Burlington, Vermont-based and Berklee College of Music alum, Justin Levinson has recently released his fourth independent project. This Side of Me, This Side of You, and it’s been lauded as his best effort to date. Justin’s sound is primarily pop/rock with a touch of folk (a bit more twang was thrown in on his 2009 effort, Predetermined Fate). He’s gained radio support from over 350 U.S. stations and his songwriting has been recognized by Billboard, ASCAP, and SiriusXM. I asked Justin about his return to more of pop/rock sound and, since some funds for his latest project came from a Kickstarter campaign, his experience in crowdfunding for an independent release.
JW: Your recent project, This Side of Me, This Side of You, is a Kickstarter success story. Though I’m sure the argument could be made that live performances in themselves are a type of crowdfunding, what inspired you to go the on-line crowdfunding route? What advice would you give a fellow musician in planning such a campaign?
JL: I had decided to do the kickstarter campaign at the time because a lot my friends in the industry were giving them a shot. I honestly didn’t set the bar too high or put too much effort into it. I was successful in regards to off setting the costs of a few studio days. Although I have no complaints, in the future I’d like to do more fundraising through online performances and incentives for my e-mail list fans. I’m glad so many folks are able to fund projects this way, but personally I had trouble asking people for money. Most of my funding for the record actually came from royalty checks of my previous records. I would encourage fellow Indie musicians to register with Sound Exchange and a performing rights organization. It’s amazing how many people are owed money and don’t even know it. Thanks to a lot of radio play and licensing I was able to make This Side Of Me, This Side Of You.
JW: The 90’s band, Papas Fritas, took their name to mean “Pop Has Freed Us”. How would you say pop has freed you from the label of alt-country, especially compared to the musical focus of your last effort, Predetermined Fate?
JL: Well I felt really true to myself and authentic by making an Indie/Powerpop record again. In all honestly I made Predetermined Fate for all the wrong reasons. I was getting frustrated by being called the next Ben Folds or a failed Ben Folds Prototype and I picked up the guitar and made am alt- country record. I understand now that no matter what you do, people are going to compare you to something they recognize. Although Folds is a clear influence in my work, I believe I have something different to offer. So far this new record seems to be doing well and my fans enjoy it. I can’t imagine anything more freeing than making this record that encompasses so much of me.
JW: In terms of connection to your fans versus connection to your personal friends, which has been better for you: Facebook or Twitter?
JL: I think the combination of the two is where it’s at. Post on twitter and link it to facebook. It kills two birds with one stone. Both social mediums are brilliant!