The Ginger Chicken at Rain Bistro goes uneaten for quite awhile because Romeo Johnson has too much to talk about. He does eventually finish the dish, but it takes awhile.
Johnson was in town last week for a reunion with fellow 1981 Brainerd High graduates and to visit with his mother, and he reached out to see if we could get together as well. He told me that this will be his last season as vocal coach on "The Voice."
After four years of working with contestants behind the scenes, he wants to take what he has learned on the road to help others.
In addition to coaching people like El DeBarge and P. Diddy, Johnson is a performer and musician. He is the only person to have performed with Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson. He also played bass for Sheena Easton and toured with Yanni.
His latest endeavor, and the one that has him so excited, is traveling the country doing voice training seminars and workshops.
"I love that moment when the person gets it," he said. "When they say 'I can't do that,' and then they try it and it works."
As part of his duties on "The Voice," Johnson has gone from city to city auditioning possible contestants. Once they were selected, he was one of the people who coached them for the on-air segments.
Johnson rightfully figures that no one else has the background he has as a performer, a vocal coach and a judge.
His new venture is called Sanghaz. He did a trial-run seminar in Las Vegas last month and was pleased with how it went. The plan is to do a group workshop the first day and then individual coaching the second.
"The people who try out for the show, some of them have great voices and lots of talent, but they do this or that wrong," he said. "Once I point it out, they go, 'I didn't know I did that.' "
The same is sometimes true for the professionals. Johnson said he was recently asked to work with DeBarge, a longtime inspiration for him.
"That was weird," he said. "I told him, 'How can I help you? You inspired me.' " But, after one session, Johnson pointed out a method for helping the veteran singer better deliver his midrange notes.
"He said, 'Man, nobody ever told me anything like that.' "That's what I love. I like helping people."
• Friends and fellow comedians will gather Sunday, June 23, at The Comedy Catch for a benefit show for Karen Mills. Mills was diagnosed with cancer last month and has begun a 15-week chemotherapy program.
That is expensive, and her friends want to help. Performing will be Leanne Morgan, Sonya White and Etta May. The event is being called "Humor for the Tumor." Admission is $20, but you can pay more.
Contact staff writer Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.