Good Old War / Justin Nozuka

Good Old War / Justin Nozuka

Justin Nozuka, River Matthews

Mon · March 5, 2018

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

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This event is 21 and over

The State Room | 638 S. State St. |

We are a 21 and over venue featuring the best in nationally touring artists.  

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Good Old War
Good Old War
A band resembles a brotherhood. No matter how fate twists and turns, the initial bond between members only strengthens over time. That’s undoubtedly been the case for Good Old War. The critically acclaimed Philadelphia trio—Keith Goodwin [vocals, guitar, keys], Dan Schwartz [guitar, vocals], and Tim Arnold [drums, keys, accordion, vocals]—extended their longstanding personal connection to fans over the course of four full-length albums, anthems like “Amazing Eyes” and “Coney Island,” and countless shows alongside everyone from Alison Krauss and Brandi Carlile to Dr. Dog and Dispatch. This tradition continues throughout the group’s 2017 EP series, beginning with Part of Me [NETTWERK]. Progressing their patented pastiche of dreamy folk, gusty roots, and soulful indie, the musicians draw on their creative union to take another bold step forward.
“I feel like we used all of our strengths that we built over the last ten years and worked them into the new music more than ever,” says Keith. “From the very beginning of the songs to the end, we were all there for it. I’m feeling a lot of love for these guys. The energy is at an all-time high.”
Dan adds, “Even the mellower songs have an element of excitement. We’re playing the same instruments, singing with the same voices, and using the same brains to write. At the same time, things are a little different.”
For starters, Tim returned to the fold in 2017. Mired in a battle against drug and alcohol addiction, the drummer amicably split from his bandmates in order to seek help during 2014. In the meantime, Dan and Keith released 2015’s Broken Into Better Shape buoyed by the hit “Tell Me What You Want From Me,” which cumulatively surpassed 7 million Spotify streams between the original and acoustic versions.
However, they never lost touch with Tim, speaking weekly. When he became ready, Dan and Keith welcomed him back.
“I needed to get my shit together,” admits Tim. “Who knows what would’ve happened if I didn’t stop, or if I didn’t leave the band to find help. I’d probably be dead or in jail. Thankfully, I got the assistance I needed. After six months of treatment and self-discovery, I came back and said to the guys, ‘Whatever you want to know, you can ask me. I’m done lying to everybody. Say whatever you want to say. I’ll be honest.’ I was prepared for them to tell me to fuck off because it’s what I deserved, but that’s not how it happened,” he smiles. “We’ve been practicing a lot. I’m not all messed up. There’s a different spirit driving the bus now, so to speak. We’ve got that template, but we’re putting something fresh into it and making things explode.”
That energy carries through the title track and first single “Part Of Me.” Slide guitar and delicate finger-picking entwine with heartfelt lyrics, “We’ve gotta run. If you’re holding on, the seams will come undone, and you only get part of me.”
"It’s a note to Tim and Dan about moving on together, not dwelling on the past and letting our love for music take us forward.” “The words are about following your heart,” Keith elaborates. “Go with your gut and what feels right. Don’t ever settle. That’s the idea.”
Meanwhile, the EP opener and follow-up single “The River” shuffles ahead on a bright beat before culminating on an empowering chant, “We’ve got skills but we’re living on luck. I think we’re doing just fine.”
“I wrote the lyrics about what Tim was going through,” Dan remarks. “One day, he said something to me about being like water. It relates to relationships. Things come and go. We have to flow with them. We’re all headed to the same place. We just have to make good on all that.”
In the end, you could say Tim puts the “Old” back in Good Old War—Keith Goodwin, Tim Arnold, Dan Schwartz—and “The old is what is good again.”
It’s just a little brighter now…
“There’s a threefold experience I want people to walk away from the EPs with,” Tim leaves off. “I want them to relate, I want them to be able to move and dance, and I hope they can apply it to their own lives. If I have those three things in a song, it’s a great one to me.”
“This process helped us realize what we’re all individually best at by working collectively,” concludes Dan. “It’s all about the future together. We’re just going to stay focused on the present moment and make sure we’re kicking ass right every day.”
Justin Nozuka
Justin Nozuka
He’s been stuck in a cold dirty well, his life flashing before him. He’s imagined his mischievous actions have led to a criminal charge and hiding out in Mexico. He’s put himself in a neighbouring apartment to an abusive household. JUSTIN NOZUKA has quite an imagination and uses it to write gripping, soulful songs that belie his age.

On his debut full-length album, Holly, due out this fall, the 18-year-old Toronto-based singer-songwriter has fleshed out many of the songs he’s been playing on acoustic guitar the past year for intimate audiences. Now, with recent opening slots for Ziggy Marley, Sam Roberts, Xavier Rudd and The Philosopher Kings, he is poised to build his audience one fan at a time, impressing those with his engaging personality, ear-bending lyrics and a rugged soulful voice.

Two songs in particular truly stun the listener into wondering how a person still in his teens can spin such tales, and in a way that is fully formed and far from run-of-the-mill.

“Criminal” is a gripping, teeth-clenched acoustic rocker that could easily become a massive teen anthem.

The lyric is self-explanatory. Justin was hanging out with his buddies on the street, smoked pot for the first time, and for fun threw a bottle in the air, which smashed on the ground. The boys scattered. When he got home, paranoia took over and he envisioned the next morning a child playing and falling on the glass.

