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Singer-Songwriter Justin Garner Talks New Music, Creative Inspiration, and Growing Up In Louisiana

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Justin Garner is an up-and-coming singer-songwriter known for combining such diverse genres as country and soul or rock and R&B. He was the 2014 winner of MTV’s competitive singing show, Copycat. Since then his music has received millions of hits on YouTube, iTunes, and Spotify. Garner has opened for popular artists including Big Sean, Trey Songz, Fantasia, and Keri Hilson. To date, he has released three full-length albums and is expected to drop a fourth this year. Garner has also recently released two new singles, “Yours to Keep” and “What’s Love Without Heartbreak”.

Get to know Justin better here:

How would describe your musical sound and style?

A perfect blend of R&B and pop. I’m definitely influenced by genres all across the board from soul, R&P, pop, country. I just listen to everything, so I feel everything I listen to pretty much embodies who I am and what my sound is.

You’re influenced by such diverse genres as pop, rock, soul, and country. How do you successfully bridge such unique sounds?

I think what works best for me is as I’m recording and writing a song, I like to give listeners different elements of the emotions from those genres. So I know in country music, it’s all about storytelling, whereas in R&B it’s more about the vocals, so by combining different lyrical elements from different genres I feel like it creates this smooth, very unique style that I’ve developed.

How have you evolved as an artist specifically regarding your recent singles, “Yours to Keep” and What’s Love Without Heartbreak”?

So definitely one thing that I’m doing differently this time around is creating music that reflects who I am personally, so for the first time I’ve really honed into who I am as a human being and allowing that translate musically into an artist statement. In the very early stages of my career, I would create records that would be intended for a certain purpose. But this time around, I really took time out to create without limitation, without restriction, and most importantly just off of my personal experiences.

Is there a particular song of yours of which you’re most proud?

The first song, “What’s Love Without Heartbreak,” I always viewed it as a gamble, because, it was so vulnerable, and I didn’t think that the musical climate of today would be willing to accept something so vulnerable. But at the same time I look up the artists like Adele and Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith and they create these records that are just based off of emotions. When they’re allowed to sell these stories, they’re sweeping the charts. They’re trailblazing, so I wanted to give that a shot. I didn’t want to create just a generic hip, trendy song. I really wanted to dive deep and create something that I felt like everyone could relate to, because, I feel like everyone has been through some level of heartbreak. If you’re human, your heart has been broken at least once. But I’m really tied to both [What’s Love Without Heartbreak and Yours to Keep]. One shows the vulnerable side, and then one shows a more sensual aggressive side.

What do you hope is the take away for audiences listening to your music?

I want them to walk away with the experience of feeling as though they were a part of something great. I want them to feel like this is something different like this is something pretty unique. Like this is the next big thing. Every release that I record, I really pour my soul into it – vocally, lyrically – I just give it my all, because, I really want them to leave with that experience. I really want them to feel emotion.

Your music has been very well received, and your album “I AM” notably hit #1 on iTunes Japan R&B/Soul charts. What does that mean for you as an artist?

Keep working harder. Keep working. It inspires me to continue to work harder, because, it affirms that I’m doing something right. But at the same time, it also fuels me to continue to grind harder and harder and harder and continue reaching those achievements. The achievements themselves really are great, but at the same time, there’s so much more that I want to do, and most importantly, it’s all about getting the music out there. I’m so proud of that, and I want to continue to make sure that happens.

You’ve opened for artists including Big Sean and Fantasia. What has your experience been working with such iconic figures?

It was really great. Opening for Big Sean was really cool, and he’s all about up-and-coming artists. He was very encouraging. Trey Songz was also great. Fantasia was great. It gives you a look into these artists and you can see how human they are. Sometimes they even have family with them before they perform. They get a chance to kind of just be themselves, and it was really cool watching them in that element and then basically transforming into that next stage, which is them on stage and performing to the audience. It was really humbling.

You’re expected to release a new album sometime this year. What can you tell us about the album?

The goal was to be as creative as possible. In the past, I tried so many different things – aimed at radio and at certain markets – but this time, I threw all that out the window and I was like, I just want to sit down and create great and passionate, soulful music that just gives you a vibe, gives you a certain emotion and brings you a lot of energy. With this particular project, we basically went back to square one to figure out how can we get people to recognize vocal talent and lyrical talent and at the end, musical talent. I’ve been recording several times a week, just working really really hard to create the best body of work that I’ve ever created and continue to grow musically. It’s definitely going to show different sides of who I am as a human being. You’ll probably get a better sense of where I’m from, what I’m about. The goal with this project is to let people see truly who I am artist-wise. There are certain things I do talk about that a lot of artists don’t, and so I really want that to shine though with this project.

What are some specific examples of those things you hope shine through on the album? 

The first thing was vulnerability. The second thing was a sensual side. And so a couple of things on the rise are anger and being completely and totally in love – and especially from a male perspective is something a lot of R&B artists shy away from. If we can get that essence of that mad wild love, I think that’s something that’s really really edgy and really really dope. On a deeper level, on a more spiritual level, people will get see and get to know my life. I think people will feel really fulfilled, and they will also be very entertained.

You’re slated to perform at the Ebb & Flow Festival at the Baton Rouge River Front on April 7. What can you tell us about the performance?

“I will be performing on the main stage. I am one of the headliners this year. I really want to take what I’ve learned from performing around the world and pretty much give Baton Rouge, which is also my hometown, a first-class show. We’re pulling out all the stops. I have dancers, a live band, some effects. I think people will be amazed. But most importantly, I want them to feel that emotion and feel as though they’re watching something great in the making.

Your hometown in Louisiana seems very important to you. Could you discuss its influence on you?

One of the biggest things, especially when I travel a lot, there so many artists from the major metro areas like LA, Atlanta, Miami. But rarely do you hear about a pop R&B artist from the south, especially from Louisiana. I’m so proud of where I’m from. So instead of repping different places I might reside in for a little while, I really want to put my home on my back. I want to make that place known. I don’t want to claim anywhere else. I want people to know that I’m from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. That’s home. I’m completely organically from the middle-of-the-nowhere in Louisiana, and I really want that to be my story.

What are some of your proudest achievements?

The proudest achievement would be the support from my fans that I call the JG Army. They basically consist of listeners around the world through my YouTube channel, through Spotify, MTV, just different appearances. The name of the group is JG Army, and they represent so many different walks of life from all around the world – black, white – different backgrounds. It doesn’t matter who they are or where they’re from. They all come together and support my music. And I think that’s so so cool. Above all, I have a support system that genuinely loves my music, and I think they genuinely care about me.

What’s next for you professionally?

Next for me I definitely want to sign to a label, and I’m definitely looking at publishing deals and artist deals. As a songwriter, I write music all day long. I would love to be able to write for other artists. That’s where my publishing comes in. As an artist, I definitely want to sign to a label that totally supports me and gets who I am as an artist.

As a musical icon, you have innate public influence. What do you consider to be the role of people in that position?

I really feel like when you’re given a platform, you have to do something bigger every time. Even though I create music, in the end, that platform that I have, I want to take that and help people – someone who may be heartbroken or lost or just going through something. I want the music to inspire them and help them get through the situation. As far as charities, every year I pick a cause, and I pretty much make sure the goals for that particular charity are met. At the end of the day, what am I doing for the people? It’s not just to party or indulge in my own self-glory. It’s really to help people and change lives in a very really way. And not just saying it, but actually doing it.

 

@JustinGarner