Today’s Feature – September 17-18: Justina Carubia

September 23, 2008 at 6:23 pm (Today's Feature)

When introducing any PensEyeView artist, we always looks for some sort of topic to kick things off – something that’ll really stand out in the minds of our readers. There’s so much we can talk about with today’s feature: Justina Carubia. We could tell you about her four Asbury Music Award nominations, the fact she writes all of her songs, or about her “soft, yet soulful rock vocal approach.” But that’s not how we’re kicking things off. I want to talk about song covers.

Song covers are underappreciated. A cover song can tell you so much about an artist – what they like, how they see music. I mean, seriously, it can tell you the true identity of an artist. With that said, have you checked out Carubia’s take on Flo Rida’s smash, “Low?” Of course, an acoustic version of a hip-hop hit is different, but listen to her take! She adds a whole new flare to the hit. When you hear her EP, “Last One Standing,” you’ll hear what I’m talking about – though in a different tone from a “Low” cover. The EP deals in rejection. Justina says, “I was at a really low point after my first EP (Break of Day): I got turned down by a few labels, dealt with the breakup of my live band, and with ‘friends’ I couldn’t really rely on. Rejection is something everyone has experienced, and it can really make you feel horrible and worthless. So I really wanted to make a collection of songs to inspire others who are going through the same thing, and give them hope to come out a stronger person.”

“Last One Standing” is pure Justina Carubia – she was able to control the project from start to finish (so no doubt you’ll notice the flare I’ve mentioned). Come out to a performance – she’s had tons of experience to produce the quality show she has now. She’ll be hitting up FYE stores in the near future to play for and meet her fans, and then focusing on a full album. We can’t wait. Get into the XXQ’s for a lot more.

XXQs: Justina Carubia (PEV): Tell how you first decided to become a musician? Was it something you always wanted to do or did some event spark the idea?

JC: It was the beginning of my freshman year of college (2001), around the time that the female singer songwriters like Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton, and Jewel, were really dominating the market. It really caught my interest, and I had always had a love for singing and poetry so I really wanted to try something of my own. I asked my dad for a guitar for my 18th birthday, so he got me one and showed me some chords. I pretty much took it and ran with it. It just came very natural to me.

PEV: A New Jersey native, what kind of music were you listening to growing up?

JC: I grew up with my parents blasting records by The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Carly Simon, James Taylor, Paul Simon, and Eric Clapton, so it was a nice mix of Folk and Rock. My mom also played a lot of chick rock like The Bangles, The Go Gos, Blondie, and Pat Benatar…there’s just something so tough and cool about being a rock chick!

PEV: Along with being an Asbury Music Award Nominee, you also recently made your television debut with the unreleased song “Oxygen” on Philadelphia’s The 10! Show. How did that come about and what were your thoughts of the show?

JC: I started working with a booking agent and he gave me the offer. I jumped at it right away! I had never done TV before, and it is an amazing opportunity to be able to reach so many people at once…it went really well, and I networked with a lot of people. It’s important to network any way you can!

PEV: What was it like for you when you were first breaking into the music business? Before you started playing regular gigs?

JC: When I first started out I was playing a lot of open mics and coffeehouses. I haven’t stopped playing any of those things, open mics are actually still a good practice to get out and do, if I don’t have any gigs scheduled. It’s still a struggle to get my music heard, and build that following.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Justina Carubia show?

JC: Lately I have been playing all of my shows acoustic, so they are pretty intimate settings where I get to kinda talk to the crowd and tell stories behind the songs. I also like to mix up the set list all the time. I’ll bring back some of my older songs my fans have grown to know and love, or I’ll break out a brand new song, maybe even a cover song. I think I have become a lot more daring with the carelessness of a set…. I forget words or chords to my own songs, and I shrug it off. Not that I don’t care, of course I do, but careless is so much more rock n’ roll! It seems to give the audience a little laugh, and humor in a set is always fun! I also love some audience participation!

PEV: How have your shows evolved from when you first started out?

JC: My live shows have gone through so many changes, starting out as an acoustic act, and then performing with a band, then back to the acoustic thing. I think change is important; it keeps the audience coming back. I think I’m taking more chances now, vocally. I’m playing more vocally demanding songs live, and I’m getting more comfortable doing so. I’m finding myself as a performer, not just a studio vocalist anymore.

PEV: Any embarrassing or crazy live show stories?

JC: About a week ago I had a show in NYC, and a drunken construction worker started dancing to “Oxygen” right in front of me…he had his hard hat on and everything. It’s hard to get through those kinds of things without cracking up, so I just encourage it. I told him to “drop it like it’s hot”…it gave the audience a good laugh! One of my friends even started dancing with him, so that was funny…Yea I also have habits of swallowing bugs, or having them fly into my face during those outdoor shows…

PEV: If you could collaborate with one artist out today, who would it be and why?

JC: I would love to collaborate with a lot of people, it’s so hard to choose just one! I would really love to collab with Stevie Nicks though. She has been an idol of mine for a very long time, and I know she has worked with many other favorite artists of mine like Sheryl Crow and Vanessa Carlton so her style would probably compliment mine as well. Also she just seems like a very graceful yet strong presence. It would be an honor to do a song with her!

