What sparked your interest in pursuing a career in music, and what was your journey to becoming a musician or band like?
NATHAN: I love music. It’s a universal language. I love instrumental music specifically. When I was growing up, my parents played a lot of classical music in the house. That is how I first developed my appreciation for music. Playing an instrument has a lot of benefits in areas other than music. It improves concentration, relaxation, and more. It is a creative outlet. For me, it’s very satisfying teaching piano and seeing these benefits in my students.
My journey started out in classical music. I started taking lessons when I was 5 years old. After high school I pursued a BA in Music Performance from Laurentian University, and just completed my Master’s in Piano Performance from Western in 2022. In university, I played in many different jazz bands, from accompanying singers, to trios and combos, to big bands. I have always been interested in other genres of music, like soul, rnb, and hip-hop. Since graduating from Western, I have been putting bands together to play these other genres, using my knowledge and experience with jazz and classical music to lead the ensembles. Juice Joint is the most recent of these groups.
Who are some of the musicians or musical acts that have had the most significant impact on your work and your sound?
Miles Davis, Ahmad Jamal, Bill Evans, BADBADNOTGOOD, Kiefer, Hiromi Uehara, J Dilla, MF DOOM
Can you describe the progression of your musical style and what sets it apart from others in the industry?
I started in classical music. When I was around 11 or 12, I started learning to play some songs from movies and video game soundtracks on the piano. This was the first time I became interested in playing music other than classical. In high school, I developed an appreciation for hip hop, and started making hip hop beats in FL Studio. In university, I honed my jazz playing abilities, and joined some rock bands. Now that I am out of school, I combine parts from all of these elements, by composing music for my jazz/hip hop group, Juice Joint.
Could you elaborate on the backstory and significance of your artist name?
I came up with the username NathanJuiceBox when I was in high school. I was making an Instagram account, and when it came to the point where I had to pick a username, I was listening to the song “Juicebox” by The Strokes. I just added it to the end of my name. Since then, juice has become part of my brand in a way. This transferred over to the band, Juice Joint. Juice Joint, to us, means a place where people hang out and drink juice. Juice being a metaphor for music, and a juice joint being a jam session, if you follow me. On January 12, 2024, I will be releasing a beat tape called “Soft Juice” produced by myself (under the name NathanJuiceBox) and local London hip hop producer, Soft Eyez.
How do you typically approach the songwriting process, and what role does collaboration play in your work?
I write songs by experimenting at the keyboard until I come up with a cool line or groove. Then I open up Ableton and record that keyboard part. Then I play some bass on it, and throw on some sample drums. At this point I start to think about the arrangement, and where the other instruments in our band could come in. For example, we have a tenor saxophone player, Oscar, who usually plays the melody. But sometimes I play the melody, or our guitarist, Aiden, plays the melody. It’s a matter of choosing which instrument suits the melody best. This process, however, is often done as a group. I will take my rough demo to the band, and we will all learn the melody, then decide who will end up playing it. Similarly with solos, we will all take solos on the tune, but eventually we will decide on just one or two people per song.
Can you share with us a particularly meaningful or personal song in your discography, and what inspired it?
On November 15, 2023, my birthday, I released my first single “When You Wish Upon a Star” on all streaming platforms. This song was recorded in Studio 2 at Fanshawe College in London. It was performed by my trio, Andrew Kosty on upright bass, Evan Chambers on drums, and myself on piano. It was a late night session, from midnight to 3 am, which took place in December of 2022. This song was eventually aired on JAZZ.FM, the jazz radio station in Toronto, for their Jazzology program, where they feature jazz students in Ontario. It is a cover of the beautiful tune from Pinocchio, written by Leigh Harline. What is so special about this song, though, is that it was recorded completely live-off-the-floor, meaning there was absolutely no editing to the performance. What you hear on the single is exactly what we played in the studio.
Could you discuss the evolution of your live shows and performances, and what you aim to convey through them?
We have done a wide variety of shows. Actually our first show was at a Prince tribute event, titled Cosmic Day. We played our original material, as well as some Prince covers. After this we did a series of shows at Variety Cafe, outdoors in the summer. These shows were very rewarding for us because people would be walking by and notice the live music, then sit down and listen for a while, and we would talk with them during our set breaks. We made a lot of friends this way, and even met our percussionist, Cam, at one of these gigs. In October, 2023, Juice Joint opened for Moneka Arabic Jazz at the Wolf Performance Hall in London, as part of a Sunfest event. It was an amazing experience for us to be able to share the stage with such incredible musicians. Recently, we have been playing frequently at Poacher’s Arms, and our focus has shifted to hosting open jam sessions, and growing the jam community here in London.
Regarding our performances, freedom and improvisation is at the core of our music. No two shows are alike, for many reasons. Juice Joint is a collective of over 10 people, and from that collective, a band is selected to play each show based on things like availability. So we always have different musicians on stage. We also play improvised solos in our music, which can take the music into places we have never gone before.
Can you recall any memorable or unique experiences you have had while touring or performing?
My personal favourite gig of ours was our first Poacher’s Arms jam session. This event was run by a local event collective called Stompbox. Their events are always very successful and well-attended, and this was no exception. We started off the night with a 30-minute set of our own music, then invited musicians to come on stage and jam with us. There was a long line up of people who wanted to come and jam. It seemed like the majority of people in the bar were musicians, and very talented ones too. The most significant thing about the event, for me, is not just how many musicians attended and participated in the jam session, but the wide variety of musical backgrounds and genres that were represented. Seeing these people from different backgrounds performing together on stage before they’ve even met for the first time was a very warm and wholesome experience.
What is your perspective on the current state of the music industry, and how do you see it evolving in the future?
From my point of view, I am happy to say that we seem to be in an era in which authenticity is very highly valued. People want to see raw music performances, without any barriers, or excessive processing and editing. This is evidenced by the massive audience of NPR’s Tiny Desk concerts, for example, which allow viewers/listeners to get an extremely close and detailed look at a live musical performance. Barriers between performer and listener are being removed. Similarly, the barriers between genres are also being removed. Genres still exist, of course, and each has a history that should be respected, but they are not as exclusive as they once were, and new genre fusions pop up all the time.
Can you speak to the role that activism, social justice or charity play in your music and career?
We aim to make our music and our concerts accessible for people in marginalized communities. We want POC and LGBTQ people to feel safe and comfortable at any event that we play at. No exceptions. We also oppose the elitism, exclusivity, and gatekeeping found in many music communities, and in particular many post-secondary institutions. To this end, our shows are very casual, and are usually free to attend.