I met Justin a couple years ago when I was doing a lot of concert photography. A mutual friend of ours asked me to take photos of Justin supporting tropical house producer, Sam Feldt, at the Independent here in SF. It was his first time meeting and playing with Sam, but the two worked so well together, Sam would eventually ask Justin to join him on his festival tour, playing at Ultra, Coachella, and a few other stops along the way.
If you’ve been following Justin, you likely will have seen or heard one of his famous saxophone covers that he does on his Youtube channel, with some amassing millions of views. He recently stopped by the shop to drop this cover of Pretty Wings by Maxwell and answer a few questions for us.
1. How did you decide to pick up the sax?
It must be because I grew up listening to RnB and smooth jazz with my mom but when 5th grade came and we got to choose an instrument, I went straight for the sax. I didn’t even think to try anything else. I knew what I wanted to play and from then on, you couldn’t tell me to stop practicing or playing. My poor mom had to listen to me practice for hours on end for years.
2. You told me about how you got your start just from busking on the streets. Can you talk about that and how that led to your career?
I moved to Santa Barbara from Chicago about 6 years ago but didn’t necessarily have a plan. I still played my sax a little bit but only in my room. I had an incredible amount of performance anxiety and any practicing I had ever done was thrown out the window the moment I walked on stage. I saw a few people playing on the streets in SB and I just kinda decided, hey, why not. I think I’ll bring my sax out here and see if I can make some money. I was flat out broke and was basically starting3 over. The first time I stepped out there to busk, it all changed. The crowd reacted in a way I couldn’t have imagined. They were happy and that made me happy. I quit my job and began busking full time, eventually discovering SF. I ended up moving to SF about 4 years ago and lived in my jeep for a few months while I busked every day trying to get my name out there. Naturally, I met tons of people on the street and made some really incredible connections that have helped get my career to where it is today. None of this was part of a plan. It just happened and I think that’s the beauty in it.
3. Last year you toured the Sam Feldt. What were some highlights (or lowlights even) from touring?
4. It’s no secret that people love your saxophone covers. What’s your favorite cover that you’ve done and why?
5. What are some future goals, short term and long?
6. Any advice for young musicians out there?
My advice would be to take practicing and studying seriously but don’t allow anyone to tell you how you should sound. Develop your own style and play what makes you happy. If I listened to my professors in music school when they told me that I needed to change my tone and style, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
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