He’s been part of a band and part of a duo. He’s toured the country playing guitar for Holly McNarland.
But this June, Sid Johnson will do something he has never done before — release his own record.
After working on his solo album for about a year and a half, Johnson is releasing Dirt Rose Up.
“I’ve just been picking at it between jobs and kids,” he said.
Dirt Rose Up was recorded at The Noise Floor Recording Studio in Ladysmith and the Woodshop Recording Studio in Duncan.
The album features 11 songs written by Johnson.
“Some of them were written as long as 12 years ago, and some were written in the last six months,” said Johnson. “To me, the whole thing kind of chronicles the last 10 years. It’s a pretty varied album — there’s some kind of trippy stoner rock on it and Ron Sexsmith attempts at songwriting on it.”
“I think it’s interesting when I listen to it because it tells the story of a long period of time,” he added. “Some of the songs were written, and I may not necessarily feel that way anymore or believe what I believed at that time, but it’s interesting to have a record of that.”
The album features Booth White, Darcy Phillips, Briton Liakakos, Carl Cowley, Lena Birtwistle, Robin Ramalho, Zak Cohen and Jordan Koop.
Johnson has played on other people’s albums before and released an EP with Birtwistle as the Adamantines, but Dirt Rose Up is his first solo album.
“I still really enjoy being a collaborator,” said Johnson. “It’s a lot more free and obviously a lot less pressure. This [going solo] just requires so many more elements. You need to develop a lot more skills, just the marketing and how to build a website. It just requires a different skillset. I’m having to learn a lot — It’s fun. It’s a little tiring.”
Releasing his own album has always been in the back of Johnson’s mind.
“I kind of always did [want to release a solo album] but never knew how to and never thought of myself as a singer until recently,” he said. “I always wrote songs, but I never did much with them.”
Johnson says just being encouraged to sing his songs helped changed his mind, as well as “having all these songs that had to get out there — I realized no one else was going to sing them.”
Johnson will be playing a lot of local shows from now until July, when he and his family move to Montreal.
Those upcoming shows including a CD release show in Ladysmith June 15 at In the Beantime Café.
Johnson is also performing nearby Thurs., June 21 at the Duncan Garage Showroom.
“I’m mostly playing solo,” he said. “I just got a loop pedal, so I’m learning how to make a solo show more interesting with a lot of different elements, acoustic and electric, and that’s fun.”
For his In the Beantime show, Johnson plans to play the album in its entirety, and he expects there will be some guest musicians.
“I think it’ll be a very different show from anything I’ve done previously,” he said. “There’ll be the hard and the soft, some kind of experimental guitar moments.”
Johnson is happy to be sending his album out into the world.
“It feels amazing because it’s been a year and a half in the works and been a really slow process,” he said. “I’m really happy with the way the songs turned out. I produced it myself, and that was a first.
“Overall, I’m really happy with the general feel and sound of the album. I’m not a technician; I’m not an engineer. It’s Zak [Cohen] from the Woodshop and Jordan [Koop] from The Noise Floor who really helped me with the technical stuff. I love the process. I love being in the studio. It’s amazing how it all came together, and it’s amazing to have wonderful musicians like Darcy and Booth come in.”
Johnson finds it hard to say where the inspiration for his songs comes from.
“There’s a lot of travelling and being in different places, a lot of references to different periods in my life and different places,” he said. “[Music is] just something I have to do. I’ve tried to stop music, but I just can’t not do it. It’s hard to say where it comes from.”
“I think a lot of it is just working out psychoses,” he laughed.
Johnson has been performing since he was a teenager. He has played in metal bands in Toronto and Vancouver and as a guitarist for major-label artists like Holly McNarland and Kinnie Starr.
Johnson stopped playing in his late twenties. and started again when he was almost 40.
“I love writing and recording,” he said. “The performing is not always the easiest thing. I enjoy it, but it doesn’t always come naturally, and that’s where being on the Island the last few years and playing cafés has helped a lot, being able to do the solo live thing.”
Johnson’s CD release show at In the Beantime Café will be Fri., June 15 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 and are available at the café.
Dirt Rose Up will be available at Salamander Books in Ladysmith.