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“The ‘King’ of Angier Country” - The Paige Johnson Story

“The most aggravating thing to me is when people get in front of me and walk or drive slow. I don’t consider myself to be an impatient person unless I’m on a mission to get somewhere and someone who has nothing else to do gets in my way.”

This is the reply Belmont University student Paige Johnson gave me when I asked her about the one thing in this world that makes her angrier than anything else.

But what does being angrier than anything else have to do with the roots of up and coming country music artist Paige Johnson?

Because this junior majoring in Music Business grew up in the small town of Angrier, NC, that’s why.

Wait, you mean it’s “Angier,” not “Angrier”?

Well, what am I going to talk about in this article?

I mean, I could write about her origins as a performer, the various components that made her who she is in life, and what drives her as a human being.

But doesn’t everyone do that? Surely it gets old.

What new can I say about the “King of Angier Country” that hasn’t been said by other publications that she has quoted on her website?

Are you telling me that people are interested in reading about how her grandpa bought her her first guitar when she was age 9 because he saw her passion for music even at that age? He insisted that she start taking lessons at a local music lesson center as soon as he gave her the stringed instrument.

And people are more interested in this family anecdote than they are in knowing that the Buses Creek Astros mascot looks like the animated TV super spy “Archer” in disguise?

I mean, it’s kind of a relevant factoid, since she is playing a show at the Jim Perry Stadium, home of the Buies Creek Astros, this Thursday May 17th at 6:00 pm. The show is in Lillington, NC, which is quite the distance from the artist’s usual current Downtown Nashville stomping grounds.

Traveling between North Carolina and Tennessee to polish her craft is nothing unusual for Paige, however. Living on the Interstate while burying her nose in textbooks “is definitely a difficult task and can get overwhelming sometimes, but I just take it one day at a time. My parents both instilled a very hard work ethic in me since I was young and taught me to push myself to be the best I can be. Because of that, I feel like I have been able to do a great job of balancing both the student life and the performer life. Traveling back and forth from Nashville to North Carolina can get exhausting.”

But hey, at least Nashville is making her job easier for her by finally fixing those potholes on I-440, right? “I’m very excited they are fixing 440, but not excited about the construction process. I live right off of 440, so not only can I hear quite a bit of the construction, but it also causes even more traffic buildup and longer drive times for me when I’m going anywhere.”

Well, you can’t make everyone happy.

One thing that definitely makes Paige happy, though, is food, “Nashville has SO MANY good restaurants, and like I just said I’m such a foodie so I love going to many of them,” she goes on to reveal her favorite spot to recommend to people, which is “McDougal’s Chicken. Their menu is so simple with just chicken fingers or wings and fries, but it’s some of the best chicken fingers and fries you’ll find. And they also give everyone free ice cream with any meal, so how could you NOT love them?”

Fun fact about Paige that you might not know, however, is that she has a secret passion, one that is beyond the realm of country music. “Anyone who knows me knows I really love food and finding new restaurants and baking new goodies, but not many people know that since I was a little girl I’ve dreamed of opening my own bakery. I keep telling my parents that if this whole singing thing doesn’t work out, they can most definitely expect me to be opening my own bakery.”

One can only speculate what she would call her bakery if she ever made that dream a reality. Perhaps it would be “PJ’s Bakery,” which not only serves to personalize it with her initials in the name but could also double as a bakery where people are encouraged to come there in their “pj’s,” as the bakery would have a “sleepover” sort of theme to it. She could lay out beds and let customers relax while they enjoy her latest baked goodies made fresh with lovin from the oven.

She could also feature recipes she learned from her family members growing up in Angier, NC.

It would be appropriate, for sure, because if there’s one thing you learn while talking to Paige and asking her questions for Live Laugh Love Nashville, it is that there is something deeply rooted in her journey to becoming a successful country music artist from Angier, NC to Nashville, TN to the entire planet.

Deeper than dying to play at the Grand Ole Opry.

Deeper than opening for Scotty McCreery at a concert in North Carolina.

Deeper than playing in the Opry Mills Unplugged Showcase Series.

Deeper than being nominated as Best Country Female in the 10th Annual Carolina Music Awards.

Even deeper than playing at the Blue Bird Cafe, a staple for tourists to visit when they are in Nashville because they liked that television show.

