Memphis Music Feature: Keia Johnson

Posted by Holly Whitfield | October 8th 2020 643 0

Memphis Music Month continues! Each Tuesday and Thursday in October, we will share a Q&A with a local artist—so you can discover new music and get to know the amazing people making that music. See all the features here.

I’ve partnered with my friends at Memphis Music Hub for this series, so the ‘MH’ you see below stands for Music Hub.


Keia Johnson has a music career that includes two seasons of American Idol, an appearance on The Voice (season 4), on theatre stages, and on major film soundtracks.

She is currently working at Stax Music Academy as the Lead Vocal Instructor, as well as acting and touring with several shows on the Mississippi River Steamboats.

Her most recent project, Live: Keia Johnson & The Xperience EP, was released in May 2020 and can be streamed on all music platforms.

Q&A With Keia Johnson:

MH: In one word, or phrase, what about Memphis inspires your creative process?

Keia: Soul

MH: Who in Memphis do you love to listen to?

Keia: That is a loaded question, I love CCDE [Chinese Connection Dub Embassy], J. Buck, Southern Avenue, UnApologetic, Angela Blair, Adajayo;  I just love Memphis Music and that there is a current scene of soul, funk, reggae, inspirational, I just love us!

MH:  Which place gives you that Memphis vibe?

Keia: Chef Tam’s is my favorite Memphis restaurant and Chef Eli is my favorite chef here in the city. There are so many different parts of Memphis I love. I’m obsessed with Makeda’s on South Main strawberry cookies, afterward I always find inspiration from the Civil Rights Museum.

After a late night, I want a burger from Sider Inn. I love walking at Shelby Farms and on the river, seeing the sun set as the bridge is lit up. There is nothing like going to Church at my home church First Baptist Broad and brunch at Brother’s Juniper’s. I’m somewhat of a foodie so all of my great memories are tied to food LOL! I love barbeque nachos from Central Barbeque. I love my city.

MH: Can you give advice for a  young artist getting started?

Keia: Dream big and create your own lane. Study the greats and be humble in your learning. Celebrate the wins and learn from the losses but never give up on your vision and your gift. The world needs it.

MH: Do you have a quick story about an event that changed you as an artist?

Keia: I remember I was on a panel one time after I did American Idol and Jennifer Holliday was the Special Guest. I got to talk to her and I asked her did she think it would be a good idea for me to move to NYC because I loved Broadway and Performing. She said “Keia, become the biggest thing in your city and Broadway will call for you.”

The take away was, it’s good to go where the opportunities are, but don’t sleep on the opportunity for people to take notice of you on your own turf. Do everything in excellence and your artistry will rise to the top. That’s the motto I live by, it’s got to be excellent and original.

MH: Where can we hear you?

Keia: Check out my latest livestream is a celebration of my original music, and favorite artists. Check it out here.

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