It’s no secret the devastation that Covid 19 has brought upon the music and entertainment industry, especially to struggling musicians who must play regular live shows just to make ends meet. It’s also given musicians time to reflect and for many, time to create. Sometimes being forced to slow down can be a blessing in disguise. I think when this pandemic passes, and it will, we will see a huge wave of new music erupt from these months of isolation. One very talented artist to watch for in this wave is Justin Maki.
When did you first become involved in music?
My mother was a very active musician in her earlier years and when she had me she wanted to make sure that it was a prominent part of my upbringing so she got me to sing along with her, taught me to sing harmonies at a very young age, things like that. I was born in Japan and spent a total of eight years of my life there and karaoke is a big part of the culture down there so I just grew up singing. I’ve had some classical and pop vocal training and I currently take vocal lessons with Lorraine Lawson out of Toronto.
At the age of eleven my family enrolled me in Studio Arts Music Academy and Rock school and that’s when I got into guitar and started playing in bands for a number of years with that organization and then I just kind of branched off and started doing my own thing.
What were your influences? How would you classify your music?
It’s definitely evolved over the years. I started off doing more of an acoustic thing and that was influenced like artists like City In Colour who I still very much adore. I also was into a series of albums called Punk Goes Acoustic so bands like Green Day and Billy Talent, Papa Roach, Three Days Grace, bands like that. Right now I identify a little more with music I like to call flirtatious jazz pop. I hope that it’s still very much accessible from a pop standpoint. My philosophy is always simplicity with underlying complexity so it’s still accessible but its fun to play.
You’ve done a lot of great covers in the kind of style of Pomplamoose or Walk Off the Earth. Is that an intentional strategy? It’s worked well for those bands.
I understand where I’m at in my career that it’s just smart from a business standpoint to throw in covers as a way to appeal to my audience. I kind of aim to do half and half. I’m still constantly writing but playing and posting covers are a tried and true marketing strategy and I try to put my own spin on them, put my own personality in them so it’s still me.
Where do you draw from in your writing?
I guess it depends on the song. I do have the ability to construct a story that isn’t necessarily extracted directly from my experience and create a storyline that is thoughtful and fits within the realm of reality, but I find the most genuine songs come from personal experience so I write both.
I think there are song writers that draw from the pain in their lives who then when they’re going through a better phase get writer’s block because they’re lives are calm.
Funny you say that because it’s assumed that you need to have significant almost traumatic experience in your life to be inspired and with my music I try to provide a joyful escape from this crazy world we’re living in so coming along with that I hope that in balance I’m conveying more positive messages and uplifting with my music. So I guess I’m drawing from more positive experiences in my life.
I heard you combined your job as a car salesman with your music at an event a couple years ago.
Yeah, that was a lot of fun, that was an event introducing the 2019 RAV4 and I was very graciously asked to do a presentation on the RAV4 and also hired to perform at the event which was kind of convenient because I work there.
What is happening currently with your music? Didn’t you just release some music?
Yes, I released a single back in February and I’m currently working on a full length album. The original plan was to wrap up and release my 3rd EP by the end of this year but with the Corona virus and not being able to see my producer who by the way is Mathew Johnston out of London Ontario, we weren’t able to stay on schedule. Fortunately we’re back in the studio now (following Covid protocols) and have expanded the vision of a 7 song EP to a 10 song album, to be released incrementally and then as a whole.
So it sounds like this extra time because of the virus has increased your focus and allowed you to raise the bar a little bit.
Yeah, because I did my best to write as much as I could during quarantine and things are a little bit more alleviated now so I had more to bring to the table and it was almost a blessing in disguise and I’m really looking forward to releasing stuff. I plan to release my second single from that album, Different Kind of Love September 18. I wrote this song with my roommate Alex Emrich who is also the producer of the track. This was the first opportunity that we really had the time to write together, something we had been discussing for a long time, but had yet to act on. We wanted to write a Jazzy Pop song about a fresh romantic relationship that is rudely interrupted by a period of sudden and non-negotiable distance. The song depicts a couple as they try to navigate dating in this new context, finding creative ways to develop a connection without access to the physical touch. Alex is a very accomplished writer and producer and with his skill and talent, we were able to realize our vision for this song. Alex has a recording studio in the basement of our joint living space, so it made it very convenient to record the track.
Sounds great! I can’t wait to hear it. Is there going to be any kind of release party planned for either the single or the album? How far along is the album now, when can we expect a release date?
The songs are essentially written, but 4 out of the ten still need to be recorded in full. To expedite the recording process, I have also started to work with Alex more extensively, as I’m happy with how “Different Kind of Love” turned out! A music video, and supportive content should accompany the release, but those details are still TBD. I plan on releasing more singles but most of that will come out in 2021 as well as the album itself. There will not be a release party, but I am certainly in the process of booking shows all across South Western, ON at various venues. Keep an eye out on my website for show updates at justinmakimusic.ca