Fifteen Minutes With Singer & Band Polymath Marissa Johnson

January 24, 2010 

weathered-PinesPhoto by Andrew Dennison

Meet Marissa Johnson. She comes from a very musical family. Originally from Courtenay, where there obviously weren’t enough bands to keep her busy, Marissa moved to Vancouver in 2004. She plays and sings with four Vancouver based bands: Weathered Pines, No Kids, Bad News Babysitters and Dizzy Eyes. When she’s not working or at band practice, she can be found singing karaoke, listening to records, or watching episodes of Pee Wee’s Playhouse….

Weathered Pines’ debut album, entitled “The Sky Between the Buidings”, will be released on January 25th at the Biltmore Cabaret on Dejlig Records. And when we say ‘album’ we are talking old-school vinyl…not CD…but it does include an mp3 download of the entire album for us digital types. We caught up with Marissa in between band practice to ask her a few questions…

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Scout Q&A

Three things about your neighbourhood that make you want to live there: I live in Mount Pleasant for convenience, affordability and the friends and family nearby (my sister lives in the adjacent apartment to mine).

The thing that you eat that is bad for you that you will never stop eating: Hamburgers.

Default drink: In the winter it’s a rusty nail, in the summer it’s a gin & tonic.

Drink you’ll never have again: Bubble tea.

Three things about Vancouver that make you feel like a kid: Intentionally walking through puddles while wearing gum boots, going to Science World and working at Arts Umbrella.

One thing you’d like to change about Vancouver: I’d like there to be more venues for music, and to stop further closures of them.

Favourite place to see a band: Currently the Biltmore.

Cheap place for dinner: Doña Cata on Victoria & 35th. It’s not only my favorite cheap place for dinner, but my favorite place for dinner in general. They have live music every Friday and Saturday as well. Bonus!

Last place traveled: Belize; It was beautiful!

Biggest fear: Deep sea.

Your ancestry: French, Irish, Scandinavian… There are more further back. Perhaps too many to list.

Under what circumstances would you join the army: If the army was a gathering of people singing “We are the World” at a Karaoke bar.

Your paternal grandfather’s personal story: He was born in Iron Mountain, Michigan in 1925, and recalls a very poor and hungry childhood during the Great Depression in the United States. At 18 years of age, he headed off to World War II, and was assigned to a US Navy destroyer. His experiences, as you could imagine, effected him tremendously as he witnessed first hand the horrors of war. Upon his fortunately safe return, he enrolled in University. He also played drums for, at the time, one of the hottest jazz bands in the Nothern States, “Paul’s Vets”. During this time he met and married my grandmother. After completing his degree, he taught English, Journalism and Science for 40 years, all in the same Wisconsin high-school, and was also the football coach. He is now in his 61st year of marriage to my grandmother. They still live in the home my dad grew up in in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin. He loves to fish, carve wooden birds, tell stories, play drums and he loves his family to bits! There’s a lot more to him, but that’s the gist.

What are you proud of: The Weathered Pines record, and my 14 year-old brother’s most recent report card!

The view from your favourite window:
Treetops…I sometimes feel like I live in a treehouse. It’s nice.

Favourite ice cream flavour: Cotton candy. It looks repulsive, but it actually tastes really yummy. I was a skeptic until my aunt forced me to try it.

Most beautiful body of water: There are many, but I think my favorite is Island Lake in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin. Simply because I have a lot of family history there that is well preserved.

Talent you wish you possessed: Witty stage banter.

Musical instrument you long to master: Definitely the tambourine. I’ve made it my life’s lofty goal to become as good at tambourine as Jack Ashford of The Funk Brothers.

The scariest situation you’ve ever been in: When my husband and I were swimming at a river in Belize, a bunch of young men showed up with machine guns. We had been warned that there were a lot of bandits in the area and earlier that day, while touring around, we had to be accompanied by police escorts. It turned out that they were just those same policemen who decided to go for a swim. But they weren’t wearing their uniforms so it kind of freaked me out at first. I suppose we weren’t in any danger at all, but machine guns are scary!

Best people watching: From my office window at Arts Umbrella on Granville Island.

Best record label: There are a few faves of mine that are local. They are Nominal/Dejlig, Hockey Dad and Sweet Rot. They are really supportive of Vancouver bands and put out records simply because they want to help the bands they like. That’s something I can get behind!

The dish you’re proud of: I make a mean Chile Verde.

Town you were born in: Comox, BC.

Old television shows you can tolerate re-runs of: Pee-Wee’s Playhouse!! Though it’s not currently on TV, I can watch the DVDs over and over.

First memory: One of the first might be of the day my mom had taken us digging for clams. I remember sticking my finger in the bucket of clams we had caught and watching one of them swim (or whatever it is they do to get around) up to my finger and chomp on it. I remember squealing with terror and my Tante Noel having to pry it off with a screwdriver.

What are you listening to as you answer these questions: Crows, and my cat barking at them.

Album that first made you love music: Prince – 1999.

Default junk food: Hawkins Cheezies.

The career path you considered but never followed: There was a time when I wanted to be a recording engineer, until I saw what goes on in the studio and decided it takes a special kind of person to be able to do it. It ain’t me, babe!

Thing you miss most about home when you’re on the road: Never been…ask me in a few months, but I’m pretty sure I’ll say my husband.

Luckiest moment of your life: When I was born – IN CANADA.

Favourite book as a child: I loved The Jolly Postman books. There was something really engaging about reading other peoples letters. Creepy, but true!

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