Paige Johnson is defined by her roots, be it the family she grew up with or the country music artists she listened to her formative years as an individual. One theme that comes up in her music and during a casual conversation with her is roots. The word “roots” is even used twice in the first sentence of her Facebook bio, for Zuckerberg’s sake.

When I asked her what drove her to play country music specifically, she told me that “it tells real stories that actually happen in people’s lives. The power of a country song lies in its lyrics and the way it can directly emulate situations in your own life. And because it’s so relatable, it can be used by people as a healing process or as a way to validate anything that may be happening in their life at the time.”

However, she adds that “I was attracted to country music by default; it was the only kind of music worth listening to in my parent’s minds, so that’s all I heard when I was growing up.” The twang of a pedal guitar is in her heritage, in her blood, so to speak.”

“But it didn’t take long for me to understand why they loved it so much and to want to write it and perform it myself. It’s just so real and so fun and so personal,” meaning that this music resonates in her, it is more than a guitar given to her as a present from her grandfather.

Her earliest memories she has of singing were in the church she was raised in as a child. Paige remembers that “from the time I was a tiny kid in the children’s department I was performing in Christmas plays and singing during worship services, and as I grew older I joined our handbell group and our choir where I sang until I moved away from home to Nashville.”

And why is Paige Johnson the “King of Angier Country,” as opposed to being the “Queen of Angier Country”?

Paige King Johnson got her middle name from her grandmother, whom she lovingly refers to as her “Nena.” It was her Nena’s maiden name, who “got sick and passed away a couple of weeks before my parents found out they were pregnant with me, so they gave me her maiden name as my middle name in an effort to leave a little piece of her sweet spirit in me.”

You can hear the deep influence of Paige’s in her music, just listening to the lyrics in “That Cowgirl.”

“You were a spitfire from the start

Never let a thing hurt your heart

You ran around that town

Never thought you’d come down

God bless those poor old fools

Who never stood a chance with you

You were in their dreams

Mommy you were everything”

Paige Johnson, “That Cowgirl”

She manages to capture a picture of her mother that is simultaneously empowering and tear jerking, a truly unique and heartfelt ode to the most special woman in her life.

“I wrote the song almost three years ago with the idea that it was gonna be a Mother’s Day gift, but it ended up being the first song I ever recorded and released,” Paige adds, “Once I finally got up the nerve to tell my momma it was about her, she denied that she was as sassy or wanted as “That Cowgirl”, but I still believe she was a little bit!”

I just want to pause this article to wish all of the mothers reading this article a Happy Belated Mother’s Day, everything you do to help raise us ungrateful kids is truly appreciated, even if we don’t all take the time like Paige to write touching songs about it.

For Paige Johnson, country music is her reality, the roots that make her the hardworking human being that she is. No gimmicks, no pyrotechnics, no endorsements, just honest tales of love, life, heartbreak, and the family that keeps her grounded while encouraging her to work hard and chase her dreams as a performing artist.

When she is on that stage, she isn’t chasing fame or worldwide recognition, though that can become part of the deal. She is telling the audience the story of her life, the story of her ancestors, her personal truths that carry her throughout the highs and lows of her journey on this planet. She is giving us a piece of her very being, and the fans continue to respond with an increasing interest after each show.

And those “Three Magic Words,” what do those mean to “That Cowgirl’s” daughter?

LIVE? Our lives can be so short, so we need to live without holding anything back and make each day count.

LAUGH? Laughter is one of the best healing mechanisms for me. I think people need to laugh as often as possible. Laughing is so good for your soul and for others around you.

LOVE? No matter who or what you love, I think love is really the only thing that can get us through each day. Love from our family, our friends, and our partners is what makes us feel valued as people, and if we hold back in loving others then we have failed our only true purpose for living on this earth.

So what is next for the “King of Angier Country”?

Paige is hoping to start work on recording an EP in the studio sometime next year. Although she only has a few singles available for digital streaming, Paige hasn’t given up on the old fashioned way of releasing albums, stating that “I still feel like there’s something special about recording and releasing albums. They can tell so much about an artist’s life at that time, and they are a true labor of love they pour their entire soul into for two to three years altogether.”

In the meantime, you can stay updated on Paige’s music releases and her upcoming concerts on her website.

You can also follow her comings and goings on her Facebook page.

Her singles “That Cowgirl” and “Heartbreak Catalog” can be found on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and Google Play.

Social media, isn’t it great?!

Written by Charles Bridgers IV for Live Laugh Love Nashville

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