Michael Johnston

  • Musical
  • Collective Creation
  • Lyrical
  • Folk
  • Acoustic
  • Pop
  • Easy Listening
  • Country
  • Rock
  • Alternative
  • Chamber music

Pianist/singer-songwriter and educator Michael Johnston is one of Canada's best-loved musicians, bringing genuine warmth and enthusiasm to the stage and studio.

Michael’s 2016 album, The Bound Of The Red Deer, is a collaboration with Mercury Prize-Nominee King Creosote. Based around the piano and acoustic guitar, the recording is “richly ambient and elegaic” (Montreal Gazette) and a “record that will haunt you, inspire you and bring you joy” (Belleville Intelligencer).

Michael played a central role in the music for acclaimed 2017 film, Maudie, contributing piano, accordion, organ and keyboard to the soundtrack by Michael Timmins.

Michael co-wrote and co-produced a seasonal EP, Decemberly: a duo piano and voice recording with long-time friend Suzie Ungerleider (Oh Susanna) released in November 2018.

Michael has toured, written and recorded with Juno-winning roots group Skydiggers since 2006. He co-wrote one of their most popular songs, Hello Beautiful Life.

Michael is also a member of Scottish-Canadian supergroup The Burns Unit. Formed at a songwriting retreat in rural Scotland, The Burns Unit released one album (voted #2 folk recording of 2011 by MOJO magazine) and performed songs co-written by Michael on the Jools Holland Show (BBC).

A trusted collaborator, both on stage and in the studio, Michael has accompanied Cowboy Junkies, Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy, musical-theatre star Ramin Karimloo (Les Miserables), Paul Langlois, Gord Sinclair and Rob Baker (from the Tragically Hip), as well as Scottish singer KT Tunstall.

Michael has co-written songs with the likes of Chris Difford (Squeeze), Stephen Fearing (Blackie and The Rodeo Kings) and Emma Pollock (The Delgados) and recorded with producers Gary Louris (Jayhawks) and Joel Plaskett.

Michael has contributed to over 50 recordings, as a musician and/or songwriter. As a producer, he co-wrote and arranged the only recordings by Taylor Mitchell, and co-produced the debut by Saidah Baba Talibah (daughter of Salome Bey, now known as SATE).

Michael's solo debut, Curious Heart, drew nationwide acclaim upon its release a decade ago. Based around the piano, and an all-star band led by producer Don Kerr (Ron Sexsmith), the album became a quick favourite of CBC, and led to festival bookings across Canada.

Michael has performed at venues across North America and the UK including Massey Hall (2017), The Interstellar Rodeo in Winnipeg (2016), Roy Thompson Hall (2015), National Arts Centre (2014), Koerner Hall (2013), Glenn Gould Theatre (2012), The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh (2011) and The Cambridge Folk Festival, UK (2010) .

Michael lives in Hamilton with his wife Annie McDonald and two children. Annie and Michael own and operate McDonald Johnston Music Studio Inc. - a music school formed in 2006.

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