I've been toying with the idea about writing a post about my friend and former PR client Justin Utley for quite some time. So when I awoke this morning, I was jazzed to see a note from Bil requesting for someone to step in for Alex for today's Queer Music Friday. I hope you like what I've got!
I first met Justin Utley in August 2009 at a fundraiser in New York for the Empire State Pride Agenda. I watched as he jammed away at his guitar, singing his sweet rock melodies of loves lost and gained to the crowd. About 20 minutes into his set, Justin came to his final song - Stand for Something. He explained to the crowd that he began writing the song in 2008 after Prop 8 passed in California due in part to the generous donations made by the Mormon Church. The song is exactly as it sounds; a song to encourage individuals to stand up for what they believe is right.
In December 2009, when gay marriage in New York was voted down by the senate, Justin decided it was time to do something more with the song. Knowing that I was going to graduate school for public relations, Justin turned to me for help. Having been a newbie to the PR field and no clue what I was doing, I agreed. A year later we've released a single and an EP and now, thanks to the time and talent of a few skilled-volunteers, we're in pre-production for the Stand for Something music video.
Learn more about Justin Utley after the jump.
A Little About Justin Utley
Justin hails from Salt Lake City, Utah (yep, he was raised a Mormon) and started his musical career at the young age of 7 when he began playing the piano. After a few years of piano lessons and plowing through pages and pages of Mormon sheet music, he decided he wanted to do something more creative. Discovering that he could play just about anything by ear, Justin began performing his favorite INXS and Tears for Fears songs. In his late teens, while attending his Mormon mission, his family sent him his first guitar accompanied with a slew of Indigo Girls sheet music to keep him busy during his free time.
At 24, Justin realized there was something different about him. He turned to the church for help. Justin was advised by his bishop to enroll in Evergreen, a program designed to help Mormons combat their homosexual tendencies. After almost two years of conversion therapy, Justin had enough. Discovering himself that there was nothing wrong with him, Justin left the program and had his name completely removed from the Mormon Church roster. Justin came out as gay and he wasn't going to turn back.
In 2005, Justin released his first nationally-distributed CD Runaway, which includes many tracks he wrote after he was shunned by the Mormon Church.
"Runaway is about not settling for less," Justin said in a recent interview for his electronic press kit,"If you don't like something, then get the hell out of it."
In 2006, Justin heeded his own lyrical advice and left Utah for a better life in New York City.
Up until June 2010, when the Stand for Something single was released, Justin had been keeping a low profile. In June, Justin returned to the stage to perform Stand for Something, amongst other ditties off Runaway for various Gay Prides across the country.
With a music video in pre-production, and four 2010 Out Music Awards nominations which include Outstanding Single of the Year, Outstanding Folk/Country Song, Outstanding Songwriter of the Year, and Outstanding Musician of the Year, Justin is continuing to see his dreams for Stand for Something become a reality. With his next album The Great Escape, slated to be released in spring 2011, Justin is realizing he has nothing to run away from anymore and that his new found voice is giving him the great escape he's been yearning for.