1. Hi Justen, can you tell me a little bit about yourself, before you became a country singer? I was born and raised in Brunswick, Georgia. An all-American kid, I grew up playing sports – with dreams of being a professional baseball player – and a passion for art. I was always drawing and doodling in my sketchbooks. In 2005, I had been taking painting lessons for a few years when I decided to switch to guitar lessons – simply because I thought playing guitar was cool and something I wanted to do. I quickly fell in love with it. I played guitar for almost ten years before I first sang, which happened the night I graduated high school at a youth lock-in. From there, I continued singing in church and began posting videos online. Encouragement began to flood in from all angles, and I began to post and play more. As I found more of a love for music and expressing myself in it, I began looking for ways to spread positivity through it and writing my own songs. Fast forward a few years, and I found myself moving to Nashville last year to pursue it whole-heartedly.
2. How did you become a fan of country music and how did you know you wanted a career in it? Music was all around me growing up. Playing sports, you listened to a lot of “hype” music, and I explored a variety of styles in my free time. I simply enjoyed discovering new things to listen to. As I developed that appreciation for music, country music struck a chord with me. It was real, true, and pure – and I loved it. It made me feel something, and I fell in love with it. Experiencing the music scene in live settings and seeing the behind the scenes here in Nashville were the convincing factors to pursue a career in country music. The music, venues, support system, and fan base is like no other genre. The single-most convincing moment came the night I saw Vince Gill at the Opry. He sang “When I Call Your Name” and I cried my eyes out. I felt it down deep, even though I hadn’t been in that situation, myself. Then and there, I knew: that was the kind of music I wanted to write and be a part of.
3. Who are some of your musical icons? I’ve been inspired by so many artists. Growing up, I was a big Josh Turner fan. Really admired how expressive he was of his faith and was awestruck by his bone-shaking baritone voice, of course. I was always so impressed by the way Chet Atkins and Brad Paisley could play a guitar. I’m a huge fan of Marc Broussard’s style and the way he writes. Vince Gill is another favorite. The list could go on, but those are some of my “top dogs.”
4. What is the story behind your new single “Memory Lane?” I wrote “Memory Lane” with my friend, John Griffin. He came to me with an idea he had in college – “Lover’s Lane (the phrase) has a new name” and going from “lover’s lane” to “memory lane.” It opens with the scene of finding an old flame’s picture in a drawer and the rest of the song is spent reminiscing on that past love, wondering if the ex lover does the same. Dave Flint and John produced the song, and I couldn’t be more happy with how it turned out. Brandon Steger took the photo for the album artwork, which I later designed.
5. How was your experience as a contestant on the TV show “The Voice?” I loved my experience on season nine of The Voice and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I made so many (lifelong) friends, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the hospitality shown to me by the Voice staff during my time with the show. Although three of the four teams were full and Pharrell didn’t turn his chair for me, I was proud to have made it to the blinds – a spot in which less than 100 people of the 40,000+ that auditioned that season made it to.
6. Is there anything else coming up with your music for 2018? For 2018, my plan is to release a song a month. They’ll be a mixture of originals and covers, but mostly originals. They’ll be available anywhere you can download or stream music!
7. If you could sing a duet with a famous singer or group who would it be and why? If I could start a duo with any famous singer, I’d have to go with Fiona Apple. I like her style, and feel like our voices could pair well together. I’m a big fan of the sounds from duos like the Civil Wars, Birdtalker, and JohnnySwim. Also love Drew & Ellie Holcomb. When they sing together, it’s golden.
8. Where do you see yourself in the next 5 to 10 years? In the next five to ten years, I’d like to see myself as a successful touring artist, with at least one number one song under my belt. I’d also like to play the Grand Ole Opry.
9. What is one of your favorite quotes? One of my favorite quotes is, “Dreams don’t work unless you do.” It reminds me that one will do your work for you. If you want something, you have to go out and get it – be smart, work hard, and chase it.
10. Is there anything else you would like to share? The only other thing I’d like to let people know is that they can find me on all things social: (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat) @JustenHarden. Also, I’d like to say thank you for featuring my song in your playlist and having me for an interview! This has been an enjoyable process and I truly appreciate the support you’re showing me.