Dean Johanesen: At home and abroad, Bradenton singer finds an audience
(Welcome to tbt*'s Ultimate Local Music Guide! All week we're spotlighting 10 of our favorite local artists of the past year. Today: Bradenton singer-songwriter Dean Johanesen.)
In his bestselling book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell claims the key to success in any field is a matter of practicing a specific task for around 10,000 hours.
For longtime Bradenton singer-songwriter Dean Johanesen, the concept wasn’t so much earth-shattering as it was a confirmation of a path he’d already chosen.
“Years back I decided I didn’t want to be a weekend warrior anymore,” Johanesen says. “And that book really drove the point home for me. I said to myself, that’s where I am going. I have to get to that 10,000 hours or beyond.”
Before a gig at The Ale and the Witch on a steamy St. Petersburg evening, Johanesen indulges in a complimentary sampling of smoked white cheddar cheese jalapeno grits and a craft beer from the waitstaff. He snaps a few photos in his now-trademark trilby hat, vest and tie (a tribute to his 1930s gypsy-jazz fascination) while two women who’ve identified themselves as “Caitlin and Caitlin” look on intently.
“Oooh, you’re in a band,” they cackle. “An ultimate band!?”
So maybe these 10,000 hours aren’t so rough after all.
But Johanesen, the devoted dad and husband, just smiles bashfully and sends a nod of appreciation their way before he’s back to outlining his 2013 musical gameplan. It’s one that will take his literate brand of toe-tapping Americana tunes, like the incendiary Mr. Delaware and those from latest A Time and a Place, across the country.
“The goal for this year is to be on the road playing 10 days out of the month, every month,” he says. And it’s a lofty one, as most Bay-area artists without devoted booking agents can attest.
The craftsman Johanesen has a long list of local career highlights with his strummy alt-rock group The Human Condition and as a solo performer. Opening for Howard Jones, Peter Mulvey, Glenn Phillips and Martha Wainwright and appearing on innumerable “Best-of-the-Bay”-type compilations are just a few of them.
But when it’s time to hit the road, it’s like starting from scratch.
“Outside of Tampa Bay, I am nobody,” Johanesen says candidly. “You have to be honest about the fact that it will be tough to draw anybody to the show, but that you’re going to do the best job you possibly can to promote it.”
Johanesen also likes to make distinctions about the types of shows he takes on.
“There are gigs that feed your pocket and there are gigs that feed your soul,” he says. “When I have the chance to share about what a song means to me and why I wrote it, people really seem to respond to it. Maybe it’s because they’re inundated with music all the time that it takes something else to make a real connection.”
Johanesen’s tour to England in 2011 only solidified the feeling.
“I think I had a shift in my way of performing and storytelling over there,” he says. The audiences in England are listening-room audiences wherever you go, he explains. The bar is separate from where music is actually performed.
“So, you go get your drink and walk through double-doors to get to the audience and they’re pin-drop silent while you’re playing and listening to every word,” he says. “I was really intimated by that, but at the same time really inspired.”
In Johanesen’s spare time back home in Bradenton, he teaches a preschool music program he developed for nearly a dozen schools in the area.
“I bring in a different instrument each week and the kids take turns playing and learning about the parts, hopefully to catch their attention early if they’re interested,” he says. “And if not, they’ve at least had a cool, hands-on experience.”
The job might fit within the 10,000-hour quest, but the number takes a back seat to something bigger.
“It’s just what I love to do,” he says.
-- Carole Liparoto, tbt*