Justin Levinson plans busy schedule in 2013

Justin Levinson
Justin Levinson

John Waite fans will be treated to two opening acts at his Jan. 26 performance at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, Mass., including Somerset’s own Shaun Hague, as well as indie/power-pop artist Justin Levinson.

While Levinson is yet to hear Hague’s music, he’s been told Hague has a strong following in Fall River, and is looking forward to Hague’s set. He’s also excited to be opening for Waite.

“I admire John Waite’s music a lot and it’s an honor to be able to share the stage with him,” Levinson said. “I hope that John Waite’s fans appreciate what I do.”

Levinson will mostly be playing music from his latest full-length recording, “This Side of Me, This Side of You,” which he released a year ago. It features his full-band, Justin and the Valcours, and 10 tracks about love and loss.

But Levinson, who is inspired by artists such as The Beatles, The Everly Brothers, The Hollies, Elvis Presley, Elton John, Bob Dylan, as well as his father, singer-songwriter Bob Levinson, prefers to call it, “feel-good heartbreak.”

“I deal with some serious themes, but I try not to make it overkill,” he said. “There’s a little bit of heart-on-sleeve humor in the music. I try not to take myself too seriously, but also try to express emotions at the same time. That’s what separates it from the other heartbreak albums out there. Writing about love and loss are common themes, but I think the twist out of the music I do is the ‘feel-good’ part and the humor I put in.”

On New Year’s Day, he released a follow-up, three-song EP, “Take Me Time,” which he described as more hopeful than the previous album, as its theme is moving forward.

Aside from working on new material for another full-length recording, he’s gearing up for a TV appearance on WTNH News 8 in New Haven, CT, with is full band, Justin Levinson & The Valcours. The show will air Jan. 28 at 9:00 a.m.

Levinson said he’s pleased he’s going to be touring in 2013 to promote his recent recordings. Last year, he joined Tyler Hilton, who stars in The WB Television Network show, “One Tree Hill,” and has also opened for Waite. This year, Levinson’s anticipating an “extensive tour,” but was mum on details because it hasn’t been finalized.

He did say it might take place in February or March.

“The focus is to do as much touring as possible in 2013,” said Levinson. “There’s already been some talk about some pretty exciting things coming up. I just can’t announce it yet.”

When he’s not touring with national acts, Levinson gigs throughout the Northeast, including Vermont, where he resides and grew up. Usually, he is accompanied by his band, for which he handles vocals and rhythm guitar, an instrument he taught himself how to play by ear later in life.

He’s been playing piano for 20 years – since he was seven – and has been singing since middle school. But he started playing guitar about five years ago when he graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he studied Songwriting Composition. He decided to learn guitar because he felt keys limited him from using certain rhythms.

It’s also helped him develop a presence of his own.

“When you play piano and sing tenor vocals, everybody wants to say you sound like Ben Folds,” Levinson said. “Playing guitar enables me to separate from the Ben Folds syndrome.”

Levinson doesn’t get to tour with his band as often as he would like because of costs, but said guitarist Sean Witters, bassist Seth Barbiero and drummer Simon Plumpton, are great friends and band mates.

He particularly enjoys performing in Boston, a city he lived – and gigged in – for five years during college. His years at Berklee, he said, were “amazing.”

“You have to spend time learning theory, which is not easy by any means, but I got to spend a lot of time in my apartment just writing songs,” he said. “I wouldn’t have had that experience at any other college. I also got to meet producers and record music four and five days a week. It was such an important part of my musical career, so a lot of my fan base is in Boston and Burlington. It’s kind of a dual hometown type of thing for me.”

Levinson said he’s always happy to talk about his experience at Berklee. While he said the college has a reputation as being a “pop-factory”, he’s proud, and grateful, for his education.

“When you mention that you went to Berklee, people are tough critics,” Levinson said. “People have this false perception that everybody that comes out of the school is this cookie-cutter, robotic songwriter, and it’s not the case at all. I think it was the most freeing place ever, but I’ve learned what times are best to talk about it and when it’s not. If there are any aspiring songwriters out there that want to have the greatest musical experience they should definitely consider going there.”

He also said people should definitely consider going to see him open for John Waite at the Narrows. Tickets to the show can be purchased online at www.narrowscenter.org or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the box office. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Our publisher, JKB Booking, is presenting the show. They can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jkbbooking.

Learn more about Levinson at www.justinlevinson.com. His music is available on iTunes and CD Baby.com

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