Leah Grams Johnson is an American artist and songwriter, hailing from the rugged coast of Northern California. With a distinct timbre akin to the untamable spirit of the American West, Leah’s authentic take on Folk and Country music has resonated with fans of all musical backgrounds nationwide.
Her growing years were spent planting seeds in her mother’s garden, hiking in reverence through redwood forests, swimming in clear mountain rivers, and riding horses across rolling dunes. Inspired by the quintessential pioneer spirit, Leah found freedom in the wild world around her and the uncharted territory of her own open mind.
At age four, Leah learned to sing old folk songs in a Children’s Interfaith Gospel Choir. This in tandem with her father’s deep respect for the art of storytelling, helped her recognize at a young age the magic of music and power of a well-written song. In many ways, Leah considers herself “raised by the women whose voices rang out on the living room stereo.” Those voices included strong impassioned women such as Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Joni Mitchell, and Patty Griffin, along with prolific male writers like John Prine, Neil Young, Willie Nelson, and Townes Van Zandt.
When Leah was sixteen, her mother passed away from brain cancer and writing songs became her greatest tool for processing grief. “Losing my mother was the tipping point for devoting my path to music. I spoke very little during her illness and after her death, but I wrote and sang endlessly. So much beauty came from learning about loss at that time in my life.”
In 2011, Leah traded redwood trees for tall buildings and attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. She completed her degree in three years- earning a B.A. in Music with an emphasis on songwriting. Immediately upon graduation, Leah packed up her little red truck and made the solo drive from Northern California to Nashville, without much more than her guitar, inherited record collection, and favorite Steinbeck novels. At age twenty-one, Leah quickly grew roots in Nashville as her new home, where she began working with irreplaceable friends and mentors to further hone her craft. Leah has been performing since 2014 and continues to satisfy and amaze audiences with her natural grace, enrapturing voice, and undeniable songs.
In the summer of 2018, Leah was selected as an Artist in Residence at the honorable Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, NM. “That summer in New Mexico, I grieved the distance between who I was, and I thought I’d be, at that point in my life. It was the most powerful and transformative three months I’ve ever experienced— guiding me back to the raw wilderness of my own intuition, as an artist and as a woman.” Leah returned to Nashville that winter, but not after several more months of solitude spent in the mountains of Colorado. There she continued to craft songs from her summer in the high desert and refine her creative vision. “At times, I felt deeply alone. The isolation was as thick as the woods around me, apart from the welcomed presence of wildlife outside my door. But that gift of time and space— to simultaneously turn inwards while re-attuning my spirit to the natural world— was truly medicinal.”
The following spring, Leah headed West from Nashville once again to bring her gestating musical vision to fruition. With the help of engineer and producer, Erick Jaskowiak, Leah recorded her debut EP in a small adobe church on the rural border of Colorado and New Mexico. “The creation of this project was so much more than the songs alone. It was the mountains, the kestrels, and the sage. The high whistle of the wind and piano bench creaks. We surrendered to it all in the recording process, and left these living elements there to be felt and heard.” The six songs are ordered chronologically, guiding the listener through an emotional experience of true vulnerability. She begins with her parent’s love story, as two wild spirits in an indelible search for home. She sings of her childhood and the formation of her spiritual beliefs, offered as gently as an upturned palm. She details the loss of her mother and arduous process of getting to know someone after they are gone. She confesses trying to outrun, with no success, the places inside that need the most healing. She gracefully paints the path of becoming a woman as a motherless daughter. And at last, she breathes out peace in the form of a lullaby— soothing the child inside along with the collective heart of life. Her upcoming EP is titled “Jaroso,” after the region where it was recorded, and is set to be released in March 2020.
Like those who came before her she so deeply admires, Leah is a woman of heart and mind. She is her own breed of cowgirl mystic, living on gut feelings, with an unshakeable love for the world.
"Leah's voice and music transport the listener to a powerful dive into the nuanced real. With her songs she blazes her own trail, digging deep to find and share her personal experience and understanding of life, love and the Journey. I recognize her unique vocal tone and delivery the moment she starts singing. Her guitar playing is equally masterful. She is the best kind of singer... she is an artist. "
- Judy Rodman, internationally renowned Vocal Coach
2014 Berklee College of Music Alumni
2017 Telluride Troubadour Songwriting Finalist
2017 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Songwriting Finalist
2018 Helene Wurlitzer Foundation- Artist Residency- Alumni