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Q+A with LEAF Singer-Songwriter Competition Finalist Our Band

April 25th, 2022

Our Band will win your heart. Steeped in the tradition of great male and female duets such as Johnny Cash and June Carter, Sasha Papernik and Justin Poindexter bring their award-winning songwriting, intimate harmonies, and Eastern-European flair to a rich Americana soundscape. Together, they have performed for audiences in some of the world’s greatest venues, from Carnegie Hall to Lincoln Center to the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. In 2018-19 they toured Poland, Germany and Estonia as ambassadors of American music for U.S. State Department. Their debut album, featuring American music legend David Amram, was released to critical acclaim in 2021.   

NewSong Music: What was your introduction to music?

Justin: My dad is a country singer and guitar player, and he played at a lot of NASCAR events when I was growing up. Though we certainly have different styles, the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.

Sasha: I started playing classical piano when I was four and went through conservatory studying classical piano performance. 

What is the first song you wrote that you were proud of, and why?

Justin: I wrote a song for Alison Krauss once. She never sang it, and probably never even heard it, but I remember when I finished it, I knew that she would sound great singing it, and just having that feeling was new and amazing.

Sasha: I wrote a raw burner of a breakup song and it was SO MUCH FUN. I played it at a show at The Bitter End in New York City and although I’d performed for audiences since I was a little kid I’d never been so nervous in my life. Not interpreting someone else’s music like I’d always done but putting it all out there: my words, my music, my story, and connecting to people like that was electrifying. 

What instrument do you play, and why?

Justin: I play guitar, and it allows me to play in so many genres that I love, as well as giving me an excuse to keep lots of fun and sexy guitars around.

Sasha: I play the piano because I fell in love with everything about it when I was four. I also play the accordion because it channels my Eastern European heritage. 

How did the pandemic impact you as an artist (for better or worse)?

Justin: Being home consistently after several harried years of running around connected our family in deep and lasting ways. I’m proud of the team we have become.

Sasha: The pandemic highlighted for me how fleeting our time really is. I decided to focus on my young family, being an active member of my community, and the music that I truly wanted to play, compose, learn and teach. The pandemic didn’t give me more time – we were juggling a baby and a 4-year old with no childcare, but the time I did have was 100% spent on what I wanted to do. 

Does the place where you grew up inspire you as an artist? If so, in what way?

Justin: I grew up in North Carolina, and the people I grew up around are amazing, inspiring and hilarious characters. They are a wellspring of songwriting fodder.

Sasha: My parents are from Russia. Their story of immigration and my identity as a first generation American is a constant source of inspiration to me as an artist. 

In what ways does the craft of songwriting still surprise you?

Justin: It’s all architecture, but without some kind of sincere emotion, the house doesn’t stand. 

Sasha: I’m always still surprised when a great song seems to just make itself known – like it’s always been there – complete. 

What are some of your creative goals for this year?

Justin: Our recent collaboration with the wonderful lap steel player, Cindy Cashdollar, was incredibly fruitful. Sometimes I think having another collaborator can really bring out the best in mine and Sasha’s artistry. I hope to do more collaboration.

Sasha: I plan to begin work on a musical project telling the stories of my family and their friends as they immigrated to this country.