Jude Johnstone was born and raised in Ellsworth, Maine where she spent many hot summers working in her grandfather's fields harvesting blueberries for his company, Merrill's Blueberry Farms. When she turned 16, she worked in his factory, packing the frozen blueberries into 30 lb. boxes which were shipped all over the world.
However, the family business was not in Jude’s future. It was writing songs that inspired her life’s focus and direction. Johnstone had begun writing songs shortly after discovering the piano at around eight years of age and her songwriting proved to be more than just the passing interest of a precocious child. It instead grew into a passion fueled by the music of the Beatles, Lowell George, Jackson Browne, Tom Waits etc. At 17, she began playing in local bars and at 18, was "discovered" by E-Street Band's Clarence Clemons. She had met him on an airplane and subsequently sent him a demo recording of some of her songs. To this, he responded favorably enough to fly her to New Jersey and introduce her to his associates, most notably, Bruce Springsteen and his band. After spending some time under Clemons' guidance, Johnstone decided to move to Los Angeles, honing her singing and songwriting skills in the local clubs. Unfortunately, her arrival in Los Angeles coincided with the somewhat dubious descent of disco. Johnstone's introspective, literate songs had little in common with that musical genre and, therefore, diminished her chances of getting interest from the record companies who were signing acts at the time. This initial disappointment--while surely a disheartening blow to Johnstone's confidence--did not herald the end of her career in music. Instead, she focused her attention on songwriting and secured a music publishing deal with Bug Music that lasted for 5 years, after which, she signed on with Sajak Music where she has remained ever since.
Since then, Johnstone's songs have been covered by some of the industry's most revered artists, including Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash, Trisha Yearwood, Stevie Nicks, Bette Midler, among others.
While Johnstone surely enjoyed and appreciated the success she had as a writer of songs for other singers, she was still interested in recording her own definitive versions of her songs, so, in 2002, she and long-time manager Bob Burton released her first CD, Coming of Age on the independent label, Bojak Records founded by Burton and Pat Sajak. It was a critical success with Jude being featured with a profile interview on NPR's Morning Edition. Johnstone followed her debut CD with the release of On a Good Day, in 2005, leading to her first national television appearance on CBS’s The Early Show. Johnstone's universal topics of soured love, dreams denied or deferred, and mortality are addressed with Johnstone's trademark eloquent style in On a Good Day. In 2007, she released a jazz influenced CD, Blue Light. This CD as well as her CD Mr. Sun, released in 2008, continued to explore Jude's ever-present themes of love and loss, but this time Jude wrapped her lyrics around timeless melodies influenced by the music she had once heard rising from her father's record player as a child.
Jude’s 5th CD Quiet Girl, released in 2011, returns her to the Americana flavor of her first two projects and features guest appearances by Emmylou Harris, John David Souther, Jimmy LaFave, and the person who gave Jude her first big break into the biz, Clarence Clemons. Jude's 6th CD "Shatter" is her most diverse collection so far, spanning several musical genres, Johnstone dives head first, delving honestly, and even eerily at times (i.e. Tom Waits, Randy Newman...) into a world of experiences that have led her characters down a darkened path only to emerge from it, ultimately.
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