WORDS BY NAOMI WOOD, PHOTOS BY WESLEY KIRK
You can’t miss Justin Weed’s long red mane, or the sound of his classical guitar drifting from Denton basements, stages, and benches across town. Weed is something of a Denton guitar prodigy at his young age. We wish we had snagged him when he was day-dreaming of delta blues at only nine years old, but we’re lucky we witnessed the paradox of his young face and old soul before he goes on to bigger and better things. He’s a cool kid with a vision for his life that may lead to the bright lights and big city in his future. Read on for our conversation with Weed about classical guitar, Booker T. Washington, and what it is like to grow up in Denton.
WDDI: Hey Justin! How old are you?
Justin Weed: I’m fifteen.
We saw you play at the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival a few years ago, how did that come about?
I started playing classical guitar pieces in fifth or sixth grade at the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival every year. I also started playing at the senior center, and in middle school I started playing in the jazz band.
So take us back, when did you first pick up a guitar?
I started playing when I was nine years old, and it kind of runs in my family because my dad always had guitars lying around. He’s a High School teacher now, but he’s always had a love for music, and passed that on down to me I think.
Where do you go to school?
I got to Booker T Washington School of the Arts in Dallas, and I ride the train out there every day, but I ride it at the time of day where most people are just going to work, so it’s not too bad. I’m in the tenth grade and a sophomore.
Who are some of your main musical inspirations?
That’s hard, I’ve gone through a lot of phases musically, but the people who got me into playing music are Jimmy Hendrix, Paul Simon, and a lot of older musicians. I’m really into old delta blues music, like Robert Johnson and Son House and stuff like that. Starting last year I’ve gotten really into jazz, and I think Denton has been a major influence on my love for all of that.
Do you plan on doing the UNT jazz program when you’re in college?
I plan on applying but I really don’t want to stay here. I don’t know, I’ve been here my whole life and I feel like I really need to get out. New York just looks really attractive to me right now.
If you had some places in mind where you want to study, where would you go then?
The New School for jazz in New York, and or the Manhattan School of Music. I really want to be in New York.
Do you play in bands or solo right now?
Yeah do you know Richard Haskins? I’m in two bands with him, but it’s a long story how that happened. I used to go to J&J’s pizza on the square a lot as a kid, and since no one would really check my ID, I would wander downstairs to the basement, and I just started noticing him around a lot. He was playing with the Wee Beasties, and I was like *mind-blown* because he was just there in his underwear screaming, doing his thing. Then one day he just asked me while I was playing at Banter with a group of friends to sub for his guitar player, so that’s how I got started really. But right now I’m in the bands The Unmarked Graves, and the Wee Beasties. I played with them at Rubber Gloves recently and we did a photoshoot, so I guess I’m with them now? Not sure really.
Are you self-taught?
No, I was classically trained and have taken classical lessons for the majority of my life, and over the summer I started taking lessons with Horace Bray, he’s phenomenal.
Have you ever played on the square or house shows?
I’ve played at the J-Ho house, but no I never got into just playing on the street, that takes a lot of courage. I prefer to play with bands, rather than solo shows. I used to play at banter with friends.
Do you have any music online that folks can purchase?
No not yet. I’m trying to start a band with my two friends, both named Matt, but one moved to Chicago. I guess we could be like the postal service and play our parts and mail them to each other. But who knows what the future holds.
This column as part of a new ongoing partnership with Wesley Kirk's People of Denton project. Check out People of Denton for more.