alexz johnson

Alexz Johnson (born November 4, 1986) is a Gemini Award winning Canadian actress and singer/songwriter known for her roles in Final Destination 3 and So Weird. She is also known for playing the lead role of Jude Harrison in the hit teen drama series Instant Star, where her performances have been three times nominated for a Gemini Award, winning the award in October 2008.

Early life

Johnson was born in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada, as the sixth of ten children in her family. One of her sisters is a stage actress, and her brother Brendan is a musician with whom she often collaborates.
From the age of two, Alexz would frequently sing for her large extended family. By the age of 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 our "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.

Acting career

So Weird

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. 
Unfortunately, the songs she sang on the show are not generally available in complete, high audio quality versions, despite numerous requests from viewers. However, versions of varying length and audio quality can be found on the Internet. Rips from a stream that was on the Zoog Disney site for So Weird include “What You Do”, “One In A Million”, and “Never Give Up”. There are also audio rips from the actual episodes of So Weird that include Johnson in the role of Annie: “Cause’ You’re Watching Over Me”; “Push Me, Pull You”; and a duet of “One In A Million World” with Mackenzie Phillips.

Instant Star

In 2004, Alexz sent in an audition tape to the producers of 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").22nd Annual Gemini Awards However, the show did not win further Gemini awards in 2007, with Alexz losing out to Shenae Grimes, who plays the role of Darcy Edwards on .
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.
Alexz Johnson sings all of the songs that her character Jude sings on the show. She has recorded four soundtracks for all of the seasons of Instant StarSongs from Instant StarSongs from Instant Star TwoSongs from Instant Star Three, and Songs From Instant Star Four . She co-wrote five of the songs on the first season's soundtrack, including 24 HoursLet Me FallCriminalSkin, and That Girl. She did not write songs on the albums for the other 3 seasons, focusing her songwriting instead on her solo CD.
Because of her early start in the music business, Alexz has been giving concerts for over a decade. She is at her best in front of an audience, as shown by her performance of four of the songs from seasons one and two of Instant Star at a preview event - Backstage Pass - on The N, just before the broadcast of the second season of the show. From the first season CD, she sang Skin and Let Me Fall(both of which she co-wrote); and from the second season, she sang Another Thin Line and My Sweet Time
In the live performances, Alexz is accompanied by her band from the show, Spiederman Mind Explosion, which consists of three members who do double duty as actors and real-life musicians. They are: Tyler Kyte ("Vincent Spiederman" - "Spied") on lead guitar; Christopher Gaudet ("Wally") on bass; and Ian Blackwood ("Kyle"), on drums.
Alexz Johnson says that she looks forward to the time when she can hopefully "step away from the acting and focus more on becoming a musician". For her, acting is "a great job" that she works hard at six months of the year and that gives her the financial freedom she needs in order to be able to create her own music for the rest of the year. As reported in the Toronto Star, the show also provides her with much of what she wears. She is a “non-shopper” who wants to stay focused on the music.

Song Samples

Two-minute, CD-quality samples of 7 of the songs from Season 1, and 8 of the songs from Season 2, are on the web site of The N, which broadcasts Instant Star in the USA: Audio - Instant Star on The N Links to a complete set of songs (listed here by episode rather than song title), in a briefer version (1.5 minutes), can also be found on the site for The N: Season 1 Songs and Season 3 Songs.
Brief versions (1.5 minutes each) of the songs for Season 3 can also be found on the web site of The N: Song Samples for Season 3 of Instant Star. One Season 3 song that showcases her voice is Darkness Round the Sun. The Season 3 songs also include I Will Be The Flame, a duet with Cory Lee who plays Karma, her nemesis on Season 3 of the show. 
The songs from Season 1 can also be found in one-minute samples on the web site of Viva, which is the counterpart of The N in Germany (and which is also owned by Viacom), at the bottom of the following page (under "Trackliste"): Audio - Instant Star on Viva. The track list includes all the original songs except for "24 Hours", but this is available as a video further up on the page, highlighted in red.

Other Roles

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.."
Alexz has also stated that her roles on both Instant Star and Final Destination 3 were great acting experiences, and she is very interested in continuing her acting career down the road, but did not want to make a main career out of it, saying she was interested in trying her hand in actual TV production later down the road though.
Johnson was also one of the final choices to play the lead roles in the horror remake of Black Christmas and in the Britney Spears novel inspired movie Brave New Girl. On one of Britney Spears’ many E! True Hollywood Stories, during a clip of Spears celebrating her birthday during the auditioning for Brave New Girl, one can see Johnson, Lindsey Haun, Lynne Spears, the other girl who was up for the lead role, and others singing happy birthday to Britney. Both auditions were confirmed by Alexz's rep.
In September, 2007, Alexz appeared in the lead role in Devil's Diary, a made-for-television movie, shown as the movie of the week on Lifetime Television in the United States. For this performance, she was nominated for a Leo Award, in the category of Best Lead Performance by a Female in a Feature-Length Drama. The Leo Awards are held annually to promote and celebrate excellence in British Columbia's film industry, which is the third largest in North America (after Los Angeles and New York). She is set to appear in the hit CW series Smallville episode "Legion", as the superheroine Saturn Girl.
Johnson has also acted in independent films produced and directed by her brother, Matt Johnson.

Solo Musical Career

Johnson first enrolled in singing lessons at age 6, and took classical vocal training (including opera) for at least 8 years, much of it from Joseph Shore, an acclaimed operatic baritone and music educator in the Vancouver area. She is said to have a four-octave range.
She also showed an interest in songwriting, and wrote one of the songs for So Weird. After the show ended, she continued her interest in songwriting, co-writing with her brother Brendan. (They are currently working on Alexz's solo album.) She also learned to play the guitar. She worked as a demo singer on various projects, completed a demo of her own music to shop around to music labels, and opened for David Foster at his charity events.

