Justine Bennett’s soulful voice is a rare gem you discover at her live performance. You can feel the passion in her lyrics, whether its the yearning words of I Miss You, or the powerful words of America: “Cause our voices are stronger/Than any guns/Our strength’s in our spirit/So we’ve already won…” We recently met up with the folk singer/songwriter and talked all things music. CLICK FOR INTERVIEW
“Life Is Awesome: Justine, I want to ask you first about your journey from the mountains of British Columbia, to San Francisco, and then to L.A. Tell us about your journey.
Justine: Well I grew up singing in a tiny town in British Columbia, like 140 people. I sang in the choir and just always knew that I wanted to try to do it as a living, to make a living. So I packed my bags when I was 20 and drove down to San Francisco. I didn’t know a soul. And I just kind of found an apartment, and tried to make my way there. And I played as a street musician for 6 years there. I taught myself how to play guitar and started writing songs. And I just decided several years ago that I needed a change and I wanted to move to a warmer climate, and I moved to Los Angeles. And it’s been really amazing. I recorded a record down here and it’s been really incredible. I couldn’t be happier.
LIA: What inspired you to start playing the guitar and how old were you?
Justine: I always sort of tinkered on the piano but it was never enough to really get by, like play a song and sing it, and I always knew that I wanted to sing and write but I didn’t know how to play an instrument well enough, so I guess I was 20 when I picked up the guitar. But I already knew how to play the ukulele and I knew how to make chords. I just had never taken lessons before. I taught myself some chords and started writing a few songs and kind of went from there.
LIA: What would you say is the most interesting place you’ve ever performed?
Justine: I guess playing on the street is the most interesting place you could ever play. I played as a street musician for 6 years in San Francisco with all sorts of people, and it was really challenging trying to get people to stop and actually listen. It’s a really good place to hone your craft because you’re just sort of out there, you know. It’s like, you’re not really on a stage. You’re just there and just trying to get people to hear you.
LIA: Was it ever dangerous doing that? Or was it a pretty good experience?
Justine: Dangerous? Yeah, I got stalked by a guy in San Francisco. He made a t-shirt with my name on it, and then he showed up at the place that I worked with my name actually tattooed on his arm.
LIA: That’s really scary.
Justine: Yeah, I had to get a restraining order. But I guess that was the most danger I encountered, besides being totally freezing, because San Francisco is so cold.
LIA: Okay, I want to ask you about your work with the organization called Invisible Children. Can you tell us what that organization is and what did you do?
Justine: When I recorded my first EP, a friend of mine had been involved with the organization and highly recommended it, and it looked amazing. They help children in Uganda that are used as child soldiers. They help them escape. And I donate a 1/3 of the profits of every sale of my record Invisible to them. They do amazing things for children.
LIA: One last question. A lot of people say that music is the universal language. Why do you think that is?
Justine: Because I think every person can relate in some way to music. Music has no boundaries. It touches everyone in some way. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or what your race is. You can really open people’s hearts with music and really get a message across that you’re trying to get out into the world. “
For more on Justine visit www.JustineBennett.com