Ava Rose Johnson youngest to win national award again

Dec. 13—Ava Rose Johnson said she couldn't believe her name was called as the winner of the 2022 Native American Music Awards Female Artist of the Year.

The Eufaula High School freshman said she sat in shock after she became the youngest to ever win the category — and her father, Nathan Johnson, reminded her she needed to give an acceptance speech at the November awards show in Niagara Falls, New York.

"It's very shocking," the 15-year-old said with a shy smile. "I still can't wrap my head around it but it's amazing."

Johnson was the youngest nominated in the category that included nominations from previous years after the show was canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said the award came as a surprise, but she felt grateful for everyone who supported her along the way.

"I thanked God, and then my parents and my family members, my grandparents, and the school system was very supportive, and Billy Dawson, my producer," Johnson said.

Johnson said the journey to the awards show was crazy with a snowstorm forcing flight cancellations and rerouting the path to the event.

She said their luggage also got lost — including her dress for the awards show.

But the show originally scheduled for a Saturday was postponed to the following Monday, which allowed for her luggage and clothes to be returned just in time.

Johnson said everything seemed to be back on track before she realized some important items missing — and her dad ventured across the border into Canada through the snow to get her some fake eyelashes.

"He gets a dad of the year award," she said with a laugh.

Johnson also became the youngest to win a NAMA award in any category when she was 12 years old.

She won Best Independent Recording By A New Artist in 2019 for "Heaven's Window" — her original song co-written with country music artists and dedicated to Behr Place, a friend who died in a 2017 ATV accident.

The category originally had 151 nominees with Johnson representing the Osage and Cherokee Nations at the ceremony in Niagara Falls, New York.

She wrote the song with Florida Georgia Line's Sean Fuller and country artists Billy Dawson and Lainey Edwards, all of whom performed with her at a release ceremony in 2019 at the First Baptist Church in Red Oak.

Johnson performed across the country and was invited to record in Nashville after Dawson noticed her at his annual "Nashville to New Mexico" event.

She wrote the song in an hour, then spent around 14 hours for three days in January recording with Dawson working as the producer and James Rayner recorded the video.

Place's parents thanked Johnson for honoring their late son and funds from a GoFundMe account created at the time of the incident were used to build a well at a church in India.

Johnson recorded "There's a Boy," at Saxman Studio, owned by Grady Saxman who is best known as a drummer for Luke Combs. The song hit No. 2 on the Sirius XM Indigenous Music Countdown and aired on 12 Canadian FM radio stations.

Her songs reached 68 countries on Spotify and she said her goal is to one day perform in Madison Square Garden.

Johnson said her sister played an integral role in her getting into music and Eufaula schools provided tons of support for her recently.

Contact Adrian O'Hanlon III at aohanlon@mcalesternews.com