Solo Album (2006-Present)

After Johnson appeared on So Weird, there was interest in signing her to a record deal, but she preferred to wait for the right deal which would allow her more creative freedom. After recording the soundtrack albums for Instant Star 1 and 2 with the Orange Record Label in Toronto, she negotiated a deal for a solo album with Capitol Records. However, with the merger of the Capitol and Virgin labels within the EMI Group, there was a shake-up, leaving her without the support she had anticipated for her solo album.
The arrangement with Capitol records was in place long enough to affect the line-up of artists for the Instant Star 3 soundtrack, as her record label allowed her a maximum of four songs on Instant Star 3, for reasons which remained unexplained.
Most of the work on the solo album has been completed. She worked on it for several months in 2006, co-writing songs with her brother Brendan, who writes and produces music. There are two updates on her early work on the album from Stephen Stohn the Executive Producer of Instant Star - one saying that "she's written stacks of songs for her CD" (June 17), and the other saying that he had listened to some of "the rough demos" (November 8) which, in his view, were "absolutely stunningly amazing".
In writing songs for the album, she has also worked with UK writers Martin Terefe (KT Tunstall, Jason Mraz) and Sasha Skarbek (James Blunt), as well as producer/songwriter Brio Taliaferro (Sugababes, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, James Blunt).
On June 25, 2007, Johnson appeared on the Canadian version of MTV. She confirmed that all of her songs have 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. She said she was in no hurry for it to be released. As of October 2007, as confirmed by her current management -- Watchdog Management -- she remained without a label, but was very close to finding a new home for her music.
On February 15, Alexz Johnson announced in her MySpace blog that she had signed a record deal with label Epic Records, part of the Sony BMG group.
With the songs already written, Alexz Johnson is currently half-way through the studio work for the album, and expects to be finished recording by the end of March, 2008. 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."
The producer for the album is Greg Wells - a Canadian (from Peterborough, Ontario), who now lives and works in Los Angeles as a producer / instumentalist / songwriter. As noted in Stephen Stohn's blog, Wells has previously worked with Pink, Natasha Bedingfield, Michelle Branch, Jewel, Mika, and Celine Dion, among others.
In her MySpace blog of February 15, 2008, Alexz Johnson indicated that she is 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!"
On June 11, 2008, Johnson posted five new songs (Swallowed, Running With the Devil, Chicago, Easy and Golden) on her MySpace site.

Demos and Recordings before Instant Star

Early on, when Johnson’s original site was put up around 1999-2000, she had two clips of demos up for listening: "Sunshine Reigns" and "To Dream About You" (which Johnson co-wrote for the original Disney Channel series, So Weird). Full but low audio quality versions of both songs can be found on the Internet - but the only better quality versions exist only as clips. A short higher quality clip of "To Dream About You" and the actual clip of "Sunshine Reigns" that were originally from Johnson’s site, can also both be found on the Internet.
In 2001, Alexz teamed up with the production/songwriting team of Johnny Elkins and CJ Vanston. Johnson worked with Elkins and Vanston for approximately two to three years, recording several demos, although the total amount of material recorded is unknown. Amongst the material recorded, there were clips - “First In Love”, “Stop The World”, and “Secret Heart” - which had been posted on Alexz’s revamped 2001 website for listening. While working with the team of Vanston and Elkins, Johnson contributed the song “Transparent Lies” for Elkins' project, Fill Your Head - a compilation album with the intent of using a broad range of vocabulary found on the SATs. A video of Alexz recording a clip of the song can be found on the Fill Your Head website. 
Two demos from 2002/2003 - “Teach Me How To Love” and “Don’t Pull Off My Wings” - can be found on Vanston’s website under "Music and Movies". Both are produced by Elkins and Vanston; both are co-written by Alexz and Brendan Johnson; and both show a ballad-like, more mature sound than the previous demos, which were more up-tempo. 
With her work with Vanston and Elkins ending around 2003, for unknown reasons, three other demo clips surfaced on the Internet. No one knows where the demos came from, because when Johnson launched a new site in 2002/2003, after her old one was taken down due to costs, she was still working with Vanston and Elkins; who did not produce the three demos that surfaced. The three demos were “Crawl”, “Where’s The Sky”, and “Running Back” (which has become a fan favorite amongst her own material). The demos showed Johnson’s music in a new direction. With the addition of more mature lyrics, guitar, and stronger vocals, it showed a new side of what her sound could be. “Where’s The Sky” originally showed up on the Internet in two clips - a short clip of a guitar intro and one line of vocals, and a one-minute clip of the actual song. “Crawl” is rumored to have been from the demo CD Johnson sent to the executives of Instant Star with her audition tape. This three song demo was produced and co-written by Brendan Johnson and Gabriel Maga in 2003 at Trebias Institute.
Other recordings by Johnson over the years can be found on the Internet, including: a low audio recording of “Wishing On A Star” (probably from 1999-2000); a low audio quality two minute studio version and a medium quality audio rip of the song “Everything (Feels Like New)”, originally recorded for the Disney Channel movie, The Other Me; an a capella live version of the song on the Express Yourself commercial (done for the Disney Channel); audio rips of a cover of "Black Velvet", from her role as Angel in Selling Innocence; and audio rips of an unnamed original song composed for the episode of Cold Squad in which she starred.

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. More recently, she has 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.

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