Justin Saladino’s debut album ‘A Fool’s Heart’, follows the ‘No Worries’ EP released in 2016. It stands proudly at the crossroad between blues, soul and funk, weaving in these elements effortlessly, and it’s the perfect soundtrack for a warm, lazy summer night on the patio, spent with good friends and a drink.
The 23-year-old Saladino hails from Montreal, and, coming from a musical family, he picked up his first guitar while he was still very young. “My dad dabbles a bit, and my uncle is a professional musician and teacher”, he explains. “All my cousins and I took lessons with him, so there are just guitars everywhere. There’s a picture of me at 3-years old, holding a guitar backwards trying to keep up with my dad. But I started really playing songs when I was about 8 years old.”
Saladino’s journey as a guitar player started on a very different path, as a metalhead. “My older cousin was really into Metallica and Megadeth, and I wanted to be just like him” he explains. His father also introduced him to a lot of classic rock, where he found himself drawn to the bluesier songs. And at 10 years old, he found a CD that would change everything.
“I asked my dad ‘who’s this?’”, he recalls. “I’m not a huge fan but people seem to think he’s the best guitarist in the world” his father replied, lighting a spark of curiosity in Saladino. The guitarist in question was Jimi Hendrix, and as soon as the young man pressed play and heard ‘Foxy Lady’ and ‘Red House’, “it was over. Completely over”, he says laughing. “And it was Jimi that led me to Stevie Ray Vaughan, to John Mayer… all the guitar player/singers that I followed after.”
Anyone who’s tried putting together a band knows how hard it is to find the right musicians. Now imagine how hard it is when you’re a precocious 9 years old! “I couldn’t find a singer, and when I heard Jimi I thought if he can do it, so can I, and I just started doing it.”
Justin Saladino doesn’t share Hendrix’s chaotic approach to guitar playing: he is much more methodical and precise, but you can hear the influence in a lot of the chord voicing. His music could be described as ‘happy blues’, in the sense that this isn’t full of tales of misery and broken hearts: at 23, mega talented and good looking, and with life ahead of him, he probably doesn’t have much to be blue about. But it is soulful and introspective, and the breadth of influences he incorporates in his music really lift up the songs.
There is a lot of crossover appeal with this album, as I think it’ll appeal to fans of many genres. Nominees for ‘New Artist of the Year” at the 2018 Maple Blues Awards, the Justin Saladino Band will also hit the festival circuit this summer and hopefully build an audience. Watch for them at the Tremblant International Blues festival, and the Lighthouse Blues Festival in particular.
‘A Fool’s Heart’ is available now!
He's also a regular contributor at the very rad site Montreal Rampage