PEV: As well, is there an up and coming artist right now that you think we should all be looking out for?

JC: I am a big fan of Terra Naomi who has grown a huge fan base from her You Tube page. Also, fellow musician and Jerseyan’s band Charlotte Sometimes has been doing really well making a name for themselves. I used to play shows with her at local cafes and now she’s playing Warped Tour, so that is pretty amazing to see things happen for someone so close to home.

PEV: Tell us, what can fans expect from your long awaited follow-up EP “Last One Standing”(Nov. 2007)?

JC: It was a musical journey for me. It touches a lot on the theme of rejection. I was at a really low point after my first EP: I got turned down by a few labels, dealt with the breakup of my live band, and with “friends” I couldn’t really rely on. Rejection is something everyone has experienced, and it can really make you feel horrible and worthless. So I really wanted to make a collection of songs to inspire others who are going through the same thing, and give them hope to come out a stronger person.

PEV: How is “Last One Standing” different from your May of 2005 five-song debut EP titled “Break of Day”?

JC: Most of the songs on Break of Day were written when I had just started out, and I even co-wrote a couple. The production was in the control of the producers, they did all the music on their time, and I came in and did vocals when they needed me. I wasn’t as involved as I would have liked to be, and there was a deadline, so I felt like those songs weren’t really developed the way they should have been. With Last One Standing, I saw the project from beginning to the very end; Writing every song and melody, The pre-production, the studio sessions with every musician that played on every track, to the album artwork, vocals of course, down to the mixing/mastering/packaging, and even designed my own website. I had full control of the 2nd EP, so I feel like that was my baby, and I am so proud of it. I also feel like with LOS, you can hear the difference in the content, and in my voice. I have definitely matured as a writer, and with this collection of songs I think I really found my voice. I was a lot more daring with hitting higher notes, and doing more vocal riffs.

Working with Wayne Dorell (Hey Tiger), who produced LOS, was a comfortable and creative experience. We really took our time with things, and made sure everything was 100% before moving on to the next track…. Are there things I’d still change about LOS? Of course, but that’s just the perfectionist in me!

PEV: When you sit down to write an album like “Last One Standing” what kind of environment do you surround yourselves in?

JC: When I write, I like to lock myself in my room and just tune the world out. I feel bad for abandoning the people around me, but sometimes it helps to get into that introverted kinda mode. I always/usually write alone. Writing songs is very private to me, just as it is writing in a diary, which is why I find it so hard to co-write. I’m only able to write with those who I feel a certain comfortable connection with…it’s hard to explain, but maybe I’m just musically strange, hahaha!

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Justina Carubia?

JC: I used to be extremely shy back in high school, and never dreamed in a million years that I would be doing something that involved performing in front of people. I never even did chorus in high school because I was scared to sing in front of people. It takes getting a little older and growing some confidence to realize that if you’re given a gift, you should use it, or at least try to.

PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to all your success?

JC: They’re all so amazingly supportive of what I have achieved so far, I’m really fortunate to have that support system. Some kids have parents who want them to be lawyers and doctors, something that has a promising income. But my parents are John Lennon fans, they’re definitely dreamers, I’m not the only one 😛

PEV: If we were to walk into your practice studio right now, what’s one thing we’d most likely find?

JC: I know it sounds really glamorous and all, but my practice studio is actually my room, haha! I have a pretty big walk in closet with a desk, so I have my laptop set up in there, and of course a pen, notepad and guitar. It’s its own little nook in my house, and I know nobody will bother me there. Also lots of candles, incense, and glasses of green tea help to relax and clear the mind.

PEV: How is life on the road for you? Good parts? Bad parts?

JC: I traveled a couple times to support my music, but never have I done a full on tour. That is definitely a dream of mine! In any event, gas station bathrooms are definitely not the best things about traveling! The good part is seeing what each city has to offer, networking my @$$ off and trying a different restaurant each night… I love food!

PEV: In your opinion, is there a certain city (US or International) that you find to be the best city for music?

JC: A couple weeks ago I played in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in NY. It was a very quaint area; there were music clubs all over the place. NYC is great, I love going into the city! I also have a love for New Hope, PA, Sedona, AZ, and Savannah, GA. I just got back from Philly though, and South Street is just happening with the music…I hope to play there again soon!

PEV: As well, where’s one place you haven’t played, you would like to? Why?

JC: I would LOVE to visit New Orleans because I have heard so much about the streets being filled with music all hours of the night! It’s just one big party! Also I would really love to go to Nashville, TN and take a trip to Music Row.

PEV: Where do you think you’ll be ten years from now?

JC: It’s kinda scary to think of 10 years from now, when I don’t even know what’s gonna happen tomorrow…or even 5 minutes from now for that matter! I hope to still be rocking out and creating more. Most importantly, I hope I can eventually do music comfortably enough to make a nice living out of it. I hope I’m not stuck at this day job forever!!

PEV: So, what’s next for Justina Carubia?

JC: I have a consignment deal with FYE stores in the works… I have been writing all through last winter, so I have a catalogue of new songs waiting to be recorded. I would really love to do a full album, and I would really love to tour. I guess we’ll just wait and see!

For more information on Justina Carubia, check out:


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