. That is why classical crossover means so much to me -it opened the door to classical music and opera, two things I never would have been exposed to otherwise.

VIMMAG:  What are your plans now that your album has been released? Are you planning on going on tour? Do you already have ideas for your follow-up album?

MARISA JOHNSON: Even though I just finished my album, I’m already working on several new and exciting projects. I have four new songs already written and I am currently working with a producer on a song with a brand new sound which I’m very excited about. Music video to come this summer! I’m planning some concerts in L.A. right now and there are lots of great opportunities that are now opening up to me. I‘m very excited to see what the future brings! Stay tuned!

Jorge Lara