Justin Nozuka talks dreamy, psilocybin-inspired single

Toronto-based R&B artist on ‘summer night o8’ and upcoming EP 

Nozuka’s latest single “summer night o8” was recorded under the influence of psilocybin.
Credit: 
Supplied by Hive Mind

“I see no reason / to hold back these feelings,” sings R&B artist Justin Nozuka in his latest track, “summer night o8,” written and performed under the psychedelic influence of psilocybin.

The track might never have happened if not for a rainy summer day in Toronto two years ago, Nozuka told The Journal.

On that day in 2019, Nozuka and his friend Mitch went to the park to enjoy some warm August weather while tripping on magic mushrooms. When a thunderstorm rolled in, they decided to head to the studio and record some music instead.

“Life is so weird in that way,” Nozuka said. “Literally every little thing, every decision you make affects everything […] This was so close to not existing.”

Nozuka started playing music at the age of 12, and released his first album, Holly, a collection of folk tracks,when he was in Grade 11.

For his latest two singles, “summer night o8” and “No One But You,” Nozuka fully embraced his background in 90s R&B and soul—the type of music that got him into singing in the first place.

“When I got into music at 12, I naturally was like, ‘this is what I’m gonna do.’ It wasn’t really ever a question […] My dreams were pretty big with it so I just kept pushing and grew into it,” he said.

While his earlier work is impressive and features some R&B influence, it’s mostly bluegrass and folk. Nozuka feels that arriving at his new sound—the chill, airy vibes of “summer night o8”—marks his evolution into an authentic artist.

“R&B music was how I learned to sing,” he said. “Singing fully in that lane feels really real and feels like home for me.”

A big part of Nozuka’s journey as a singer has been learning to let his feelings inform his work. He first started playing shows in Toronto, after relocating there from New York City following his parents’ divorce.

“A lot of my childhood experiences play a big role in my music […] Because life is so obscure and abstract, it’s hard to really pinpoint any of it, and what exactly is influencing what,” Nozuka said.

“One thing I can say is when I was a young child, I used to cry all the time […] I was able to channel that same energy that I would use, those same muscles. I feel like my voice got strong because of all the crying.”

By some mixture of these influences—talent, determination, childhood anguish, and random chance—Nozuka keeps finding his way back to soul music.

His upcoming EP, which remains untitled for now, will release sometime this winter.

“How it rained on that day / might just be classic,” Nozuka sings in “summer night o8” as thunder raged outside the studio and the psilocybin molecules attached themselves to the serotonin receptors in his brain.

It’s bizarre to think how this track might not exist without the specific movement of warm and cool air, and the perfect accumulation of moisture in the clouds at the right time and place.

“One of the most exciting things is having a vision of where you want to be and walking into it,” Nozuka said. “That’s one of the most surreal things.”

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