I recently had a chance to chat on the phone with former Motion City Soundtrack front-man, Justin Courtney Pierre. Below are the highlights from our conversation, and we chatted about everything from his preparations for his solo tour, his personal life, and what went into making his new record, In the Drink. Justin’s debut solo album is now available everywhere via Epitaph Records.
Thank you Justin for allowing me some time to interview you this afternoon! Can you tell me how the preparations are going for your current tour in support of your debut album, In the Drink?
I’m really pretty nervous about the whole thing, to be honest with you. The fact that it’s just me running the shows, as well as being the booking manager and tour manager is really intimidating and causing me a ton of anxiety. I guess as the expression goes, “I bit off a bit more than I can chew,” ya know?
I get that. I also saw that Facebook post you wrote last evening about your daughter not wanting you to go on tour, that really tugged on my heart strings, and for many others as well. What inspired that post?
Really it was just me wanting to vent and put something out there in writing about how hard it is to be parent and a musician on the road. The vast majority of responses in the comments by my fans were overwhelmingly positive and understanding, which I was a little bit taken back by. I still need to get back to a lot of these fans who sent heart-warming messages of support to me, and I do plan on eventually responding to a lot of their comments.
The post really came across as you being incredibly earnest and honest with your fans. Congratulations on being so open and brave to make a post like that! I have three kids myself, and I can’t imagine being away from them.
Thanks, I appreciate that. How old are your kids?
My oldest is 7, middle child is about to be 5 and youngest just turned one.
Wow! Sounds busy…
Haha, indeed! Tell me a little bit about the recording process for the new record. You worked with your longtime guitarist (from Motion City Soundtrack) in Josh Cain, who is listed as the producer. What was the dynamic like in the studio between you two?
Yeah, it was great to work with Josh again as he is one of the ones I remained closest with after Motion City ended. He really pushed me to think about each of the instruments as its own part, and that since it was my album I could really do unique parts with each of them. For example, I could write with him on a guitar part, then figure out the bass, then track the drums. All in all, it made for a better collaboration and writing process and the dynamic we have of working with each other reminded me of the early stages of Motion City Soundtrack where we were young and just wanted to make great songs.
Did you perform all the instruments on this record?
Everything except for the drums. Those were performed and arranged by David Jarnstrom, from the band Gratitude.
That’s really cool, and you should be proud of the work that went into making this record. You already alluded to this next question, but how was this project different than your writing process for Motion City Soundtrack?
It was really intimidating being just on my own with writing. It was basically me coming up with all the different parts, song structures and lyrics/melodies. With MCS, it was much more of a collaborative process where everyone would bring something unique to the table and we would figure out what would make the most amount of sense for the song/album.
Where did the album name come from? What made you decide to name your debut solo record, In the Drink?
It came from a golfing term, like, “It’s in the drink, ya see?” Many people don’t know this, but I’m an avid golfer. But additionally, I liked the multiple meanings of what In the Drink could mean. Like, I used to be a pretty heavy drinker but now I’m sober, and I used to really lose track of certain key moments in my life that I honestly just can’t remember. It’s a scary thought. But, really I just wanted to name the album that because of all the different meanings it had for me and could have for others listening.
You have been very active on social media with your fans of the new project. Tell me about how you would describe your relationship between yourself and your fans, and why you feel it is important to keep them engaged?
I think for me it comes from a loneliness and wanting to be connected with people. When I’m on tour, I typically won’t talk to the fans after the show because I’m exhausted, but I do like to be active on social media to keep that connection going. I’m not sure if it’s important or not, but it’s something that I plan on continuing to do to engage my listeners in a different way.
What are the biggest lessons you have took from your time on the road as a touring musician over the years?
Biggest lessons I’ve learned? Man, I’m not sure if I would be the right person to give advice. Early on in my career I would be a heavy drinker on the road and there would be certain moments that I honestly couldn’t remember. So, my biggest piece of advice is to just live in the moment and don’t take anything for granted.
What are your plans for 2019 as far as touring and recording?
No plans at the moment. I really just want to get through this tour that wraps up in early December and then just spend some quality time with my family. I don’t have any other touring obligations until early January, so I’m really looking forward to the holidays with my wife and daughter. We’ll likely just catch up on junk TV, each junk food and enjoy each other.
Now that the Warped Tour is no longer a touring festival for this coming Summer, what do you think young bands can do these days to make an impact in today’s scene?
I really have no idea. I can’t imagine what it would be like for a band to just be starting out right now. I’m fortunate enough that a lot of people already know my name and my previous band (MCS) enough for them to care about this solo project. But, I think the biggest thing is for them to just stay true to who they are and everything will hopefully fall into place around them.
Last question, Justin: What are some of today’s current artists that you admire, listen to and/or would like to collaborate with in the near future?
What I’ve been listening to a lot lately are the bands I’m bringing on tour. I really love what the band Pronoun came up with on their latest release, and I’m thrilled to have them with me over the next two months on tour! Other than that, I’ve been listening to a lot of Courtney Barnett. As far as a dream collaboration or tour, she would be one that I would jump at the chance for. I don’t think it would happen, but it’s still fun to dream about it. I think having us both use “Courtney” to our advantage would be brilliant too.
Just think from a marketing standpoint how much billboard space could be saved, haha!
Haha, absolutely! It would just be really cool to work with her, as I admire her work so much.
Thank you Justin for this great conversation today. I wish you the best of luck on your upcoming tour, and I look forward to seeing what else you have in store for your fans in the New Year!
Of course! Thanks for listening and for the interview.