Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sleepwalker Showcase: Justin Boyd

I don’t remember when I met some of my friends. I can tell you the age range or that I was in 3rd grade, 6th grade, 11th grade, etc. but I don’t know the exact date and situation. They’ve just been there since I can remember. You know the type? It’s those friends that usually mean the most or you’ve been through wars with, etc. Well Justin Boyd is one of those friends of mine. I don’t remember when our friendship started, it just is!

We met at church sometime between 8th and 9th grade after he moved down to Carolina. We had our fun as young teens, hanging out, playin’ ball, videogames, sleepovers, etc. but one of our common bonds was music. Whether we were freestyling, playing in the teen band at church, or just listening to it…music was a common thread. He was ridiculous on the drums then, and he still is now. Lately he’s been performing across the US and in the UK. To me, I’ve always called him the Quest Love of our age group…but you can get to know him as Justin Boyd, another Sleepwalker to watch!

Born and raised on the South-Side of Chicago, at the age of eight Justin got his first drumset and was playing in church. He began playing piano, guitar and drums when he was about five years old though. A self-taught musician, Justin was influenced by Gospel music as a youngster. In the late 80's his older cousin turned him on to artist like LL Cool J, Biz Markie, Eric B and Rakim and Das Efx. Throughout his middle school years his parents played a lot of James Brown, Average White Band and Boz Scaggs, the “clean up” music as he calls it. He fell in love with the pocket (get your drum vernacular up! lol) from listening to all those James Brown recordings. In high school he began listening to groups like Rage Against the Machine, Metalica, Dave Matthews Band, Art Blakey and Freddie Hubbard. Basically, Justin has been infused and molded by a variety of musical artists from different genres.

It’s this infusion that has taken his talents across the US and UK, and allowed him to play on stage with Talib Kweli, Robert Randolph, Mr. Lif, Blues Traveler, The Beatnuts, The Perceptionist, Floetry, and the list goes on.

Sleepwalkers Unite posed our 5 “Walk with Me” questions to Justin, and this is what he had to say:

When did you first start sleepwalking?
I started seriously chasing my dream in 2002. After graduating high school I decided to go to college and be around as much music as possible. I was playing drums, interning at WGCI (a local clear channel station) and interning for Dunn Ruff Entertainment. I was really learning a lot during these times from everything I was involved in. I just really wanted to be involved and be the best I could be and have a great understanding of all aspects of music. I was also working a part-time job while doing all this stuff. I was often burnt out and very tired but I learned a lot. I was getting like 4 or 5 hours of sleep some nights so it was like I was sleepwalking literally!

What motivates you to keep going after your dream?
At this point in the game I have had a glimpse of what I have been chasing and right now its about being the best at the roles that I play and be dedicated and focused. Right now it's about getting back to the discipline and hunger that I had back in 2002. What motivates me is that I can look back on what I have done and I realize how confused I was. But I learn so much from being confused that I believe I have the ability to make my dream a reality. Not that I think I can do it because I know it's a blessing from God. But, I have the faith that it can happen.

Wake up: What have been some of the biggest challenges in going after your dream?
A big challenge is waking up and continuing to push things forward and make people see what you see. When you have people depending on you and family that don't understand the passion you can have for something that's not guaranteed and doesn't always pay great it can be rough. Forgiving myself for mistakes that I have made is a big one as well because I can be my own worst critic and enemy.

Don’t sleep on this: What’s one thing you have learned in your craft that fellow sleepwalkers shouldn’t sleep on?
One thing I believe everyone apply in any craft is you never know it all and once your in a place where you know it all that's when someone who is more hungry than you will get to where you want to be because they never stopped learning. Learning is key in Life!!

Top 5 accomplished sleepwalkers you admire in your craft and why?

Wow, I will go backwards from 5 to 1. Since I play drums and make beats my list will be mixed.

5. Chris Dave (drummer), he is very original in innovative in his playing and he plays what he wants to play and doesn't apologize for it.

4. Thomas Pridgen (drummer), he is a great drummer. I had a chance to meet him when he was in Chicago playing for Keysha Cole and now he is the drummer for Mars Volta. He has been a dope drummer forever but it seems like he really made a lot of advances in the past three years.

3. ?uestlove (drummer/producer), he is the leader of one of the best hip hop bands that has been out since like 96. He is influential in live hip-hop and he loves music period. He is also a great producer and has worked with everybody from D' Angelo to Al Green as a producer.

2. Dana Hall (drummer/educator), I had a chance to study with Dana when I went to college. He is very intelligent and he is an amazing jazz drummer. He really has the education game on lock that's really inspirational to see a black drummer who is working on a Doctorate in Ethnomusicology and he can really play.

1. Kanye West (producer/artist), this dude is amazing to me period when it comes to being creative in art period. He is number one on my list because he overcame a lot of things from people not believing in him to his mom passing away. He is not scared to take risk and be himself.

Sleepwalking is hard to do! Justin is trying to maintain his busy schedule between drumming, producing and home life with his beautiful wife and baby boy. He says “The thing I love about music is that if you continue to work at it you will always be better than you were and there is always something new to learn.” With that attitude, I have no doubt that he’ll be blessing the world with his music for a long time. He’s currently available for live studio work, programming and tours.

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