The first few hits on a YouTube search of "Juliann Johnson" might, at first glance, appear totally unrelated.
One video is a no-frills overhead view of a professional volleyball match, a muted 30 seconds of an intense rally between teams USA and Japan during the 2013 USA Volleyball Cup.
The clip is labeled "Juliann Faucette" — Johnson's maiden name — "Ends Rally." Her face is a small blur on the screen, identifiable only by a stark white number 19 on her navy jersey, but she's tall and lithe and ruthless as she sprints to the net and hits the ball over — hard.
Another YouTube hit is an acoustic cover of David Guetta and Sia's popular dance single, "Titanium." The video opens on a young woman who begins to sing, her voice following the peaks and valleys of Sia's original vocals. She snaps out of her musical reverie as the last note fades out, looking straight into the camera with a grin.
This video was posted by one Juliann Johnson — and yes, it's the same Juliann Johnson who dominates international volleyball courts without batting an eye.
Johnson, a San Diego native now based in Rowlett, isn't just a world-renowned athlete. At 27, she's also a bonafide recording artist with the release of her debut EP Complete this past spring.
"If you dream something up, that's not a mistake. You dreamt it for a reason, and you should go for it," Johnson says. "I always felt that I had to put 100 percent into either [music or volleyball] until recently, when I decided that I really loved music and wanted to give it a try."
Johnson's volleyball record is a lengthy one. Following an abrupt growth spurt in her early teens that derailed her initial plans in gymnastics — Johnson stands 6-2 today — she excelled at volleyball throughout high school. She played for four years at the University of Texas and jumped into the sport professionally. Her name is recognizable not only for her spot on Team USA, but also for her time in elite clubs in Italy, France and China.
Perhaps even more tellingly, Johnson's relationship with sports and fitness runs in the family. Her father is Chuck Faucette, former linebacker for the San Diego Chargers and current head football coach at Dallas' Bishop Lynch High School, and her mother is Carolyn Erickson, a fitness trainer, consultant and model.
While Johnson's entire adult life has been squarely grounded in volleyball, Complete draws from a recent time where her career as a professional athlete might have come to a premature end. In terms of both longevity and passion, volleyball is matched by very few things in Johnson's life. There's family, there's faith, and there's music, which is what she turned to after suffering a severe knee injury in 2016.
"This was an awakening, you could say, because I felt like, 'Wow, I can't do this forever. ... What if I can't play any more?'" Johnson says. "At that point in my life I was dealing with a lot of confidence issues. I was learning who I was, coming into myself — a lot of growing pains."
Johnson's future in volleyball was up in the air. There was a chance she wouldn't be able to compete at the same level any longer, and her current goal of competing in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo — which would be her first time ever to compete in the games — appeared further away than ever.
Johnson wrote Complete during her six months off the court — it was a product of deep personal reflection. As Johnson healed physically, she'd nourish and develop other strengths and passions, namely her music, which had taken a backseat to volleyball for years.
"People don't follow their passions because of fear. It took her a while, but she's broken through that," says Carli Lloyd, Johnson's longtime friend and fellow professional volleyball player. "J does a great job of being who she is no matter where she is."
In line with Lloyd's assessment of her friend, every song on Complete is a Juliann Johnson original. Johnson wanted to tell her own story, and with a production assist from Maurice Alexander II — known as MALEX in the music industry across his 25-year career — she made that happen.
"She really took to songwriting," MALEX says. "She's a very driven and disciplined person. I'd give her some pointers and she'd just run with it. If she can really keep honing in on her sound, there's no limit to what she can do."
Johnson has been singing since long before volleyball, having taken vocal classes and performing in musicals since childhood, but before working with MALEX she hadn't pursued it professionally. Johnson has committed herself to music now, dusting off latent piano skills and prioritizing guitar lessons. As with her volleyball-playing skills, which demanded years of her life to properly finesse, Johnson's pipes and other musical talents are in constant development.
Still, she's excited for the new challenge. Complete is just the beginning.
"I've always been striving to be at that point, but I finally feel like I'm complete," says Johnson. "We're always growing, but the message here really is, 'Yes, you're complete right now. You don't need anything outside yourself to be whole. You just have to believe in yourself.'"