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Whispers of the Plains – Justin Levinson

Justin Levinson has recently released his latest album with the Valcours. Here Justin talks to HPM about the new album, working with other artists and whom he’d take on a desert island:

Having already had some solo work behind you – what brought you to The Valcours and whom are they?

Well in all honesty I was very hesitant to do a record without using session musicians. I had many struggles with bands in the past and found it always easier to make music with more of a business relationship. Fortunately the current lineup of session players became such good friends that I couldn’t help but want to give the band idea a second shot. We’ve been together with this lineup for about a year and I couldn’t be happier. I think it gave this album a much more organic, less sterile feel. Although I wrote the music, everyone had a say and we worked as a team to get the sound we wanted. I really began to understand how important it is to listen and put trust in the people you work with. The band consists of Simon Plumpton on drums and sampler, Seth Barbiero on bass, Sean Witters on guitar, Josh Glass on organ/synth and our producer Colin McCaffrey on guitar, bass, strings, synth and backup harmonies.

How much of a collaboration went on between you all and how did the writing flow being?

The songs were all written by me and first presented to our producer Colin. The two of us made our adjustments on the tunes and then brought them to the band. From there the group wrote the arrangements. Colin and I made the final calls on most things production wise. Luckily the band was so tight we really didn’t have to make any serious changes. Seth really added a lot to the arrangement of “Water Wears The Rock” in all honestly that song wouldn’t have been the same without him. Sean also wrote the catchy guitar melody in that tune. A huge part of our sound has been the sampler which is all credited to Simon. It’s such an honor to work with such a professional drummer who adds so much coloring to the music.

There’s a lot of different styles on the album. Are there any styles or songs that stand out as particular favourites? (I know they’re all sacred really!!!)

I think “Love You Goodbye” was a real stand out track for me. I wrote it when there was such uncertainty and pain in my life. Gregory Douglass sequenced the drum beat and Simon just kills with the real drums on top. I like the lush harmony and hip hop feel of the verses. I felt like I kinda let my guard down and screamed a bit. In previous records my vocal stylings have been very safe and less emotional

You’ve made a few music videos for the album too. I bet they were fun to make!

They were so much fun and big thanks to Bethan Wixey who shot them! I laughed till I cried in the “I Was So Wrong” video. In the very last scene our instruments are heading down stream to go off a water fall. It looked really cool until we realized that our instruments were actually about to go over the water fall. I remember watching Seth make a mad dash to save them. It’s hard to describe, but it was beyond funny. The video for “Let You Go” was fun too.

There’s quite a community in Vermont of singer songwriters that seem to band together, Is there a sense of community spirit? Does it help?

Vermont has been a great place for my career. The songwriters I’ve met aren’t part of this competitive dog eat dog stuff. Everyone is open to sharing ideas and helping each other out. I think that’s the key to success as an independent artist or maybe just life in general. I’m lucky to be based in such a great place.

Given the chance would you rather sing a one off concert to a sell out stage or go back into the studio to make a new album?

Well at the moment I think I’m going to go with the sold out concert. The songs on this record still mean so much to me and the connection with a great audience is euphoric. Hit me up in about a year though, I may take you up on the new album idea. I just live and breathe music. I’m so blessed that people buy my music and watch me perform.

Are there any instruments left that you’d like to learn or certain musical feats you’d still like to manage?

I’d really love to learn lead guitar. I play a lot of rhythm guitar and harp, but i’ve never put the time in for leads. I would also love to be able to engineer my own sessions in the studio. I’m a real novice in the technology department.

Anything coming in the future we can be privy to?

I think we are going to do a summer tour in August or September. We’ve also been talking about doing a video for “Love You Goodbye” in the near future. Our main objective is to keep pounding the pavement with our latest release “This Side Of Me, This Side Of You”

Lastly – should you ever visit a tribe that’s never heard music before. Which three artists would you take to introduce them to?

Miles Davis, The Beatles and Brahms

Many thanks to Justin Levinson and his new album is available over at his website for purchase. Best of luck!

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