“I woke up and the guilt was gone…turned on the television screen /emergency / news team / little girl crying on the street / saying glass made my feet bleed…tell me, what am I gonna do?..I have no choice but to run / ‘cause I’m a criminal,” he sings, leading into the catchy chorus.

In “Save Him,” the stunning story chronicles the binding love of a couple whose public face is very different than what goes on behind closed doors. It is almost difficult to listen to and quite paralyzing for those five-and-a-half minutes.

“Deep at night I am awakened from my dreams / Next door, yelling cries mercy / she is begging ‘Please. Don’t end my life; you’re all I need.’… She said, ‘Save him, save him from the hand that he beats me on,’” Justin sings with conviction.

The album opens with the bluesy “Down In A Cold Dirty Well,” an ominous acoustic song that Justin inexplicably wrote about falling down a well. “You’re helpless. No one’s ever gonna find you and you’re thinking, ‘I’m never gonna see my mom, my best friend, my brothers and sisters, the stars, you know what I mean?” he explains. “I’m never gonna see these things that everyday I take for granted.

“But it could also mean being in a terrible place in your life and nothing is gonna help you. For me, I wrote it actually as the story says, but my sister was like, ‘Oh, I thought you meant emotionally.’”

Not all Justin’s songs are fiction, made up stories he has not experienced first-hand.

Love songs like the gorgeous “Golden Train,” pained plea “Mr. Therapy Man” and starry breakthrough “After Tonight” are from the heart of a true romantic who has had his share of good and bad relationships. While love is an age-old theme, Justin’s lyrics read like poetry, as if he’s the first person to ever express such things.

“How can I look at the moon, when I know that moon shines upon you / through that window in your room,” he sings in the heartbreaking lament “Supposed To Grow Old” and “It seems like just yesterday / when you stole my breath away / you walked into my life / you completed my soul,” he sings in “I’m In Peace.”

Then there’s a love song that many teens would shy away from expressing — “Oh Momma,” written for his mother, Holly, after whom he titled the album.

“We’ve all been through a lot in our family and my mom, she’s always stuck there and she’s been taking care of all of us. Without her, we’d all been dead,” Justin laughs, speaking of himself and his four brothers and two sisters. “She provided us with everything and at the end of the day she’s the reason why I’m here and I just love her.

“That song is me just telling her ‘Thank you so much.’ She’s been through so much in her life and I think she’s happy because everybody has grown up to be great people, all my brothers and sisters. Nobody’s crazy; nobody’s messed up.”

Born in New York to a Japanese-born father and Canadian-born mother, Justin moved to Canada at age 8 with his mother and siblings after his parents’ divorce. He attended St. Andrews College, a boarding school in Aurora, ON, where he learned to play guitar in grade 8 from his Mexican friends and began writing songs at age 12. He also appeared in two musicals, which ingrained in him his love of performing. “I loved the rush,” he remembers.

The next year, he switched to Toronto’s Etobicoke School Of Arts, a very different kind of public school where he could properly develop his musical skills. He has never been in a rock band, but used to sing in an R&B group with his brothers. It was in 2005, while attending a four-day songwriting workshop at Humber College, that he met a couple of established Canadian artists that would introduce him to key people in the music industry.

Jacksoul’s Haydain Neale, one of the artists who led the workshop, gave him a free demo session, which yielded one of two co-writes on the album, “After Tonight,” a near-finished song he brought to Haydain and they worked on it together. It is now the most popular track on his MySpace site and a crowd favorite. It recently took top spot in a vote-for competition on BMI’s web site.

The other co-write is with a local songwriter Pete Cugno, who also attended the workshop and helped with “If I Gave You My Life.”

But the main person from the workshop who got things rolling for Justin was singer Damhnait Doyle of Shaye (she guests on “If I Gave You My Life”), who told Allan Reid, senior vice-president of A&R at Universal Music Canada, about him. After coming to see Justin’s very first solo show at Mitzi’s Sister in Toronto, he offered to fund some demos (“no strings attached,” says Justin) with producer Bill Bell (Shaye). Those initial demos led to Bill doing the whole album.

“He was just very organic,” says Justin of Bill’s approach. “We tried things. Some stuff didn’t work; a lot of the stuff did. We just fooled around basically and just let it happen smoothly. We didn’t rush into it. We were both open. He doesn’t take too much control, but he takes enough. At the end of the day, he was like, ‘This is your song. I want you to be happy with it.’”

“Mr. Therapy Man” underwent a complete change, he says. “Before, we were playing with acoustic guitar and the band was all in and Bill started stripping it away and he took a ukulele and played the chords so it wasn’t as loud but it still had that edge, and then he put in the horn and the slide guitar.

“For ‘’Save Him,’ we didn’t want so much stuff in there. It doesn’t get as crazy with the production and the main reason for that was to get the lyrics across.”

Justin has one year left before he graduates from the Etobicoke School of Arts, but it’s the type of school that encourages and supports his music career. He has started playing as much as possible, club gigs, festivals, colleges, anywhere he can. “I want to start touring, gaining experience in playing in other places other than Toronto. I want to see what the vibe is like.”

— Karen Bliss
River Matthews
Venue Information:
The State Room
638 South State Street
Salt Lake City, UT, 84111