Years ago Juzzie made a choice to avoid the usual pub road of most musicians, and hone his craft on the streets, and in halls and theatres. His latest album Live @ The Zamia Theatre was recorded in his favourite environment – lots of families and no alcohol – and it’s testament to his wildly playful nature. Juzzie will be launching his album on Sunday. He spoke to Mandy Nolan.
How would you describe your musical mission here on Earth? My musical mission would be to reflect with music how lovely life is when you can take time out and make sure you’re feeling awesome.
How have you evolved as a musician in the last five years? I have evolved into just letting go of trying to play and entertain and just have fun doing what I love. I was getting pretty high-tech for a while and then realised this was putting me in my head and taking away the connection I love to have with the audience. So I have evolved into feeling free on stage.
What have been the factors that have been most influential on your musical growth? A huge factor was when I learnt that music is energy and not just a sound. The way I feel, the life I live all goes into the music I create. I’ve learnt to be much more loving to myself in life, which will be felt through my music. This is so beautiful, as music practice is how I live and it all just flows.
What music do you prefer to listen to? I like all sorts of music. I feel music more than listen these days. I have noticed a great-sounding song can be very empty in the loveless way it was created and this can affect me. A lot of music is created with an emotional catch. I love to listen to music that is not imposing and lets me just be me.
How important is storytelling in your music? Storytelling is very important – just got to be clear on the message of the story. I love to let my audience know how a song came to be and the story behind it.
How do you connect with people? The easiest way to connect with people is just be yourself and open up to them. I tell little stories of simple things that we all relate to. I also have a funny side and can be very playful. I learnt a lot at your comedy course, for which I thank you. When people laugh it is like they let go and open up.
Can you feel it when it happens… what made you seek that musical connect? Can you find it in pubs, or does it live in the streets… ? Connection can be felt. I love to connect with all ages and nationalities as to me we are all the same.
Most connection happens when people are clear. In a pub it’s hard to connect as alcohol makes people change and they’re often not themselves. On the streets during the day is a great way to connect as you can stop a person on their mission and just feel them slow down. ‘This is so cool writing this as I can feel why I perform mostly during the day and at markets and halls.’
The harmonica is such a humble instrument, yet it tells a big story. Do you find that instruments seem to have their own way of telling or crafting a song? The harmonica is so humble, it is so close to being your voice. When I first heard the harmonica I was 13 and I clearly remember feeling how it made me stop and just listen. Instruments all have their own sound and ways of crafting a song. With me and my harmonica I just feel one with it and we get very playful together.
Can you tell me something amazing that has happened to you while performing? It is all so amazing. I will share a beautiful moment when I was playing at a market recently on the Sunshine Coast. A little boy who was just learning to walk came straight up to me in his cool overalls. His legs were all wobbly as he was just keeping his balance. Then when I played the beats and put the groove into the song the little boy started rocking his body doing the cutest dance moves. There would have been more than 100 people with the biggest smiles watching this beautiful moment. I had tears of joy and played this groove for the next 10 minutes. We were all connected.
What keeps you going as a musician? Loving life is my secret to playing music. Always learning and letting go of what doesn’t support me helps my music grow.
What is next for Juzzie Smith? I’m going to play in Canada in a couple of weeks. I’m booked in to a few street-busking festivals, which are great for what I do. Going to be lovely to share my music on the other side of the world.
What can we expect for your Ewingsdale Hall show next week? I’ve just released a new live album so I will be playing tracks of this and telling stories of how the songs came to be and how I created these songs. There will be laughter, participation and a lot of fun in a lovely intimate setting. This is a lovely venue for all ages so bring the whole family.
Ewingsdale Hall, Sunday