Robb Justice gets his inspiration from country music legends, and earlier this spring the leader of the Americana-style band that bears his name had a chance to meet — and jam with — some of the Nashville greats during a trip to the country music capital in Tennessee.
This summer, The Robb Justice Band will be bringing their creative force to Hooligans bar in Soldotna, as they close out for Hobo Jim on Friday and Saturday evenings through June and July.
Justice and bandmate Derek Poppin headed to Nashville from April 8 to 15 in order to build contacts in the music industry, to get some knowledge to bring back home and to attend Tin Pan South, the famous songwriter festival.
Justice spent the week in a number of creative sessions that he had set up ahead of his trip, and found time to play music with and get songwriting feedback from a number of well-known Nashville players and composers, among them country music legend Vince Gill and singer Margo Price.
The highlight of the week came when Justice and Poppin played a short set at the Bluebird Café, the iconic Nashville bar where the line outside was over three hours long.
“If there was one thing to do as a songwriter going to Nashville, it was to go and play at the Bluebird Café,” Justice said.
The local artist said 26 people were able to play original songs on the night he performed, but that the Kenai Peninsula duo was among eight musicians who were invited to play a second song.
“To be in a room full of people who are into songs and songwriting — that makes it really fun,” Justice said.
Justice doesn’t have plans to head south in search of stardom anytime soon. He says that his trip to Nashville opened his eyes to the level of professionalism in the performances he saw, but that his goal is to bring that level of quality entertainment to the Kenai.
“Moving to Nashville, I could have done that a long time ago if that’s where I wanted to be. One of our goals was to go down there and learn some things to apply to what we’re doing back up here,” Justice said. “Honestly, just trying to compare what we’re doing to what they’re doing down there — it really gave me a lot of confidence.”
The Robb Justice Band includes bassist Scot Q Merry, guitarist Poppin and drummer Dave Tremper. The group formed about three years ago, although Justice and Merry have been playing together on the Kenai Peninsula for more than eight years.
Justice says the journey to Nashville helped confirm the direction he hopes to take his songwriting, which he has centered around a better understanding of storytelling, and to share those insights with other musicians in the area.
“We have an incredible amount of talent around here,” Justice said. He hopes that his collaboration with Hooligans will greatly improve the production quality of the shows, and will help create a baseline model that can help to showcase that musical talent. To that end, they’ve spent a great deal of time working with Hooligan’s management to improve lighting and sound equipment, something that will benefit all musicians who play at the venue.
“Playing simple music is one of the hardest things to do,” said Justice. “It’s not an easy thing to play a simple song perfectly from beginning to end. There’s just so many elements in even a two-minute song.”
The Robb Justice Band will be playing at Hooligan’s in Soldotna on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the summer, closing out the evenings for Hobo Jim. Their first night will be June 3.
For its part, Hooligans has given Justice creative license with redecorating and with improving the sound system.
“We decided to take Hooligans back to its roots — old-school Alaskan,” said bar owner Molly Blakeley-Poland.
The bar has redecorated with boots, buoys, nets and old guitars, and has updated its menu. Blakely-Poland said the establishment has been looking for a house band for quite some time, and when Justice approached her about the possibility of playing, it seemed like a great fit.
“He’s very good at what he does, and he has an awesome setup. It’s just going to really improve the sound and experience,” Blakeley-Poland said.
Both Hobo Jim and The Robb Justice Band take their inspiration from the Alaska landscape and from the folk and Americana roots. Following up for Hobo Jim will work well, because compared to the ballad style, “Our music is going to be a little bit more danceable,” Justice said.
The Robb Justice Band will also be releasing music on their website during the summer. Two singles, “From This Prison” and “Why Oh Why,” have already been released, and are both original works with solid blues foundations and a country twang. The catchy lyrics and driving instrumentals of both songs will be part of a full album coming out later this summer.
For more information about the band or to check out their latest releases, visit their Facebook page or their website at www.robbjustice.com. All music is available through their website and on iTunes.