Joanna Ramirez - Full bio
“The journey to my second solo album, On My Way, has been a lifelong one,” says Dallas-born, Austin-based singer-songwriter and percussionist Joanna Ramirez. “It is not easy to bare your soul through music, but I believe it is the only way to truly impact others and possibly inspire, comfort, heal, or just get people to dance.”
Joanna’s 11-track album is the culmination of a lifetime of experiences both musical and non-musical. It’s a soulful, heavy groove-laden, spiritual journey in song. “I see life through a spiritual lens. On this album I wanted to share my truth and be authentic, but I never want to come off as preachy,” Joanna shares. Musically, On My Way is an amalgamation of Joanna’s beloved groove influences, spanning, neo-soul, blues, hip-hop, Latin, and favorite artists such as Sade, Maxwell, Stevie Wonder, fellow Dallasite Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, and The Roots.
Joanna comes from generations of gifted musicians, but was a late bloomer—she didn’t join the family business until she was in her late 20s. Spurred on by the blues boom of the 1980s sparked by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joanna formally launched her music career in 1992. Since then, she’s emerged a seasoned musician who has performed and recorded in a variety of contexts, and explored a wide array of genres, including blues, Americana, traditional Mexican music, soul and R&B.
Since her move to Austin in 1998, Joanna has worked with notable rock, blues and roots music artists such as J.P. Lilliston, Will Indian, Larry Lange, Paul Klemperer, Steve Power, Jeff Hayes, Jacqui Walker, Deann René, and John Gaar. She’s played festivals, held residencies, and performed on local television, throughout Austin, Dallas, Houston, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, and in East L.A. Select live appearances include playing the legendary Austin venue, The Saxon Pub, and memorable shows supporting John Gaar at the ROT Rally in Austin, Grapefest in Grapevine, Texas, and at the Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas.
In 2001, Joanna released her first solo album, Satisfy Me, which enjoyed significant accolades, including iconic journalist and music historian Margaret Moser namechecking Joanna in her Austin Chronicle column “Girlie Action.” Though the subsequent musical ventures that followed developed her as a musician, they were either supporting someone else’s vision or carrying on a family legacy. “In my gut I knew I would not be happy until I could follow my muse. For the album, On My Way, I knew I had to have the courage to be true to myself, my voice, and to my musical vision,” she says.
On My Way’s title track is slinky neo-soul lavished with ethereal ambience, seductively soulful vocals, an infectious chorus, and an old-school bump and grind beat. It’s an anthem of resilience, and speaks to Joanna’s long and winding journey to artistic autonomy. “It definitely chronicles my music career,” she says. “I think a lot of people can relate to the song’s narrative of wanting to give up on something, but knowing that they can’t ignore a voice inside telling them to keep going.” The string-laden soul-pop of “Ride” offers social commentary on commercialism and inner peace. “Nothing you see in this world will make you happy – you just have to choose to be happy,” Joanna details.
The song “Happy” features an ear worm keyboard riff and a rugged beat, and it is an existential rumination on believing you are good enough, your fears cannot defeat you, and you have the right to feel joy. “I got really personal on this one, and told my story on this song,” Joanna confides. On “Sundays” which features a guest appearance from blues harmonica icon Greg Izor (Eddie Bo, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown), Joanna celebrates her father’s blues heritage and pays homage to her late mother. The invigorating “Muse (Stay with Me)” details Joanna’s longing to do music, and it’s made that much more poignant by a soaring, gospel-flavored chorus.
Joanna was born into an extensive musical familial heritage. Her father, Joe Ramirez, Jr. was a R&B guitarist and harmonica player, and, along with his two brothers, Charles and Chick, played in various combos during the 1960s. Homebase for them in Dallas was a place called Jimmy’s Club, which was owned by her paternal grandparents. Joanna’s maternal grandfather, Abundio Ortiz, Sr., was a singer and guitarist of traditional Mexican music and recorded for the Bluebird and Victor labels in the 1930s. All three of her mother’s brothers, Abundio, Jr, Mauricio (Smiley), and Frank were active musicians from the 1960s-1990s. Though she was never a professional singer, Joanna learned how to sing harmony by listening to her mother, Dolores.
It’s been 30 years since Joanna formally started her music career, and today she’s happier than ever knowing she’s being true to herself with her new music. And her fellow musicians are taking notice. “My drummer told me ‘Happy’ was his favorite song,” she says, pausing. “I get choked up just talking about it, but getting that respect for my music has meant so much to me.” Up next, Joanna is working on a new record that will dive deeper into the musical influences that formed her as an artist, and will unearth more personal stories and truth telling.