MILO STARR JOHNSON likes to refer to herself as a “musical Julia Child,” because like Child she did not discover her true calling until middle age.
In 2008 she returned home to the Bay Area after more than 2 decades in Los Angeles. She’d fallen in love with San Francisco guitarist Mark Zanandrea, a former high school sweetheart and longtime friend; she also needed to be closer to her aging parents. Discovering a music school right across the street from her home, she signed up for a theory class on whim. Milo got hooked after a few months of study. “It was hard to learn the basics, but something felt right, so I kept going. I could not stop.”
While immersed in classes at the San Francisco Community Music Center, Blue Bear School of Music, and private voice lessons with Raz Kennedy, she sang at Sausalito’s Blue Monday Blues Jam Sessions, tried out originals at open mics, and sang back-up in the band Vanilla Pussyfoot. A serious foot injury sidelined her from most activities but enabled her to finish 9 songs, all in her debut album, The Perambulator.
Born and raised in the SF Bay Area, Milo remembers working out the opening melody of her song Look Away when she was 7. As a teenager she completed the professional three-year theater training program at ACT’s Young Conservatory, decided she wanted to direct and attended UCLA and San Francisco State with an emphasis on film and TV production. An avid music fan and collector, Milo was a DJ at UCLA and joined the punk scene in San Francisco in the early 1980’s.
She received a Screenwriting Fellowship to the American Film Institute in 1984 and spent some years as a struggling screenwriter. Returning to theater via a detour through stand-up comedy, she studied intensively with performance art pioneer Rachel Rosenthal. Her self-produced solo shows− always with musical elements − garnered praise and recommendations from the LA Times and LA Weekly. At 40 she began singing lessons with Micah Barnes to find her authentic voice.
“I’ve always been drawn to art forms that flow. Film, any type of performance—there’s a lot of musicality in a good comedy routine. But when I dared to dive into music I found the Source— rhythm, emotion, story− Flow.”
Looking ahead, Milo plans to integrate music, theater, and comedy into a live show—a rock'n’ roll cabaret.