Steph Johnson & Rob Thorsen

In the wake of the economic crisis of 2008, aspiring musician Steph Johnson made a brave choice: The singer/guitarist chose to abandon her 12-year career in banking and pursue her dreams of making music full-time. It wasn’t the only time the intrepid Johnson would eschew the safe decision.

In 2011, Johnson had already released two albums and was clearly on the way up in the soul/R&B musical genre with jazzy undertones. In fact, her second CD won an San Diego Music Award for “Best Jazz Record.”

Starting out in a career as competitive as jazz in your early 30’s is a dangerous proposition, but what sets Johnson apart are her prodigious, innate abilities, which have drawn some of San Diego’s best jazz musicians to her — rather than the other way around.

Johnson learned to sing as a child, accompanying the powerful sounds of her mother’s soul music collection. “I thought everybody sang like Aretha Franklin,” Johnson said. “But because I had a big voice, even as a little girl, whenever I tried out for the choir, in elementary or middle school, I was made an example of how not to sing — because I had this big voice that wouldn’t blend.”


Johnson has been working hard all year, developing her repertoire with the trio and making a new recording, which the band has just finished.