Stranger In My Town

Nick Justice

Nick Justice: Lead vocals, harmonica, guitar on all tracks except Track 7 & 10 | Richard Stekol: Lead guitar, acoustic guitar on Track 5 & 10 BGV on Track 3 & 8 | Mai Leisz: Bass guitar all tracks |Greg Leisz: Pedal Steel, Dobro | Joel Rafael: Acoustic guitar & Harmonica on Track 7 BGV on Track 4 & 9 | Produced & Recorded

Nick Justice: Lead vocals, harmonica, guitar on all tracks except Track 7 & 10 | Richard Stekol: Lead guitar, acoustic guitar on Track 5 & 10 BGV on Track 3 & 8 | Mai Leisz: Bass guitar all tracks |Greg Leisz: Pedal Steel, Dobro | Joel Rafael: Acoustic guitar & Harmonica on Track 7 BGV on Track 4 & 9 | Produced & Recorded by Joel Rafael Lilac Sound Recorders, Valley Center, CA | Mastered by Chris Pelonis Pelonis Sound & Acoustics Inc., Santa Barbara, CA

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Stories of Everyday People And Everyday Struggles-Lost Souls, Broken Dreams, And The Search For Redemption

Los Angeles, CA —You may last remember Nick Justice from his duo with Feter Martin Homer, The Sidemen.  For two years, they traveled playing festivals (Tucson Folk Festival, Silverado Folk Festival, Flagstaff Folk Festival, Idlyllwild Singer Songwriter Festival), and many listening rooms throughout the Southwest.  They released an eponymous critically acclaimed record which charted #1 on Americana Highways July 2022 listener’s poll.  After 93 gigs played together, the pair decided to call it quits in October of 2022 and both return to solo performing and recording. Nick Justice's newest solo effort is Stranger In My Town.

The album was produced, engineered and mixed  by esteemed San Diego folk artist,  Joel Rafael.”I was lucky to meet the folk legend at the Idyllwild Singer Songwriter Festival,” said Justice. “Our subsequent conversations led us to working together.” Justice sings, plays guitar and harmonica on the album, and he and Rafael assembled an inspiring team of musicians to accompany him on the album. Richard Stekol plays guitar and sings background vocals, Greg Leisz plays pedal steel and dobro. Mai Leisz plays bass and Rafael plays acoustic guitar on the song, “Thanks for the Smiles”.

Richard Stekol, who has participated or played on all of Justice’s solo records, has a rich history in the music world.  He was a member of the seventies Laguna Beach, CA band, Honk. Later he teamed up with Greg Leisz, Jules Shear and Jack Tempchin to for the Funky Kings.  He’s also written for Michael McDonald and Bonnie Raitt.  It was through Richard that Justice met Greg Leisz, who played on his debut record, Between a Laugh and a Tear. “In the ten years between my debut and this record, Greg married Mai who happens to be an incredible bass player, and who played in the late David Crosby’s touring band,” notes Justice.  “We had 4 days with Greg before he had to leave for Japan with Jackson Brown.  Greg, Mai and Richard stayed at my house and we would drive to Joel’s recording studio which is located on his ranch in Valley Center, CA. We had the basic tracks done so we just needed to get Mai and Greg’s parts.  It was a really fun and loose session.”

Justice’s last record was a full band effort.  “I had actually stripped it down from bigger sounding efforts in my music that preceded it.  I still wasn’t satisfied and wanted to strip the sound down even more. The only percussion on this record comes from my acoustic guitar,” he  explained. “I was also going after a different sound studio-wise.  I think using a new studio, a new engineer and a new producer, makes the music fresher.  Joel’s approach was very different than what I was used to.  We worked really hard in the studio and would do a take until we got it right.” 

Justice mentions that he has been listening to a lot of Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams along with artists of today like Joel Rafael, Greg Brown, Peter Case and Mary Gauthier. “For this record, I was drawn to the loner in all of us and folks who are at a crossroads where a wrong turn could mean trouble. I feel that we are so consumed by everything this world throws at us, that sometimes we need to just let things go.” 

The first song is the title track and tells the story of feeling out of place in a familiar environment. “When I was a young man I wanted to be anywhere but where I was growing up and living on Long Island,” Justice recounts. “I left shortly after my 18th birthday and made my way out in the world. About 10 years later I returned to my hometown and yet nothing felt ‘home’ about it. I remember running into someone I went to high school with on the street who didn’t even recognize me.  That was profound to me. I became a stranger in my town.” 

“ Don't You Know”, “Hard Times”, and “Don't Walk Away” are all songs about learning life lessons: growing up, facing life's challenges, and deciding whether or not to stay. 

Two of the songs on the album were not written by Justice. According to Justice, "American Walking By," written by Stekol, "always spoke to me in its sadness.” Additionally, Justice included a recording of one of his favorite songs by Joe Rafael, called "Thanks for the Smiles.”

“The Night My Heart Caught Fire” narrates Justice’s journey of meeting, falling in love and marrying his wife.  In their late thirties, they crossed paths as single parents.  “After dedicating two years solely on raising my daughter, trying to be mom and dad, I met my wife at McDonalds where we were both grabbing dinner for our kids.  While the kids played on the jungle gym, we talked.  Four months later we were married and here we are 24 years later having raised our kids.  I’m back writing, making records, and performing.  There was one night when we were at a party and I looked across the room and caught a view of her in the perfect light.  That was the night my heart caught fire.” 

“Let the Wind Blow” is a song about letting things go while navigating the many truths and untruths of the world, while “Dream #9” is the artist’s take on homelessness in American— There’s a place in my mind where I don’t want to go/ I visit sometimes I start feeling real low.

“Save Somebody” ends the album as a gospel number. “I always wanted to write a gospel tune.  Don’t know if this qualifies, but it’s my take.  I devoured the Country Music series by Ken Burns, especially music used to worship and bring people together.  The Baptist churches of the South, the Pentecostal tent revivals of the Midwest and the new age visions of the West struck me. I was fooling around in the studio one day riffing on an ‘A’ chord and started singing the phrase, ‘I wanna save somebody /I wanna show them the path to the Lord’. The verses came quickly and within 15 minutes we had the tune.”

Recalling a Bob Dylan interview where his advice was “keep it small, but keep it going”, Justice admits that early on he learned that his association with music had nothing to do with the business of music.  “I’m not a great guitar player, I’m not a great singer, but I am able to observe the human condition and I am able to communicate that in a song.  Fame is a fleeting and screws with your mind. It was never my bag.  If you love what you do, you do it on any scale or stage.  I’ve played in front of 10,000 people and I’ve more often played to empty houses.  The performance never differs.” 

Justice is known for his performances and will mingle with his audience prior to shows and after. “It’s important to be able to have your audience feel at ease so they can thoroughly enjoy the experience,” he points out. “I’m an observer and what I observe I put into song.  When people come to see me they no I’m no frills and that they are going to get an honest performance and hopefully go home feeling a little better knowing that someone gets them.  I think this is an honest record.  The songs flow together in a cohesive sequence.  The joy that comes out of the playing is a direct reflection of the joy we had making it. I hope folks enjoy it.” 


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Press contact:  Kim Grant | KG Music Press | | 626-755-9022