Johanna Warren is a songwriter based Portland, Oregon. Her new album, nūmūn, was released worldwide on Team Love Records May 19, 2015. In Johanna’s words, “This album is dedicated to the moon: by honoring her phases, I am restoring balance to my body and making peace with the cycles of all natural things; and to the divine feminine: by collectively cultivating her, may we restore balance to our world.”
Although Warren has lent her vocal talents to artists like Natalie Merchant and Iron & Wine, she identifies primarily as a songwriter. An intuitively self-taught guitarist, she channels powerful songs in weird time signatures and melancholic open tunings, weaving adept finger-picking with acrobatic vocal lines and carefully crafted poetry, in reverence of her patron songwriting saints Elliott Smith, Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake.
“God has his plans, but I’ve got mine, and little good will come to those who stand in line” – Johanna Warren, “Noise.”
Approaching music as a potent healing modality, Warren cultivates and honors the physically healing properties of sound and the spiritually healing powers of artistic expression. One cold winter evening in the waning weeks of 2014, Johanna and her touring partner Mitski (Double Double Whammy) passed through the Team Love gallery space in New Paltz, NY. Johanna invited the crowd to sit down on the gallery floor for her set. She requested the lights be dimmed as she lit a white candle and burned some sage. With only the candlelight to illuminate her face and separate her from the audience, she opened herself to a crowd that was swiftly transformed from unsure and vaguely uncomfortable to enraptured and mesmerized. These moments are the signature of Johanna’s live performances, in which she consciously strives to provide listeners with a portal to an alternate realm in which healing can occur. Sound and light, scent, physical space, and the web of subtle energies created by a room full of human bodies are all elements of the universe that Johanna controls and shapes.
She performs the same delicate manipulations within the world of nūmūn, an oceanic voyage from dark to light and back that is rich in sensual language, riveting self-reflective candor and surreal sonic landscapes (created entirely with acoustic instruments and found objects played by Johanna and her engineer Bella Blasko in an empty apartment unit). However, despite stepping into the role of High Priestess for the sake of creating art and facilitating group experiences, she warns us not to attach to any divisive illusions: ”You say I emanate some strange magnetic power, but don’t be drawn to me—I may be here today, but soon black moss will cover over my dead body.” Whether singing about her own mortality (“Black Moss”), updating the tedium of the party that Patti Smith first told us about (“This Is Why”) or daring one to imagine a world that transcends our notions of “the duality of wrong and right” (“True Colors”), Johanna Warren is a songwriter of daring vision. Her forthcoming album nūmūn flies into timeless space, focusing our gaze deep into the vastness of the heavens.