It’s a Sunday evening at Rickshaw Stop, and Canadian-American singer songwriter, Justin Nozuka, graces the captivated audience with his smooth, dream-like vocals over uplifting instrumentals beautifully woven by his ensemble who show versatile mastery on the electric guitar, bass, and drums. The Toronto-based artist is now back on tour to share songs on his 4th and latest album, Run to Waters, and to connect with audiences, new and old, this time with special guest, fellow Canadian and folk-singer songwriter, Craig Cardiff.
Nozuka is no stranger to touring and a veteran in writing songs. Holly, his debut album in which he named after his mother, brought him on the road at age 17. For the next 5 years, he continued to perform around the world, on stages and inside people’s homes. His evolution as a musician can be heard in the progression of his four albums. In a recent documentary, Nozuka notes, “The journey has been really natural from the first debut album until now. Ulysses (2nd album) was a necessary break. Ulysses was a stretch. I was stretching to feel something that wasn’t within, it was somewhere else [out there]. Run to Waters was about coming back to a more natural state of creation.”
Written over the span of a 2-year period at home in Toronto and recorded partially at Start Point Farm studio, a century old-barn in the UK, Run to Water brings back the appreciation of nature in the summertime. Nozuka wants the listener to feel that sense of freedom “when you get in the car with a few friends, ready to embark on a summer adventure”.
But of course, as with all of Nozuka’s music, it’s more than just this feeling for his audience. The emotionally enchanting vocals and instrumentals layer together to ignite various dimensions of the soul, painting colorful scenes that tinge on sensations of nostalgia and joy. “I think our set, connection to the audience, and connection to music, is the strongest it’s ever been for me personally,” Nozuka comments about the state of his musical journey thus far.
Midway through the concert, Nozuka’s bandmates leave Nozuka for a sequence of solo performances. The audience sings along to some of his older songs, such as “Don’t Listen To a Word You’ve Heard”, “Golden Train”, “After Tonight, “ Right By You”. He notices a familiar face in the audience and remembered that she had been to many of his shows and had went on stage with him to duet “Carried You” with him back in Toronto. The audience cheers in excitement as many can relate following Nozuka for many years.
He closes off with a few more songs with his band, including “Laury”, a tender breakup song. Afterwards, Nozuka, Cardiff, and bandmates personally greeted fans after the show, taking photos and singing merchandise. “It’s a real joy to just be on stage and to be making music, to be connecting with the audience,” Nozuka reflects.