Los Angeles singer-songwriter, Justin Sullivan, has been in various DIY punk bands throughout his music career. His latest project, Night Shop, recently released a new album called, "In The Break".Check out this interview about his year away from touring, songwriting, and those who have supported him.
In your year away from touring, what did you do to find yourself and create this new music/project?
I think taking a break from touring, which I thought at the time could well be permanent, was about restoring a sense of order and balance to my life. I always assumed that traveling and living the sort of imagined “romantic” existence of touring would be naturally conducive to creativity but I found that it had started to become too automatic and a routine that really was preventing further creativity. For me, settling into working a day job and writing in my off hours really provided the right kind of jolt that allowed me to re-configure what I wanted to do with music. And of course, now I’m currently on tour and actually loving it again.
What are you looking forward to the most on this tour?
I think getting to see Katie (Waxahatchee) play her songs every night has been something I was excited about and has been incredible. I’m also excited to go to some towns I’ve never been to, like Nelsonville, Ohio and Mineral Points, Wisconsin. In my experience, those are usually the highlights of a tour because the band gets to feel something new together as a group.
How has your songwriting philosophy evolved?
I guess I was always functioning as an editor of sorts. The drummer who chipped in with a suggestion or lyrics. Sometimes my role in the writing process was just to let the songwriter know they were on to something special and to be a cheerleader for the idea. But in terms of “philosophy”, I think the only thing that has become increasingly important to me as time goes on is to not fear what comes naturally. You don’t have to wait for something more “serious”, “cool” or what you think people will like to write your song. Sing the song that comes to you. Share it and then sing another one.
What wisdom have you learned from the previous bands you have been? Have you used this wisdom on this project?
I think the most important things I’ve learned is that once you accept and embrace the fact that you’re going to be wrapped up in this crazy world of song for your life, no one show, record or song is the be all and end all of who you are. It’s helped me relax a lot. I used to get so nervous before shows and upset if I thought something went wrong. Once I re-ordered 1,000 liner notes because I forgot to put someone’s name in the “thanks” list. I felt like everything had to be perfect. Now I realize that every show is one of many shows and every song is one of many songs. Music feels more free now than it ever did.
What are you currently listening to?
“Here Comes That Feeling” by The Gaylettes.
What is your favorite thing about collaborating?
Other people are going to have ideas that you never would have had. And if you find the right people, you will each enhance each other’s ideas. What could be better than that? I’m naturally someone who craves intimacy and there are few things more intimate than sharing your feelings and ideas with another person in some small cramped practice space with dim lighting.
Do you believe that music can influence people? If so, what do you hope your music will influence people to do?
Absolutely. It’s magic and it casts a spell. But I find it harder to qualify or quantify what that looks like. I guess the simplest thing I can say is that the most basic feeling I would hope to inspire is one of connection and a sense of being less alone.
Can you talk about the creative process of this latest album?
Once I began actually writing songs on guitar about two years ago, I just took to it in a very natural way. I had always been trying to write prose and started off picking up a guitar laying around my house to sort of slack on “real” writing. It took me a few months to realize I had been writing every day, it was these songs. I tend to write a new song or at least the basic idea for one almost every day and then kind of let time sort out which once stick around.
Besides music, do you have any other creative outlets?
As mentioned, I spent a lot of time writing prose and personal essays. I’ve had a few forays into that world and I would still like to publish a book of essays about touring and music someday. But for now, I just feel compelled to put all of that energy into song.
Who are the people that have supported your music career the most? What would you like to say to them?
I think that my relationship with Kevin Morby has definitely been one that has really guided my life and my approach to music. We’ve worked together in one form or another for ten years and I would say it’s been one of the great gifts of my life to have the kind of connection that we do. Through playing with him and Cassie Ramone in the Babies and then drumming for his solo work for a long time, I really learned a lot about the craft of songwriting and the importance of believing in yourself. Also, my friend Katie McDonough has supported me a lot through her wisdom and guidance and I would say that she has been my true north for all things since I first started playing music.