When it comes to creating music, Justin Beckler says it's all about trusting your instincts and letting go. With this kind of approach it's no wonder that the American roots rocker is creating his own brand of soulful music with a purity and passion that's undeniable.
Beckler went in to his latest release, Oh! My Troubled Mind, with the intention of recording an album of spiritual hymns.
"I wasn't really raised in any kind of religious family," says the singer-songwriter. "I never went to church or anything like that. I just wanted to create something that felt pure."
But when he began writing, Beckler says the music took over and he ended up with something unexpected.
"The music started coming apart at the seems," he says. "Being in a state of isolation, the music was trying to break free so it turned into this funky, bluesy, kind of wild gospel album and I'm pretty proud of it."
Perhaps it is this artistic freedom of expression that makes Beckler's rare talent and originality refreshing in a world of manufactured music. With a musical philosophy that won't allow him to let his head get in the way, what comes across through Beckler's music is a whole lot of edgy emotion.
"Eliminate thought totally and just go on your gut instinct," he says.
The 28-year-old musician remains at the helm of creating his sound. He writes and produces all of his music and takes time from his own career to act as producer to other singer-songwriters.
"I definitely love that aspect of going into the studio and creating something out of nothing and creating an energy," says Beckler adding, "It's what I love to do, it's my passion."
Beckler began his musical journey when he picked up the guitar at a young age. Like a lot of teenagers, he says he was all about "being in the band" in high school. But music took a back seat when he decided to pursue a career in film. Writing screenplays, Beckler says, didn't provide the right artistic outlet. One day he wrote a song.
"I never wrote another word of screenwriting or playwriting ever again."
"There's only so much expression you can get from sitting behind a word processor so I think at that point I was feeling like I needed to stand on a mountain and scream," he laughs.
Since his debut in 2002 with Crowded Rooms, Beckler has released two more albums that have traced his development as a musician. With the first album, he concentrated more on lyrics, on the second, Wake Up Process, Beckler says the focus landed on the songs. With Oh! My Troubled Mind, Beckler had planted the seeds and says it was time to watch them grow.
The album showcases Beckler's ability to capture a mix of rock, blues, gospel and folk. He stamps these genres with a fresh originality alongside echoes of the past. Influenced by the Delta Blues and the music of Leadbelly, Son House and Memphis Minnie, Beckler says being progressive meant returning to his roots and paying homage to the past.
"You can be mindful of the past and take from the past but you really have to bring it into your own generation to make it relevant," he says. "I think this album kind of straddles that line a little bit."
For Beckler, making an album is an exploration of the past as well as a journey to places you've never been before. With his latest album, the singer-songwriter says it was imperative to push the envelope and leap into unfamiliar territory.
"I would be in the studio and I would be singing and I would just let it go and anywhere that it went, is where it went and I used it. That felt like the right choice at the time. That felt real to me."
Traveling to the past and unknown depths within himself, it seems Beckler has found the right formula. But it all comes back to instinct.
"I think your instinct should really take over when you are writing a piece of music. When you do that, then your passion and your heart will just come through."
Beckler is planning to tour up and down the US East Coast and says he would like to come to Canada.
Visit www.myspace.com/justinbeckler to hear some songs from Oh! My Troubled Mind.
Writer: Meghan Wubs