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Shaun Johnson

Recent Posts

TSF and the musical trends

Posted by Shaun Johnson on Feb 9, 2016 9:00:00 AM

I remember when a musical group had to stick to "their kind of music" - country groups sang country, pop groups sang pop...and the two rarely met.  But to me... maybe only in the past few years... maybe because of internet radio...perhaps because of the explosion of discoverable music... more and more artists are taking chances.  More and more artists are enjoying the freedom and creativity of just creating.  And although some collaborations may fall flat, the majority are finding an audience...their audience. Suddenly classical finds rock.  And songwriters team with jazz artists.  Country artists try bluegrass.  And dancers team with symphonies.  
This year personally highlights that very trend to me.  TSF introduced looper technology on a song to showcase Greg's arranging skills (Thank you, Ed Sheeran), tried world percussion, three voices, four voices, guest rap spots, a dance number, even used piano (gasp) on a song.  Of course, over the past decade, we've sung with gospel artists and country stars; we've used percussion intricately on multiple albums and tours and integrated video as well.  So, in some ways, what is old for us is now new... or possibly more in vogue.  I hope we've always separated ourselves.  We've fought against a cappella as a "niche" style of music.  And we've always fought for original music and arrangements... original style... to make "new" music rather than adding another cute twist.  And to all of the fans who've been just open and crazy enough to follow this non-traditional journey, I thank you ten-fold.    




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Tonic Sol-fa holiday tour 2015 rundown

Posted by Shaun Johnson on Oct 30, 2015 10:52:05 PM

I read a lot of posts/notes/blogs from people who've seen TSF numerous times. And the common theme seems to be that a Tonic Sol-fa show will surprise you yet always entertain you.  Well let's just say we are working on the surprises this year.  
Will you get a peek into Greg's creative genius, arrangement-focused mind?  Maybe.  
Will you watch two members pull off a song-length dance?  Probably.  Sorry about this one.
Will Plastic Santa - finally returned after being held hostage most of the year - provide some more irreverent punch?  Gonna be likely.  
Is it possible that we will have three people attempt a rap?  Depends on the show.  
Will the three of us finally sing a song from our very first movie soundtrack? Yes, unless rehearsals stink.  
Might someone play percussion?  A piano?  A tuba?  Let's get a little crazy, a cappella people.  
Will we finally get to that ultimate convergence of technology, elegance, humor and vocal gymnastics wrapped in the purity of the human voice?  Time will tell... time will tell.  (Not sure why I repeated that last line... but if you could see me, I'm slowly walking out the door for emphasis.)


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A brief synopsis of Tonic Sol-fa's new album, "Original".

Posted by Shaun Johnson on Aug 22, 2015 12:43:41 PM

The new Tonic Sol-fa CD, "Original," is ready is now on Spotify...and in production to be available for the MN State Fair (our next live performance)...and beyond. All Kickstarter supporters will be receiving their copy shortly. And I know that Jared, Greg and I are anxious to see what all of you think of this latest project... after one listen or (hopefully) after hundreds. Let's all play it so much, we get sick of it by Christmas... and then bring it back out in January.

Quick personal thoughts about each song:

Northside Gal - How in the world does Greg arrange songs like this? (It's like seeing the inside of his mind briefly).

The River is Wide - We have been sitting down to attend voice lessons, arrange a bit more together, write a bit more together. And to that end, we worked on beats, chords, and ideas. This song came from one of our first sessions.

Holiday - Brought to us by Jared. And defined by Jared. One of these days, we should solo out his part on a track just so people can hear how much is really going on.

Free at Last - Just three parts and a drum. This is what you get when you come to a TSF live performance.

I've Got a Woman - This song works live AND on the album (in my humble opinion). Ummm. Jared raps?!! And Greg's vocal percussion adds intricacy without ever overpowering the rest.

Marching Soldiers - One of my favorites. This tune is a departure for us, but a solid original just the same. Hopefully, you will agree.

And then there were Christmas songs...

Santa Claus is Coming to Town - Let's all give a shout out to MaLLy. We looked up "Best up-and-coming Midwestern rap artists" and this guy is it. So happy to collaborate with this gentleman.

Jingle Bells - Maybe my second favorite? And high five to Greg for helping us work in FDR's fireside chat.

Sleigh Ride - Jason, who mixed this song, just made it jump out of the speakers. Oh, and Greg raps!?!

Peace on Earth - This song is just A LOT of similar verses. To change that up, we brought in Ivy (our special guest) and together wrote a counter line to the original melody. I love the collaboration.

Leaving Heaven - Greg sings fantastically. Let's just all say it together.





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Tonic Sol-fa is recording a new album?!

Posted by Shaun Johnson on Jul 3, 2015 10:25:23 PM

Our newest album, Original, is nearing completion.  This album has, of course, some originals...but it also has our original take on favorite songwriters, original arrangements and versions of a few holiday songs, and an original spin on contemporary a cappella.  I've been playing the raw tracks for a few friends and people seem to agree that we've outdone ourselves... I hope you'll agree!  We definitely feel a new excitement.  And to this end, we've been working on adding special guests, utilizing our Nashville connections, diving into arrangements together and pushing each other to step outside what has been the TSF norm. I cannot wait to share...absolutely cannot wait for you all to listen via your favorite streaming service or by download ... Maybe even old-school CD or with us live!!!!  Now time to get back to work...





