My brother started playing guitar when he was just six years old, which, in a family like ours, seemed the natural thing to do. Our Dad was a guitarist and singer- mostly soul and R&B stuff. Tunes by Sly, Stevie and Steely Dan regularly floated through the house. While other kids were playing Little League, we watched Dad's band jam in the basement. No wonder Justin was already sitting in at local New York clubs by age twelve.
In High School he kept on going, learning any song he could off the radio or vinyl. At times the novelty of his talent and enthusiasm wore off (try living with somebody who plays guitar eight hours a day - loudly - and when '80's metal and "Bach Rock" were enjoying their heyday no less). His musical interests continued to broaden and flourish throughout his adolescence and into his college years - he left New York for Charlottesville, Virginia in 1991. At the University of Virginia he fronted Southern Exposure, an acoustic duo that soon became a mainstay in the Charlottesville market. It didn't take him long to figure out that playing gigs with a couple acoustic guitars was a lot cheaper and easier than hauling around amps and drum kits. Within their first years of performing, the folk/ rock pair were jamming sell-out crowds into local venues and playing opposite prominent regional acts like SGGL and Jackopierce. They were later voted in as one of the top ten bands in the area, sharing the honor with acts like the Dave Matthews Band.
For Justin, Southern Exposure was an accidental window into the world of acoustic driven music. I guess it was love at first sight - he left his amp behind and plunged headlong into the realms of fingerstyle, alternate tunings and contemplative songwriting.
While in Virginia, Justin was also involved in a number of side projects, including an R&B cover band, a 250 person gospel choir, and two nationally renowned a capella groups. He graduated in '95 with a degree in Political and Social Thought (which, of course, qualified him to do nothing - but hey, it makes for some pretty interesting lyrics). So music it would be...
Moving to Atlanta at the end of 1996, Justin quickly established himself in the Atlanta acoustic scene. Before he'd even found a place to live he'd already won his first songwriting/performance competition at the nationally renowned venue Eddie's Attic. Since then he's been a regular at Eddie's, consistently kicking butt in contests and live radio shows and receiving great reviews from acoustic fans and local rags (hey, I'm allowed to brag - he's my brother). He continuously performs at clubs and festivals around Georgia and up and down the east coast: from Raoul's in Portland, Maine to Sloppy Joe's in Jacksonville, Florida and everywhere in-between.
And now for my two cents on his stuff: If you take the earnest and reflective lyrics found in folk, add the passion of rock and roll and sprinkle in a little soul a la Marvin Gaye, you've got a basic recipe for Justin's music. Of course each song is unique, but what remains constant is the sincerity and intelligence he pours into his songwriting. His lyrics are the fruit of his emotional and spiritual journey, and his voice has grown intense with his convictions. Justin's vocals have a gentle and sweet quality - soaring high into the heavens...but they're also powerful, just as easily touching the ground for a crash landing in a mire of bluesy funk. And his guitar work - bold and progressive, yet memorably melodic. It's folk/rock with an adventurous edge - go check him out live and I'm sure you'll be hooked (even if you're not his sister).