Justin Black is an incredibly talented American Singer/Songwriter now living in Northern Ireland. A Prolific Writer and Persistent Live Performer; Justin recently released his second full length record – Faith Over Hope – to massively positive reviews and the occasional girl weeping. He’s one of the most interesting people to sit down and have a conversation with, so we challenged him to our usual ten questions, and here’s what his voicebox replied with;
▶ Tell us the interesting story behind the moniker.
Justin: I’m gonna give you the truth that I used to hide from…Justin Black isn’t my real name. It was a name chosen because black is my favourite colour…Well… that’s not entirely true. The truth is I used to do a Johnny Cash tribute show. I do admire Johnny Cash but what I found while performing his music and putting on his voice was that there was no outlet for my own music. So around 2008 I decided to stop doing Johnny Cash as my real voice and preferred style of music is not even close to the Mr Cash. I’m took the soul/folk route where he took the rock and roll/country route. I’m not a country singer like him. As a matter of fact the only thing we have in common is we’re from the same place. After retiring his jersey, I kept “Black” as it’s my favourite colour. My real name “Kashani” (Persian) is my father’s name. And I’ve never met him. My mother raised me on her own. Why not my mothers name? “Gandy” is her fathers name who also wasn’t in my life. I felt the need to create myself and “Black” felt like me. And it still does. I plan on legally changing my name to “Black” soon.
▶ When did you start and how long did it take to find your own sound?
I’ve been playing guitar since I was 13 by ear and the evolved 56k modem. As far a finding my sound goes, I am always looking for it and that is evolving like anything else I do. I think I’m a lot closer to it with the new stuff I’m writing and it feels nice to have a inclining sound on everything I release.
▶ What releases have you put out thus far, and which would be the one to listen to for the uninitiated?
I have put out a few EP’s in the past. I am not happy with them but that happens every time I release a new record. I think if I’m not producing stuff that makes me cringe a little when I hear the precious recordings then I’m not getting any better. The two releases available are on iTunes, Amazon, and Bandcamp. “Little Miss Naked You” (Elevator Madness) received a lot of attention. I think the stuff I’m really happy about comes off the latest album, “Faith Over Hope”. “In Your Mind”, “Stay Here”, and “Last Dance” are probably my faourites but everyone has a different opinion. Lyrically “Feellossofease” is promising. I’m excited about the new soul record I’m about to cut for the first time in a professional studio. Up until now we’ve been producing this stuff in the house.
▶ Is there a particular live show that stands out amongst all the rest?
Oh yeah. Of course. I recently got to play in Shenanigans in Portstewart for my “Faith Over Hope” album launch. The encore was an acoustic medly of hip hop songs I love. I’m a huge hip hop fan. Also the performance of “Last Dance” made a girl cry… in a good way… I think!
▶ Can you talk about a Highlight and a Lowlight of the journey so far?
Well a lowlight would be busking in winter for butter and living in an awful flat with presumably no way out of. I was then rescued by my manager Robert Boyle and my bookings have been solid every since with cover gigs and original shows. Rob has now been my manager almost 8 years. He drives, books, prices, and helps set up and take down the gear. My highlight was when he got me sponsored by Faith Guitars, Barnes and Mullins, and Elixir Strings.
▶ What does ‘success’ mean to the you?
Success… I’ll tell you what it’s not. X Factor. The lottery. Music charts. Fame. Money. Success is doing what I love and performing for people who know the words to songs I wrote alone in a room. That is success. And it’s not a f***ing competition. Music is not a sport even though it is a career. Success is being content, driven, passionate, and little bit talented. Talent is what you make of it. Success is alchemy.
▶ You are in control of forming a 4 piece ‘super group’ – who is in it and what do they do?
John Mayer on guitar and backing vocals. Tim Bradshaw (David Gray’s keyboard player and my producer) on keys, backing vocals, and lap steal. Pino Pallidino on Bass. And Carter Beuford on drums.
▶ If you and 3 bands of your choosing were to do a tour, who would the other 3 bands be?
Easy. Ben Howard, John Mayer, and David Gray.
▶ If you could make one strange dressing room demand, what would it be and why?
I would like there to be a trampoline other than a floor. No floor at all. %100 tramp. I think the band would appear on stage with absurd smiles. That would brighten the mood instantly.
▶ Finally, in a climate saturated with bands vying for listener attention; why should the good old folks at home listen to your music?
I think I have something to say that people can relate to. I love a lot of different artists. 1000 s of them as a matter of fact. I Still listen to full albums. I guess my music is for the average person who likes to take a walk, drive, or run a bath a just chill out. I recommend me for that person. But again that’s just my opinion.
Have a listen to ‘Outlove‘ from ‘Faith Over Hope‘ Below;
Website ▶ https://www.facebook.com/justinblackIE