Interview by Jessica Klausing
It would be misleading to call Yes Man by singer-songwriter Justin Levinson his debut release.
He has released three albums, most notably, 1175 Boylston. Off this album, his single, “City With Two Streetlights” spent eight weeks in the top 25 of CMJ Charts. This song has received airplay from 350 stations across the nation. Levinson has won the Billboard Song Contest, the International Acoustic Music Awards: Best New Male Artist and was nominated for the Sirius Writer Discovery of the Year. His rising career has landed him touring gigs with Tyler Hilton, Anna Nalick, and Howie Day to just name a few. Currently, he’s getting ready to hit the road again in honor of his newest release.
And anyone who thinks this is to be yet another indie Americana album in the industry has another thing coming their way!
Yes Man is a 60’s stylized power pop album that draws elements from his favorite artists of that era – The Beatles, The Zombies, and The Beach Boys. His songs are filled with infectious melodies and nostalgic guitar hooks. Levinson’s retro vision takes us back to an era of innocent lyrics and instrumentals.
Justin took some time to chat with us about his new music.
1. What inspired your particular style of music?
Justin: Well I have eclectic taste but in terms of writing I really love Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson & Jeff Lynne. I love big arrangements and interesting changes. There isn't really too much new that floats my boat these days. In high school, Ben Folds Five changed my life for sure...Elliott Smith is another genius I draw a lot of my harmonic influence from.
2. What songs off the new album, Yes Man, do you hope fans will connect with?
Justin: I'm really proud of the first video we did for "Together Forever". I've got a handful of love songs on this album which is quite unlike my previous catalog. Honestly, right now I can't think of a more opportune time to start to promoting love again.
3. What is your motivation to keep this type of music alive?
Justin: I'm just passionate about the harmony, arrangements, production and fashion of the 60's. I'm fairly lost in my current time I guess. All of my friends play to tracks...maybe I just need to get hip. Ha!
4. What was the recording experience like for the new album?
Justin: My producer Adam Popick is also my best pal. We had a great time making this album. He played the majority of instruments on the record and arranged it. We've known each other since grade school...nobody gets me more.
5. Did you have a set direction in your mind of how you wanted your music to come together?
Justin: Not really. I just really wanted a cohesive sounding album and when things started getting a little Beach Boys-esque I figured it would be really fun to stick to a theme...Living here in LA also contributed to the sunny surf pop sound.
6. How would you describe your songwriting process?
Justin: It starts with a chord progression and I find a vocal melody. I constantly jot down ideas I have for songs throughout the day. Once I have a progression that fits the mood of my ideas I begin to merge them.
7. Do you have a particular song or songs of yours that mean a lot to you?
Justin: There's another love song called "I'll Move Closer" which is about moving towards the people you love when they're struggling opposed to moving away from them. My younger self always wanted to just distance myself from the drama...however a really great therapist encouraged me to love from a deeper place and I am forever grateful of that.
8. Who are your artist influences?
Justin: The Beatles, Michael Jackson, The Beach Boys, Ben Folds, Elliott Smith, The Zombies, Queen, ELO to name a few.
9. If you could go to any concert in history, past or present, who?
Justin: Hendrix live at Woodstock!
10. How would you say your new album is different from the others?
Justin: It's more thoughtful and cohesive...I also really worked on improving my vocals. Hopefully, fans appreciate that I'm putting the work in. Ha!
11. Do you have any upcoming music-related plans?
Justin: I'm performing around LA currently and then touring Europe for a month in mid October-November via Songs & Whispers. There may be a US/Canada run before then...we shall see.