Interview by Scott Preston
Blending elements of neo-soul, folk, old-time blues and pop, Justin Nozuka has the guts of Ray LaMontagne and the soul of Lauryn Hill.
This guitar slinging aficionado has the street smarts of an urban swinger and the heart-bending soul of a gospel preacher, and is adept at blending a dark, bluesy Americana vibe with warm, acoustic soul where bits of old folk music and flamenco tunes swirl in and out of earshot.
Half Japanese, half American Justin Nozuka was born in New York and grew up in Toronto, Raised by a single mother, Justin was the sixth of seven children, where all four of his brothers are artists in some form. As a teen, he spun Motown, folk and hip-hop as he fleshed out his music skills learning guitar with his Mexican friends at boarding school.
During his short career, Justin has already snagged stage time with John Cale, Crowded House, Ziggy Marley, Sam Roberts, Jully Black and Xavier Rudd. (from justinnozuka.com)
Justin Nozuka has also been selected as one of Le Château’s New Canadian Emerging/ Breakout Artists! His music will be played on the airwaves in all of the 210 retail locations across Canada and the United States for the month of May 2008.
Cincy Groove: I noticed your music on VH 1’s artist you outta know section on their website. How did you get hooked up with VH1?
Justin Nozuka: I’m working with this label, Glass Note. Daniel Glass is pretty well connected and I guess he knows some of the people at VH1. He ended up having a showcase at his house and invited a bunch of the VH1 guys over. I played some songs and we chatted. They have been very supportive ever since. They also put one of my videos into rotation.
Cincy Groove: Why didn’t you take the deal with Universal when it was offered to you?
Justin Nozuka: I remember being really confident that I was going to do it. There was always this voice inside me saying “Is this the right decision?” It came down to the very last second before the contract was finished and that voice took over. I realized from talking with other people that it probably wouldn’t be the smartest choice. For me it was more about protecting my art and vision. At the time I was really un-educated and I didn’t have the right people around me that knew about the business. I wanted to get a manager and lawyer involved before I did anything like that.
Cincy Groove: It also seems your mom has been very supportive.
Justin Nozuka: Ever since I was young she has given me the freedom to do what I want as it relates to music. She has been very supportive.
Cincy Groove: How long did it take to write and record your debut album?
Justin Nozuka: The album was recorded about a year and half ago. The songs were written between the ages of 15 – 17. I then chose the songs that worked the best. (Justin is 19 now)
Cincy Groove: Who are some of the people you have gotten to play with?
Justin Nozuka: The first opening gig I got was for Ziggy Marley. It was in Toronto and I was completely stoked for that. I also played with these Canadian artists, Sam Roberts, Xavier Rudd.
Cincy Groove: What was your experience like at SXSW?
Justin Nozuka: It was great. I really enjoyed the whole vibe of the event. I didn’t really take advantage of seeing a lot of music because there was so much going on. But overall it was a great experience.
Cincy Groove: I understand most of your family is involved in the arts.
Justin Nozuka: absolutely, my brothers and mother are very involved. Its great to be in that kind of creative environment, especially different forms of creativity. My brothers are exploring more of a free artform and I can definitely relate what they are doing to music.
Cincy Groove: Who do you consider some of your influences?
Justin Nozuka: Growing up I listened to a lot of R&B. Lauryn Hill, I remember the first cassette I ever bought was Lauryn Hill. When Jack Johnson became mainstream it opened up a different world that I hadn’t seen before.
Upcoming Justin Nozuka tour dates:
for complete show details visit justinnozuka.com
MAY 20, 2008 Minneapolis, MN – Varsity Theater
MAY 21, 2008 Chicago, IL – Double Door
MAY 22, 2008 Cleveland, OH – Winchester Tavern & Music Hall
MAY 23, 2008 Ferndale, MI – Magic Bag
MAY 24, 2008 Detroit, MI – The Fillmore Detroit
MAY 24, 2008 Detroit, MI – The Fillmore Detroit
MAY 25, 2008 Towson, MD – Recher Theater
MAY 27, 2008 New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom
MAY 28, 2008 Philadelphia, PA – World Cafe
MAY 29, 2008 Washington, DC – Birchmere
MAY 30, 2008 Boston, MA – Cafe 939
JUN 01, 2008 Norfolk, VA – Norva
JUN 02, 2008 Richmond, VA – The National
JUN 04, 2008 Nashville, TN – Mercy Lounge
JUN 05, 2008 Atlanta, GA – Vinyl
JUN 06, 2008 Jacksonville, FL – Jack Rabbits
JUN 08, 2008 Orlando, FL – The Social
JUN 09, 2008 Tampa, FL – Orpheum
JUN 11, 2008 Birmingham, AL – Workplay Theatre
JUN 11, 2008 New Orleans, LA – Parish