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Tonic Sol-fa, onward and upward

Posted by Shaun Johnson on Mar 2, 2015 4:35:11 PM

What a February. We lost a member who we'd worked alongside for 15 years. The new trailer lost an axle. The truck's transmission blew up. I battled pneumonia. Greg slid down an icy embankment into a hotel shuttle while backing up our rental. Our vehicle was broken into and much was stolen (while parked at a church nonetheless?!?). I can't even begin detailing the myriad of other odd events that populated those freezing four weeks.

AND YET... I suppose any change or adversity just stands to create renewed excitement and positivity.

1. I am beside myself with how excited I am for the upcoming CD. It's vibrant, raw and put together with work and care. It's called "Original"... it was mentioned by an agent that no other vocal group does as much original music and/or original arranging. We sensed a pattern. Ha!

2. Too, we are starting a new Kickstarter campaign... so much fun to shoot the video, think of the "prizes," and hope/watch for support from fans who've been wonderful to us in all our transitions over the years.

3. We have been working on numerous stand-out videos with professional crews - which I think we are all excited to share over the upcoming months!

4. The three of us have been meeting for dance lessons, voice lessons, writing new music, arranging new tours... even plotting out our 2015 holiday tour with a fresh slate of preproduction and ideas.

Mostly, in all of the hullabaloo, we've been working as a trio... throwing in special guests as we go. I didn't know how that'd work to be honest. Of course, we've done shows with three over the years when someone was sick or vocally in need of rest. But this...It's been interesting...with healthy doses of fear and fun thrown in. I'd say I'm exhausted but happily satisfied. The shows have been fantastic. And the shows really have flamed a spark. New fan club presidents in AZ, thrilling work with SD choirs, fresh partners in sound and video.... excitement with agents about direction and difference.

I suppose most people long for something past. But for me? You can have February. I can't wait for the rest of March.



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Mark's farewell TSF bow.

Posted by Shaun Johnson on Feb 18, 2015 10:41:48 AM

The last remaining original member of Tonic Sol-fa, our baritone, Mark McGowan, has decided to leave the quartet for medical and personal reasons.  The remaining three of us have been performing for a few weeks without him and will continue to do so as we launch a nationwide search for his replacement in 2015.  We each hold so many memories of Mark, and it would be impossible to adequately describe them in a post or a tweet or a note.  Please respect Mark's privacy as we move forward in this evolving, but compelling new chapter of Tonic Sol-fa.  


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A belated holiday tour farewell

Posted by Shaun Johnson on Jan 19, 2015 10:15:22 PM

And thus ends another holiday tour.  This Nov./Dec. was such a blur of lights, coffee shops, practical jokes, and - above all - YOU (people who support what we do)! I think in the tech world, you'd be called "first adopters."  That is to say, the people we meet during our Christmas stops are so often those who've been with us since the first days... have seen us evolve (hopefully), try, fail, change and move.  We love new fans who discover us as our career grows, but to see faces who've seen hundreds of shows, come with their families, started the dances, let us know what songs work (or don't)... there is a special place in our hearts for those people.   Thank you.




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A TSF Holiday Tour update

Posted by Shaun Johnson on Dec 3, 2014 8:00:00 AM

The Christmas tour is in full swing! The shows have gone swimmingly. Certain locations are sold out. I found one of the only remaining Boba Fett action figures left in the U.S. What's with Walgreens suddenly selling a cool toy??? More importantly, a warm front is on the way in the Midwest. So put those coats away next week and don a Christmas sweater with me. Or a Christmas suit!?! (Just saw a news article from England about this fantastic idea!!!). Let us know your holiday plans when we meet at shows? I will quit fighting with ladders...34' ladders (ha!)... if you promise to stay healthy. And we'll all sing "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" at the top of our lungs.




Holiday Tour 2014

Topics: Tonic Sol-fa, acappella, Holiday Tour

A new evolution of TSF in progress.

Posted by Shaun Johnson on Oct 20, 2014 11:33:48 AM

We are in the middle of voice lessons, a dance lesson or two, photography sessions, video shoots and show production meetings for the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015. New tour ideas? Done. New songs? Done. A new evolution of TSF? In progress, my friends. Should we keep the tights or Plastic Santa for this year's holiday tour? One has got to go. Which one? Many heated discussions at Tonic Sol-fa headquarters over that question as we try to balance those who love these segments and those who could not care less. Thoughts? Songs you'd like to hear? More originals? More of a certain style? Themed tours? Just happy to be back in the Midwest before the snow flies and excited to hear your opinions.




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RE: Tonic Sol-fa

Posted by Shaun Johnson on May 1, 2014 10:14:00 AM

It is finally spring here in Minnesota?  It is, right?  I compose this as we travel through IA and enjoy a bit of sun (on the dead brown grass and barren trees). Spring is coming, right?  In any case, it's the perfect time for a revamp... a renewal... a rejuvenation... or any other "re" word one may wish to insert in this sentence.  To that end, we will be rolling out a new website, new pictures, a new show, new tours, a new recording or two, a unique video, and maybe even different clothes.  Who is getting tired of the same tired, striped socks?  Time for polka dots, people!  We are taking more voice lessons, starting dance lessons, writing, arranging and generally getting back to the energy that propelled TSF to it's current state.  Look for new kinds of tours and much more from today thru the last days of summer.  Spring has invigorated us and our goal is to be "rolling" by August with all of the aforementioned items finished or enacted.  Should be an interesting 4 months (and beyond!).  


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