New York City based singer-songwriter Justin Utley is quickly gaining momentum as a sought-after national performer, and icon within the LGBT community. As an 'out' ex-Mormon, Justin speaks candidly about his life and experiences through his inspiring storytelling and powerful, entertaining music.
Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, Justin Utley began his career as a Mormon-Contemporary singer/songwriter, touring throughout the west United States to mostly religious and faith-based audiences during the late-1990's. In 2002, he was a featured performer at the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics, and earned numerous awards during his time in Utah, including “Best Singer and Songwriter” by Salt Lake City Weekly and "Best New Artist" by Indie Review Monthly. The Utah native also composed and performed the theme song to the Emmy Award-winning PBS movie "The Shadow of Light", as well as other independent films.
After publicly breaking ties with the Mormon Church and sending his own "self-excommunication letter", Justin became a noted activist and advocate for civil rights and LGBT equality in the United States, and an outspoken personality against the Mormon church's use of conversion therapy, a method Utley endured for two years after serving a two-year full-time mission for the church. In June 2010, Utley released Stand for Something – a single written to inspire and motivate to take action towards securing LGBT equality in America, ending youth homelessness, and increasing community awareness. The single was nominated by the LGBT Academy Of Recording Arts for 4 OutMusic Awards, including Best Songwriter and Artist of the Year, winning Best Country/Folk Song of the Year. Another version of the single was released in October 2010 which included two additional live tracks and an acoustic version of songs from the album 'Runaway'.
Theatrically, his credits include a seven-month Utah regional run as “Joseph” in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (2001–2002) and as leading man "Radames" in the Utah premiere of Elton John and Tim Rice’s Broadway hit Aida (2005). Later, he would leave his Mormon-inherited religion behind, relocate to Manhattan and debut in the New York City theater scene as “Tommy Dautry” in the musical Our Country (2009). The show garnered the Best Musical, and Justin as Best Actor awards for the Planet Connections Theater Festivity. The show went on to be featured in the New York Musical Theater Festival in the summer of 2010.
Justin has performed and headlined at Pride Festivals globally, including:
Stockholm Pride, Sweden
LA Pride (Opening for Margaret Cho)
San Diego Pride
Las Vegas Pride
New York Pride
Providence RI Pride
Gay Softball World Series: Opening Ceremonies
Justin Utley - Guitar, Piano, and Vocals.
Nothing This Real (LP)
Stand For Something (Extended Single)
Stand For Something (Single)
Hold You + Remixes (EP)
2011 Artist Of The Year: Justin Utley
The interview with him was our largest radio audience of 2011.
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#4: Justin Utley’s impressive new album
Looks, talent, and a voice to die for!
Looks, talent and a voice to die for! After that performance, New York City will never be the same!
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Justin Utley is incredibly talented. An engaging, entertaining performer and an absolute crowd pleas...Justin Utley is incredibly talented. An engaging, entertaining performer and an absolute crowd pleaser.
-Davis Mallory, Music Columnist
New York’s hottest up-and-coming musician.
Who's Next: Justin Utley, a rising star!
Strong and Honest
Strong and honest. This is a muscular, polished collection of songs that demand attention.
Marvelously Talented Role Model
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With his earnest smile and hunky sex-appeal, as marvelously talented as Utley is, he’s equally as ac...With his earnest smile and hunky sex-appeal, as marvelously talented as Utley is, he’s equally as accessible and personable.
All the things one looks for in a role-model fit to represent the diversely rich gay community.
- JC Alvarez, Nightlife Editor
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His patented blend of Alt-Rock, Country, Pop, and a little bit of everything else he can pack into a...His patented blend of Alt-Rock, Country, Pop, and a little bit of everything else he can pack into a track, come across seamlessly and without effort .. in a manner that transcends boundaries.
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Exceptional songwriting... Outstanding and ground-breaking music. This is what you've been looking f...Exceptional songwriting... Outstanding and ground-breaking music. This is what you've been looking for.
