By Kieran Webber
At the age of 20 Justine Bennett traded the snowy tipped mountains of Canada for the sun drenched coast of California. She was chasing her dream of becoming a musician. Starting out Justine busked on the streets of San Francisco, building up her confidence. Since then she has had music featured on multiple T.V shows and worked with Adam Cohen (the late leonard Cohen’s son).
Recently the artist shared her new single ‘For All Of Time’, a hazy psych-folk track that is driven forward by her angelic vocals. Taken from her same titled EP that is hopefully dropping by the end of the year.
Listen to ‘For All Of Time’ here:
We recently caught up with Justine to chat about music, influences and life during these crazy times.
Kieran: How have you been and what have you been up to?
Justine: I’m doing pretty well all things considered. It’s been the weirdest year! With the pandemic and now the West Coast fires, there isn’t a whole lot we can do but stay inside. I’m making the most of it by trying to stay creative and I’ve really gotten into sewing masks and playing backgammon online. Might take up knitting next, you never know. Haha. I’m naturally an introvert, so a little part of me is comfortable in this space. I do really miss playing live music though!
Kieran: What was life like growing up in Canada?
Justine: Growing up in Canada was wonderful. My small town of Silverton, B.C. had a population of 170 back then and still hasn’t changed much. It was an idyllic place in the middle of the mountains sitting on a glacier-fed lake. Being known in the US as a safe place for draft dodgers to go during the Vietnam war, it was very remote and closed off from the rest of the world. As kids, we were outdoors all the time exploring and building forts. I knew how to chop wood and gut a fish for dinner. It was a very simple life rich with community and so much beauty. I miss it so much and the older I get the more I appreciate where I have come from.
Kieran: What prompted the move to L.A in 2009?
Justine: When I first left Canada, I moved to San Francisco. I had a crush on that city the first time I saw and couldn’t get it out of my head. I wasn’t really playing much music, but I wanted to be. My first job was at an outside bar in The Cannery Square and there was a busking stage that street artists would perform on. I started playing cover songs on that stage in the evenings and that’s how I learned to play guitar. I played there a few times a week for nearly 5 years and noticed a regular who would always sit off to the corner with his black Great Dane and catch my set. Because we played for tips, this guy really stood out since he would always throw a 20 dollar bill in my tip jar. One day he came up to me, told me I had changed his life with my music, and offered to pay for me to make a record. I ended up making my EP “Heaving Feeling” in Los Angeles, got involved in the singer-songwriter scene, and eventually moved here.
Kieran: Who or what influences your music and how does it affect your songwriting?
Justine: I always seem to write about life experiences whether they are mine or somebody else’s. It’s such a cathartic release to get something out through writing. It’s like a therapy session putting thoughts and feelings out onto the page. Sometimes that can feel really vulnerable but mostly it’s really satisfying.
“It’s like a therapy session putting thoughts and feelings out onto the page.“Justine Bennett
Kieran: What is it about the 60’s era that inspires you and your music?
Justine: I have a very nostalgic and romantic view of the ’60s. It felt like a time of such great artistic expression after the stuffiness of the ’50s. I love the collaborative vibes and intricate harmonies from groups like the Mama’s and the Papas, CSNY, The Beach Boys, and the Byrds. I also connect so much to the simplicity and genius of a single voice with an acoustic guitar. Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, and Joan Baez are all artists that admire and have drawn great influence from.
Kieran: What was the influence behind your latest single ‘For All Of Time’?
Justine: Sometime last year I discovered an artist named Linda Perhacs. She is a relatively unknown singer from the late ’60s/early ‘70s who released a brilliant record called “Parallelograms.” It was essentially shelved and never promoted due to a bad pressing and the refusal from the record company to press another round of records. It was re-issued in 2003 and has gained a cult following ever since. Her voice is pure and beautiful, her harmonies are intricate and interesting. In the midst of this pureness come some really whacky unexpected sounds. This was my first intro to Psychedelic Folk and I fell in love. I wrote “For All of Time” with that sound in mind. The guitar riff steady and meditative and the melody soaring over it. This tune doesn’t get quite as weird sonically as her stuff, but it’s my gateway into the psych-folk world and definitely a departure from my old sound.
Kieran: How was life during the lockdown? How did you occupy yourself?
Justine: Well, unfortunately, we are still pretty much in lockdown in LA. We can go to the beach or go for a hike, but things otherwise aren’t much different than there were at the beginning of all this. I’ve been keeping busy with my garden and cooking a lot. I also have a few friends who come over every week for a socially distanced outdoor hang. That has totally been a lifeline.
Kieran: Did you find that you were more creative or less?
Justine: I’ve asked this question to a lot of my artist friends as well and most are in the same boat as I am. I wish I could say that I have had a wellspring of musical creativity during the lockdown, but that just hasn’t happened for me yet. I’m so sensitive and have found it really difficult to find the energetic space to get creative. I think I get bogged down with all the doom and gloom and have a really hard time rising above it.
Kieran: How has the pandemic affected you? Do you think there will be a return to normality soon?
Justine: In some ways, it’s been really great. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what I want out of life and what is important to me. I’ve definitely honed in my cooking and gardening skills. I’ve slept in a lot and caught up on shows I’ve been wanting to see. I’ve also committed to a daily mindful meditation practice that has really been healthy for my head. I do miss a lot of things from our old life though. I miss my family because I can’t go see them for my annual summer trip home. I miss singing and songwriting with friends and playing music for people. I miss walking out the door without a mask and sanitizer. Oh, and I seriously miss hugs.I don’t think we will ever return to “normal”. The whole world has been changed by this and we will never be the same. I am hopeful that we all come out of this phase a little bit kinder and more appreciative of the things in life we once took for granted though.
Kieran: What is in the pipeline for 2020 and beyond?
Justine: This new track is part of a 3 song EP that I’ll hopefully release by the end of this year. Beyond this year…..I can’t think that far ahead. Let’s get through November and then we can talk!