Cedarville, a tiny town nestled in the pines of the Upper Peninsula, is a long way from the fast-paced, in your face horns and heckles of the East Coast. And the smoky, bass-pounding, ambience of the Grape Street in Philadelphia, PA is a long way from the lonely South Street sidewalks where singer/songwriter Mia Johnson began her career busking for small change. But as she leads her band onto the stage to release their first full-length CD, Driver, 'out-of-place' is not a term you'd use to describe this Michigan girl. When Mia first came to town as an intern at a Philly recording studio, an underage kid with a guitar didn't have much to do on the big city club scene. But after sifting through various open-mics and dive bar jams, she found herself a mainstay on the bar circuit, earning the respect of the bar owners and patrons with her smart, sexy and gritty songs. She quickly released two EPs, Access and Five for Freddy, with percussionist Hoagy Wing. As a duo, Mia Johnson and Hoagy toured extensively, honing both songwriting and driving skills along the way. 'I put around 250,000 miles on various vehicles...the themes of ground travel are ever-present in my life and work.' But although 'small set-ups and duos do have their advantages,' Mia Johnson's band now illuminates the area's premier venues. (NYC's The Bitter End, Philly's Tin Angel, The Point, The Grape Street and The Trocodaro). The five-piece consists of Erin Ryan (cello), Jeff Hiatt (bass), Rocco DeCicco (lead guitar), Tom Walling (drums) and Adrien Reju (backing vocals and percussion). With the ability to jump between straight-up rock grooves and swinging world beats, this collection of accomplished musicians deftly compliments Mia's eclectic musical vision while maintaining the subtlety of her singer/songwriter roots. 'For the music I play, the band is the best way to go.' Driver, a ten-song disc produced by Walt Bass (G. Love, Laguardia) at Metropolitan Studios, masterfully runs the stylistic gamut. A lilting cello meanders through 'Wakin' Up'. A fuzzy electric chugs through 'You Just Don't.' 'Sexy' is made even sexier by Garrett Dutton a.k.a. G Love's bluesy harmonica. Songs like 'Sailor' and 'She Wishes' provide the record's mellower side while 'Silver Moon,' featuring vocals by Princes of Babylon's Davy Quicks and percussion by Philly's Alo Brasil has an island flavor. Though the flavorful and rich production provides beautiful scenery for your voyage through Driver, Mia's strong, honest voice and clever, weathered observations assure you'll never lose your way. Influenced by 'the usual...Bob Dylan, Paul Simon,' the lyrics tell stories of heartbreak and disillusionment ('Never Will'), of love and the loss of it ('You Just Don't,' 'Sailor'), and of life on the road ('Closer,' 'Silver Moon,' 'Hello Again'). 'I gather influence from just about everything I hear and am attracted to.' Mia's nights driving a cab in New Jersey provided her with experiences critical to the realization of the record's theme, and many of the songs' lyrics were actually penned during her many overnight driving shifts. '?Closer' was inspired by those times when it was 4 a.m. and I'd been driving the cab all night...there was just a surreal quality to the whole thing.' The band is currently gearing up for a tour, and Mia is looking forward to 'getting my writing and performance on.... stay tuned for more songs, they are in the works!' For now though, her journey has brought her here. Facing a packed room of anxious fans on her recent CD Release show fully clad in a skin-tight Nascar-esque racing suit, she addresses the room, 'Tonight...I'll be your Driver'.
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