WAITING FOR DAWN

Carolyn Dawn Johnson holds out for true love

Story by Chris Neal

I was on a plane recently, and this sweet 19-year-old girl was telling me her life story," recalls Carolyn Dawn Johnson. "She was going back home, and she was worried about leaving because she didn't trust her fiance.

"I said, 'Girl, you're too young to be worrying about this.' She asked if I was married, and I said, 'No,' and she asked how old I was," recounts Carolyn, 31, with a chuckle. "And she's like, 'You're not married?' She was horrified, she couldn't believe it! She looked at me like I had a problem!"

No problem here. Carolyn has just been waiting for the right guy - which happens to be what her new hit, "One Day Closer To You," is all about.

My married friends keep asking when I'll settle down, she sings. Her response: I tell them I am not afraid to be alone/There's no need to rush into something wrong.

"I'm older than all my friends back home who are married and have kids," says Carolyn, a native of Alberta, Canada. "So everybody's always saying, 'When are you gonna get married?' and I'm like, 'I'm kinda working on my career right now. If the right one comes along, sure - and if not, no big deal. He'll come along.' "

Maybe he already has - the right one just might be Carolyn's boyfriend of two years, Nashville businessman Matt Fisher. The longer Carolyn and Matt are together, she admits, the more the outside pressure to head to the chapel increases.

"I've got a good man in my life, so now the question is, 'Are you gonna marry him? When is it gonna happen?' " she laughs. "So my friends think there's hope for me now, but they're just wondering when that's gonna happen."

Settling down right now, as her career explodes, adds an extra challenge to the idea of marriage. "In the world we're in, I think a lot of us are pretty career-driven," she says. "And you're busy, and unless you can find people who think like you do, it's not necessarily the best match. You have to just keep going on until you find somebody that gets what you do."

What she does has made her romantic life more complicated, but it's also given her some golden opportunities - like the day Marty Stuart showed up in the studio to play mandolin on "One Day Closer To You." "This is the coolest thing," she enthuses. "When he listened to the song, he said, 'This is very intelligent.' And it was the coolest. For me, that was a huge compliment. I just thought, 'He thinks my music's intelligent!' "

Carolyn is still beaming with pride to have Marty - one of her heroes - playing on the song, and couldn't be more pleased with his performance. "I think the licks he did on it are very positive and happy-sounding, which is what the song should have," she says, "because I feel good when I sing that song. I get a lot of young, unmarried people saying to me, 'Oh my gosh, this is how I feel! Thank you for giving me a different way to look at it rather than, 'Oh, I'm single, there's nobody out there for me.' "

Even as she looks back on the making of her hit debut, Room With A View, Carolyn is already anticipating recording her new album, due out early next year. "I've got tons of songs written," she says. "I'm just trying to narrow it down, trying to find the right colors for what I want to say. It's scary going into the second record. I want it to be great."

She may be a little nervous about following up her first album, but Carolyn is essentially a very optimistic person. And that, finally, is the real message of "One Day Closer To You" - that if you hold your head up and hang in there, true love will come.

"The song is about living your life to the fullest right now, because each day is one day closer to that person," she says. "Just have a great time, because if you worry about that, then you don't have a great life until you've found that person.

"When I wrote that song, it was a sweet thing to write and believe - and I really did believe it," she concludes. "That's why I never worried so much. There were times when I did think, 'Gosh, I don't know if there's anybody out there who's gonna be able to deal with my career and love me for who I am.'

"And then, of course, when you least expect that it comes around - and it's better than you imagined. I really think that can happen to everybody."

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