With the debut of his 2008 release “Holly “ featuring the very popular tune “After Tonight,” Justin Nozuka quickly became a household name. His follow-up album, “You I Wind Land and Sea,” further cemented the singer/songwriter’s international success. Shortly before boarding a plane bound for Paris, I had a chance to briefly speak with Justin about his latest accomplishments, world travel and latest release “The Blue Velvet Sea EP”.
Over the past several years, your music has definitely taken you around the world. Have you always had aspirations of becoming a world-traveler?
Do you enjoy the aspect of traveling around the world?
Nozuka: Yeah, it can be a trip sometimes. It’s nice to have some perspective, when you are just touring, touring, touring, it becomes kind of a crazy experience. But, when I have time off and live my life at home, and then I get back to the airport and I am back with my whole family again. My brother, my band, my tour manager and sound guy get to re-unite, it’s kind of an uplifting feeling to be rolling with such a crew and so much gear from country to country. It feels good.
Where are some of your favorite places to travel world-wide?
Nozuka: I really like Western Europe, where we re going and I really like America as well. I love traveling through Canada. All of these places are special and they are all different in the way that human beings have established, but they all have some similarities also. It is really cool to see all of these different cultures. To be there for two days, get a sneak peek, make some friends, then leave to go to a different place.
What do you think makes your music so appealing to so many different cultures?
Nozuka: I think that if music is done properly, which I’m not saying I have done, but I strive to do that. I think that ultimately, when you create music that is proper music, then it becomes fundamental and anyone can relate to it or connect to it. When done properly, the language doesn’t really have anything to do with it. It’s actually the music as a whole. When it is speaking truth, everyone can relate to that on a fundamental level.
What kind of advice would you have to a musician who is just starting off, and also has aspirations of traveling with their music?
Nozuka: I would say that it is important to have it in your mind, what your attention is and what you want to do. Really just go for it, and fall and go for it again, and learn and continue to go for it. First, it starts as an abstract idea and you have this dream and desire. It will take you to one place, and in that time you act in a certain way and you do what you have to do in that one place to get you to the next place. It is constantly building into this idea that you have. As you get deeper and deeper into it, you realize that “the idea that I originally had, doesn’t really apply to reality or the way that my situation is right now. I have to adapt it at this point.” Have an idea of where you want to go, and what your ultimate dream is and just continue to envision it everyday. Continue to envision the dream and I think that will take someone to big places, you know?
It looks like you definitely have a big heart for Africa. Where did that begin?
Nozuka: Well, that experience came through a friend that I met in Paris actually. She came to me with the opportunity to go to Africa, because she was already involved through a few friends at the Children of the Wilderness foundation. She asked me if I wanted to go, and I pending on it for a really long time. Then I realized that I really should go and check it out. So I went there and really learned about what they were doing, and understood more about what the situation is. I really believe that I want to get into more things, especially focus on some of the issues that are happening here at home, in Toronto and places that are close to home. There is a lot that is happening and a lot that should be happening, so tat is where my heart is. I really want to continue to get involved. It is a beautiful thing, that we are able to get involved in places all over the world. As much as we think that it is important to just focus at home, by focusing on other places in the world we really do take steps towards creating a more peaceful structure. It is all something that we can enjoy. Africa is a very special place, the people are very special there. There is a lot of love, and a lot warmth and a lot of light that is there. I think that if we aren’t careful with places like Africa, in terms of the way that we set up our way of living, which now I think that most of the world operates on. If we don’t focus on these steps right now, we could possibly wipe out full nations, cultures and species as as we have in the past.
How did the idea for the Blue Velvet Sea EP come together?
Nozuka: The EP was really kind of another piece. We did some stuff in a cottage session, we did some live peformances in the countryside, my band and I. We had these recordings when the second album(You I Wind Land and Sea) was released, and I just really wanted to put something else out. So, we put this together quickly. There’s songs from 2006 and stuff from along the way that I really wanted to put out.
Are you actively writing right now?
Nozuka: Yeah, I’m writing and working on the next album right now. I’m working on some new music, and I am really just zoning in on new music and getting in the flow.
What are some of your influences right now?
Nozuka: Bob Marley, Dave Matthews Band and Red Hot Chili Peppers. I think that those are the main ones.
Are you seeing your writing process unfolding differently than it normally does?
Nozuka: Yeah, I see it happening more naturally. Just to relax into it and capture all of the good stuff in a calm and connected fashion.
Are you normally a co-writing kind of guy?
Nozuka: Yeah, I have been involved with some co-writing lately and working with some different cats. Learning some people’s different vibes and enjoying their different vibes. I am open to it now, and I used to be really closed off to it.
On the EP I saw that you had a new version of “Heartless,” featuring India Arie. How did that come about?
Nozuka: We did a performance on Letterman a year ago, and India Arie saw it and tweeted about it. We reached out to her and she said that she would help, and get involved and she did.
Perfect day, windows down driving in your car, what are you listening to?
Nozuka: I am listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.