Justin Levinson is an award-winning singer-songwriter- musician who hails from the great state of Vermont. He Is about to release his fourth studio album Yes, Man which tells the story of a lost soul taken advantage by only being able to say yes. With his signature “power pop’ sound influenced from the greats of the 60’s including The Beatles, The Zombies, and The Beach Boys, Justin’s authentic voice and personality combined with his insane musical talents will surely wow music lovers.
Talk Nerdy With Us wanted to catch up with Justin before the release of Yes, Man to discuss all the things that have gone into making his latest and most authentic album.
So Yes, Man is going to be your fourth official album! How would you describe the sound of this new album?
It is very 60’s inspired power-pop, I would say, which is a little different from where I was going in the past. I think this is the most authentic album I have ever done because this is the music I grew up on when I was a kid. My dad got me in the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Zombies, and the Hollies, all that stuff. I’m sort of owning it now. I turned 30 and I feel like I don’t really want to write for anyone in particular besides myself. I am not sure if that style is particularly mainstream right now but I am hoping I can carve a niche there.
In following your career, I went back and was listening to your records again, and your voice has changed so much from when you originally started to your last album. In this current album, do you explore more with your vocals?
Definitely, that is the thing I have worked on the most. It is honestly what I struggle with the most. I have spent a lot of time polishing it on this record. Also, on my previous records I always had a limited budget and I was on a time crunch and sometimes putting things out too quickly in order to stay relevant. This record I have had an infinite amount of time to record with my best friend Adam Popick here in North Hollywood. I have been able to really work on my vocals and getting good tracks. I am doubling all of my vocal parts so it is going to sound thicker. That is sort of out of the Beatles playbook (vocal doubling). Not that I would ever compare myself to them, but it is a good trick to double the vocals in the studio to make them sound thicker and heavier. So I am hoping the vocals show improvement from my previous work.
That is so exciting to hear because you can really tell your voice has grown from the beginning of your career. I am excited to hear how it has grown even more. Are you officially out of Vermont? Are you officially an Angelino now?
(laughs) Ya, I moved out of Vermont in August. I moved here mostly because I was starting to write music for film and TV and my agent was based out here. The whole doing the phone calls on different coast times and not being here for meetings and things, I felt like I was missing out on a lot of opportunities. I just literally packed up all my stuff, got a new car and drove straight here. I am pursuing music 100% now.
Has your new surrounding affected the sound of your music at all? Have you drawn inspiration from the move?
Ya, it has been the biggest part of my inspiration, besides all the creative types out here and opportunities. One of my first friends I made out here is one the singers and guitar players in the Four Freshman, which is the group that originally inspired the Beach Boys. Of course the original members of the Four Freshman are deceased, but he still plays in the band and they play all the original arrangements. The Beach Boys take them under their wings and some of the guys who play in the Four Freshman get to play with the Beach Boys and they get invited to the shows.
My first week here my friend, Stein , who plays in the Four Freshman, invited me to see the Beach Boys at the LA County fair and I got to meet them. I got to hang out in the bus with Mike Love and all the original members, which is pretty cool. I didn’t really get to talk to them that much or schmooze. I wasn’t on any mission to promote myself , nor am I trying to name drop in the interview (laughs), but the moral of the story was, that concert and meeting those guys, helped me understand that west coast sound for the first time. It was really cosmically exciting to be there with those guys. I started writing a lot of these full harmonies with voice syncs I have never used before, inspirited a lot by the Four Freshman and Beach Boys. I think a lot of that might be heard in the new songs. It has really influenced me.
I saw the snippet you posted on Instagram. It definitely has that Beach Boy vibe.
Ya, definitely. That’s the way it’s going. There are really bug lush harmonies and my producer, Adam Popick, is really nailing them. I think it is sounding a lot fuller than a lot of the previous work I have done.
It is tough to do! But you have definitely accomplished it. I mean, we have only heard a little bit, but in what we heard it is definitely sounding that way. I know you were really involved with the Champlain Community Services back home, have you been able to continue any of your work in your current location or are you keeping in touch with them ?
I have been sending holiday cards and keeping in touch. I am, unfortunately, not doing that gig at the time. I really loved it. It was some of the most rewarding work I could have done. I miss a lot of the staff and patients there. Vermont is way ahead of the curve on how people with developmental or intellectual disabilities are serviced and I am really proud to work with them. It is a human right that everyone in the world has the right to be a part of the community and that was a part of my job there. I was making sure that someone who has a disability is not trapped in their home or doesn’t go out and take part in all the opportunities everyone else has: get a job, make friends in the community… There are still a lot of places in our country, unfortunately, where people with disabilities are placed in sheltered, institutionalized settings where they are abused or not treated correctly. I feel like I was on the front lines in Vermont, as they are in health care and many other things, and kind of set the template for human rights and really proud to have worked there for almost six years.
Do you think there is any chance you would do a special Advocacy Team interview with Bernie Sanders if you were able to get that interview?
(laughs) Man, you know when I ran that show in Vermont, he was one of the people we really wanted, but due to his travel and things were really tough and this was even before he blew up and became the celebrity he has become, we were never, unfortunately, able to interview him. But it is pretty exciting stuff for Vermonters. because Bernie Sanders represents the way a lot of the people feel there. It is interesting to see him on the main stage because it is sort of like of a Vermont and his message… I have been hearing his trump speech since he was mayor. I have seen him in Vergennes, in the city I grew up, speaking on Veterans Day in the park every year. It is inspiring seeing someone from Vermont, well I guess he was originally from Brooklyn, someone who is the voice of Vermont being on that main stage. It is pretty thrilling.
Absolutely! Well I was just looking through some of the old interviews from the Advocacy Team and I was like, oh man! I wonder if they could get him when he comes through town next!
Ya, a lot of them are archived in the Vermont community access media, unfortunately the ones they put up were the ones when the show was in its infancy, a lot of the times we didn’t even have guests at that point. I would say that, probably from what you have seen, it has improved tenfold since some of those interviews. Some of those interviews I didn’t even know not to look at the camera. So it is a very bizarre thing when I am looking straight on at the camera. It is kind of embarrassing on my end, but it did get much better over the years. (laughs).
Well it must have been good training for you now. With any promotion of an album there is going to be times when you are on stage or screen doing interviews, plus it had so much of a positive impact.
In a way, it was even more responsibility. Music in a lot of ways is a masturbatory job in the way that, whatever I do, it only affects me. When I was working for CCS, I was on TV and I was an advocate for a group of people who really counted on me to represent them in a really authentic way. That was more pressure. Doing my own thing, there are people who think you suck or people who think “I really dig this”, so you keep plugging away and it is not so bad.
Absolutely. Well I know you have a busy couple of months coming up before your album comes out, do you have any plans for promotion or touring right now?
That is a good question, right now with the album, we are shopping it around and we have had some interest. We are trying to see what the best thing is going to be: to self-release it or to release it on a label; and right now that I am in LA I have some options for representation and where I want to go in my career and who I want to tour with. I want to be more involved in that process now so I can tour with people who are going to be the best for me and the best for my career. I think in the past I have done some touring that was not really a full representation for what I do and I have had to acquiesce to different audiences. So I am really looking for a really authentic me on this record.
You can follow Justin Levinson for updates on his website.