Mehuman Jonson and her trio will be the featured performers at the monthly R Space Open Mic & Coffeehouse Thursday, May 20 at the Lincoln Street Center for Arts and Education at 24 Lincoln St. The performance will be preceded by an open mic, just the kind of open-to-all arts experience the singer/songwriter revels in and has found in abundance since moving to the Midcoast.

“I’m overwhelmed by who’s here,” she said. “Not a day goes by I don’t meet someone who blows my mind.”

Not that the places Jonson has been previously haven’t been filled with talent. A professional songwriter for many years, Jonson spent time in Los Angeles, from which she commuted back and forth to Nashville, New York City, Detroit, and many other places around the world including Cannes and Dublin. Her own talent as a musical performer has found fans in this area as the Mehuman Trio has performed in Belfast, Camden, Rockland and beyond. Current members are hand percussionist Casey Hufnagel of Rockland; stand-up and electric bass master Ezra Rugg of Freedom; and Jonson, who plays guitar, piano “and bass in a pinch.”

The trio bears her Persian/Hebrew name, an Old Testament moniker pronounced “may-oo-man” that means “faithful” as well as “making an uproar, a multitude.” Jonson describes the combo’s music as Americana, that relatively new genre that encompasses traditional folk, blues, gospel, country, pop and rock. Sometimes they will perform a country song straight up, but most of the repertoire, which includes primarily Jonson originals, is a blend of all these influences. The trio’s tag line describes it as “folk hop for hip folk.”

Jonson used to have a strict no-covers policy, but has relaxed that of late. She can rattle off a list of contemporary songwriters whose work she admires and admits to using everything she comes across as a tool in her own songwriting, an age-old element of the craft.

“Oh, I’ve ripped off 10,000 people — I’m a musician! It all informs me, I’m a big old copy cat,” she said.

Jonson, a NYC Songwriter’s Hall of Fame Award recipient, began writing songs at age 5. The eighth of nine children in a close-knit family, she grew up in northwestern Pennsylvania, where the winters are harsher than those on the coast of Maine. Bates College was one of her top two choices when it came time for college; had the scholarship packages been different, she might have come to Maine much sooner. She ended up at Pennsylvania’s Allegheny College, where she majored in communications and theater arts and minored in creative writing, modern dance and finance.

“I wasn’t a traditional student in that I began my college career with visions of medical school, only to find out the hard way that I am squeamish,” she said.

Education is an area Jonson has been in and out of her whole adult life. At one point, she was a New York State Teaching Fellow, and she taught event series production for a number of years at UCLA. These days, she does occasional substitute teaching in Camden and Rockport and songwriting for Mainely Girls. This keeps her in touch with the younger generations, although her extended family serves that purpose just fine.

“I have 38 nephews and nieces … well, about 15 are great-greats,” she said

She also is just wrapping up the second winter of Songwriting Sessions at the Camden Public Library. The once-a-month workshop for aspiring songwriters has an eclectic membership that ranges in age from a high school junior to a Medicare qualifier; and in experience from professional to novice. They work on finding inspiration; defeating writer’s block; and collaboration, a recurrent theme in Jonson’s creative life. Recently, the participants performed live on WRFR-LP FM in Rockland and on Thursday, June 3 they will be featured performers in the Library Coffeehouse series in Camden.

“Its really fun to watch them grow,” said Jonson.

Taking pride in and helping build community is what drives Jonson these days, although she also is working on a long-postponed book project, as well as a theatrical piece. The timing of her settling in Midcoast Maine and the opportunity to work on these projects have proved fortuitous.

“It’s helping me process the loss [last fall] of my father, who was my best friend. I’m moving through the loss into a place of celebration,” she said, adding that her mother — “a beautiful, saintly woman” — will come to Rockland from Pennsylvania for a visit this summer.

Most of her family members are either missionaries or in the armed forces, so traveling around the world is a family value. She was all set to spend three months in Malaysia and a year in China when she sidetracked to Maine. Although the relationship that initially drew her here did not work out, she has found so much to delight in that she thinks she may be here indefinitely.

