CARLSBAD — Carlsbad resident Wayne Johnson has been performing for more than 40 years, playing alongside popular performers such as Natalie Cole, Bette Midler and Rickie Lee Jones.
Today, Johnson is now on the stage with another act: his stepson. Johnson, and stepson Sodie Orr, are the faces of The Swingin’ Johnsons — a band that’s been gaining traction in North County as they perform at a variety of restaurants and bars.
Performing acoustic rock, Orr plays the guitar and sings lead vocals while Johnson plays an acoustic/electric guitar.
Although Johnson has performed with acclaimed acts, to be able to hit the stage with Orr has been one of his favorite experiences.
“Performing with Sodie has been such a fantastic experience,” Johnson said. “At first I just wanted to support him by getting him out there experiencing what it’s like to play for a live audience. What he’s been able to accomplish on the guitar and especially his vocal abilities along with the growth we’ve all witnessed these last couple of years has been nothing short of staggering.”
Johnson isn’t the only parent performing with Orr. Often times, Jill Johnson, Orr’s mother, and Steve Orr, Orr’s father, also join on stage to complete the performance from a true family band.
“Playing music alongside my parents is one of my favorite things about being alive,” said Orr, who attended Carlsbad High School and now works as a performer full-time. “I try to make sure and take memory snapshots when the four of us get together on the same stage. This is a very special time period in my life because of that.”
Orr, who is inspired by his parents, said he hopes to continue to grow his music career with the support of his family.
“I see my musical career continuing to grow organically through our local The Swingin’ Johnsons performances,” Orr said. “Eventually, the goal is to begin releasing original songs, one after the other, and hoping that our supporters and local audience enjoys that as well. I just want it all to be very organic.”
For now, Johnson, who won a Grammy Award in 2005 for Pop Instrumental Album of the Year, said he’s proud of how far Orr has come and believes he’ll begin a “new chapter” soon in his music career. While mother, Jill Johnson, said she’s thrilled to see her son share his “gifts with the world.”
“Sodie has grown leaps and bounds since The Swingin’ Johnsons started playing five years ago,” said Jill Johnson, who sometimes sings lead and vocal backgrounds for the band. “His voice, his comfort on stage and ability to connect with his audience, his songwriting, producing and engineering, continue to grow. Wayne has been instrumental in Sodie’s growth as a musician and I know it brings him great joy to see his progress. The musical connection they share is very special. It’s so much fun watching Sodie on his journey.”
But, Jill Johnson’s support of the family band goes off the stage too.
“I am Sodie’s biggest fan,” Jill Johnson said. “I believe that he has a clear picture of what he wants and how he wants to get there. Whether he is touring, recording, producing or writing, I will be right there cheering him on. My grandmother always told me I was put on this earth to do something special and I believe that was to be a mother to this creative, artistic, complicated, amazing human.”
Although he’s not completely certain where his music career will take him, Orr said he’s just grateful to be performing up to six nights a week in his hometown.
“I’m very thankful I don’t have to work a job I don’t enjoy doing anymore,” Orr said. “This whole experience has taught me so much, and I don’t take my freedom or love of my profession for granted.”
For more information about The Swingin’ Johnsons, go to facebook.com/the4swinginjohnsons.
Hoa Quach has 15 years of experience in journalism, garnering multiple awards ranging from investigative reporting to feature writing. She’s been named a “Woman Who Means Business” by the San Diego Business Journal, featured in BuzzFeed during International Women’s Day and recognized by the California Legislature for her work. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.