Music fills the soul and love is what matters.
In honor of both those things, Michael David Johnson, a man of many talents, has just released an album, “Cosmic Castle.” It’s the culmination of a huge project spanning many years: Expressing his love for his wife, Nanci.
“I met Nanci in Portland in 1972. We got married in Walla Walla, Nov. 3, 1973. A friend of Nanci’s, who knew the band I was in while in Portland, brought her over to our house and introduced me to her. We hit it off from there, it was a natural and comfortable relationship from the start,” he said.
Music was a catalyst in their coming together. So a gift to her of his music is perfect.
Also very community service minded, Johnson, served on the Walla Walla City Council and was mayor of the city from 1986-87, then went on to be executive director of the Walla Walla Senior Citizens Center.
The CD was a new spin on songs Johnson wrote many years ago and recorded in The Attic recording studio. “That’s my attic, upstairs at my house,” Johnson said with his characteristic humor. “It’s amazing how it turned out.” He gives credit to the expertise of his friend, recording engineer and gifted musician, Ralph van Deurs for perfecting the project. Van Deurs played bass for Johnson’s former group “Feels Like Home.”
The adventure kicked into high gear about two years ago Nanci asked him if he remembered those songs he wrote years ago that he recorded on reel to reel. “It would be neat to put it on a CD,” she said to him. The songs hark back to when he and Nanci first met and the budding of his love for her and the foundational bond of their mutual love of music.
To get the project started, the first thing to do was locate a reel to reel player, but they are hard to come by these days.
His friend, Jim McGuinn, at Hot Poop, had three but none of them worked. Van Deurs got a hold of one, but it didn’t play at the low speed where Johnson had recorded the songs, so they had to continue to adjust the technology.
Van Deurs got a program for his computer that was able to play the recordings at the proper speed. Sparking inspiration, Van Deurs suggested Johnson rerecord and start from scratch with the songs adding the help of present time technology and decades of practice and expertise.
“So first lay down the 12 songs,” Johnson said. “Then Ralph arranged them and put in the instruments. Then we’ll record your voice. That took about six months, then the hard work began of editing, then adding violins, cello and horns.”
“ ‘I found you’ has a tambura all the way through, in one note, an open tuning of E. So very simple, just refine it,” Johnson said. “Ralph and I spent probably a quarter of the time together. As we would refine it, sometimes the character of the song would change. My original goal was to have it ready by last Christmas and that didn’t happen. After that I wanted it done by June 2 — Nanci’s birthday — I got a master disc done in time for her birthday.”
The CD is on sale at Hot Poop. “Jim McGuinn has been really good to me,” Johnson said.
“I’m really a closet hippie,” Johnson said. “You work all your life and you really have to walk a path in Walla Walla.” He may have had to be somewhat subdued in his working years and professional life, however, now retired, he is blossoming with creative projects. Perhaps next on his horizon is a benefit concert with his music and other guest artists, but this is still in the brainstorming stage. “I’ve always been interested in music,” he said.
This CD is the culmination of a spiritual journey of love through music.
He’s a man strong enough to express his emotions and his passions. On the song “Always Be Loving You,” Johnson says his voice usually cracks because he always cries. “It’s a great song. I love Nanci,” he said.
Music can do a great deal for a person: Remind one of an emotional experience, a memory, a person or a time gone by.
“When I was the director at the Senior Center, I’d get out of the office and go to the nursing home facilities and play guitar,” he said. He’d perform old familiar music and even those residents with late stage Alzhiemer’s would start singing. “Music soothes the soul and helps you release stress and tension,” he said. “It opens up the heart to something good.”