As a songwriter, of course, Jonson always has Nashville in the back of her mind. During her professional songwriting years, Jonson, a SESAC artist, penned all kinds of work, from the “Giant” theme song for the San Francisco Giants and “Sunday Morning” for recording artist Thornetta Davis to commercials for Anheuser-Busch and Victoria’s Secret. She also is a former Arista recording artist who has performed with Nora Jones, Meshell N’ Degeocello, Sheila E., Ani Difranco, G-Love Special Sauce, Rufus Wainwright and KoKo Taylor. She and the trio are working toward a recording of their own. Things are different now, however.

“At this point in my life, music is for the joy of it,” she said. “My ambitions are for other things right now.”

Jonson is a woman of many interests and the wealth of so many creative things to do in this area keeps her busy. She recently joined the board of the Teen and Young Parent Program of Knox County; she is a big fan of the Farnsworth’s Achieving American Art series at the Strand, so much so that she often attends both of each day’s lectures — “I go again because different people bring up different things in the Q&A”; she is a Maine Arts Commission committee member for Poetry Out Loud; and she is excited about the Art In Rockland (AIR) season about to begin for the city’s downtown galleries. The list goes on.

“Maine Media Workshops — it’s crazy the stuff they do,” she said. “Cathy Melio’s Fear No Art program — are you kidding me? It all adds to the soup.”

Speaking of soup, Jonson also is inspired by the locally grown and prepared food in the area, citing Sweets & Meats Market in Rockland’s South End and “all the little restaurants.” She hopes to plant a garden this year, perhaps using a friend’s yard as she lives in a downtown apartment.

“There are really great food artists here; that really was the tipping point for me back in December 2008 [when deciding to move from California],” she said.

“This is a really easy place to be if you need creative stimulation but also want the normalcy of a sit-down dinner with your family,” she said.

She said almost everything she attends, from a launching at The Apprenticeshop to an opening at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, sparks a desire to try her hand at something new.

“I call it God’s country because it’s so rich … there’s stuff to do and good quality stuff to do,” she said. “I’m still delighted to have so many choices every day … and my current soap box is about making sure Maine kids take advantage of that.”

One of the choices Jonson has made since moving here is to learn to play tennis. Jonson, who attends Waldoboro Baptist Church and supports the popular basketball league there, wonders if the Midcoast is ready for a big tennis tournament — not that she expects to make the finals.

“I’m really terrible! I play some great players and they don’t mind beating me because I’m a good sport,” she said.

It’s hard to imagine how she fits all this into her days. Memorial Day weekend, the Mehuman Trio will play the Fish Ladder Restoration Festival in Damariscotta. This summer, the combo already is booked for July 1 in the Camden Amphitheatre; and for the 50th anniversary edition of Friendship Day July 25. Jonson will lead a gospel workshop and perform at August’s Schoodic Arts Festival in Prospect Harbor, will be featured during the Rockland Public Library’s Make-a-Splash children’s festival, and will perform with both Gordon Bok and Stiff Whisker during the Labor Day weekend’s Windjammer Festival in Camden. And she will begin work on a collaboration with artist Jonathan Frost around his civil rights narrative painting series “The Death of Jimmie Lee Jackson.” The result is hoped to connect to next year’s observance of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and involve art, drama and dance.

“You know, my father was a vet and got to vote for the first time when he was 38,” she said.

Her father, who died last September, also inspires the way Jonson the performer interacts with the audience. She is not a singer/songwriter who connects only via her music. Maybe it is because she grew up with a preacher for a father, she said, that she finds very special that place where the line between audience and performer melts away.

“We’ll be participating and celebrating together,” she said. “It’s not about me — it’s about us.”

The May 20 coffeehouse will run from 6 to 9 p.m. in the lower level of Lincoln Street Center. The first hour will be an open mic, followed by the Mehuman Trio’s performance, followed by a jam with everyone. Those interested in playing the open mic should arrive by 5:45 p.m.; poetry and spoken word are welcome. The event is chem-free and for all ages. Admission is $2.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to