One of the Most Talented Individuals We've Met
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Unabashedly charming and without parallel, Justin Utley is one of the most talented individuals we'...Unabashedly charming and without parallel, Justin Utley is one of the
most talented individuals we've ever met.
Hot, Gay and Mormon Justin Utley Stands For Something
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tried and tried to meet up with Justin Utley in person over Pride Weekend. He had just performed in ...tried and tried to meet up with Justin Utley in person over Pride Weekend. He had just performed in San Francisco on Friday night – where he reprised his role as Tommy Dautry in the off-Broadway show “OUR COUNTRY.” Alas, after I juggled house guests and Pride volunteer activities, we decided to chat by phone today – after his return to New York. Our talk only made me wish I had 86'd our guests and hung out with him over coffee.
Justin began his career as a Mormon-Contemporary singer/songwriter and played to almost exclusively religious audiences. By the late 1990s, he was also grappling with his sexuality. He had entered ex-gay therapy in the Mormon Church and later self ex-communicated himself from the church.
Now living in New York, Justin has moved onward and upward and has a new album, Nothing This Real, coming out later this summer. “Stand For Something,” a single that is included on the album, was voted best country folk song by the LGBT Academy of Recording Arts in 2010. While his music definitely has a country edge, he describes his sound as a “blend of pop, rock, alt and country.”
“With all the great things that have been happening to me, my new album is much more about the acceptance I have found in the past few years than my early music was,” Utley says. “The new album is more honest and the music plays off emotions versus specifics so that larger audiences will appreciate it.”
Justin performed in the religious play “It’s a Small World” when he was in grade school and his mom, seeing his talent, auditioned him for other shows. He started playing the piano when he was in junior high. He spent much of his early career writing and performing religious music, both as a solo performer and as part of a Christian band.
It was as he became a teenager that he started to sense he was different.
“I was affected by what the Mormon Church calls ‘same-sex attraction.’ When he was 24, at the advice of his Bishop, he enrolled into Evergreen, an ex-gay group run by the church. “It was like AA, but because being gay is considered a disease or disorder, the group was reparative. The group actually gave me a way to talk openly about being gay and introduced me to other people like me.”
In fact, Justin told Queerty last year that the program was a cruising ground where members jerked off together. Meanwhile, Justin’s one-on-one therapist had convinced him that he was sexually molested as a child.
“My family went on a ‘witch hunt’ to find out who it was,” he says. His mother was especially alarmed, and his father was confused that he had done something. They soon realized that the ‘diagnosis’ was crap.
Eight months into the program, he felt nothing was happening to change his feelings. Another participant had been in the group for 10 years with no progress.
“The staff told me that the program only had a .01% success rate. Only a .01% success rate!,” he remembers. The revelation caused him to question the entire process. He had also met a boyfriend, Brent, and he left the program after two years of the damaging therapy.
He started working at a local credit union as he continued his coming out process. As an employee, he was told they wouldn’t have hired him if they had known he was gay. In fact, they had denied his job to a better candidate because she had an HRC sticker on her car when she interviewed. But happily, he also came to the conclusion that nothing was wrong with him.
Then, disaster struck. 6-months after they left Evergreen, Brent died of a heart attack. “The Bishop told me that God took my boyfriend because he was gay,” he says with sadness in his voice. Justin soon thereafter officially resigned from the church – in what the church calls a self ex-communication.
His mom has been supportive from the start about his sexuality, but his dad has taken a bit longer. His father has remained a devout Mormon and its in his church record that his father has two wives “promised to him in the next life.” Although Justin’s parents are not together, his father is married to both his mom and a new wife. Justin tells me that polygamy is still considered an “eternal principle” by the mainstream church – although no one ever discusses it. Silence makes a good PR campaign as the church continues to fund “traditional marriage” campaigns.
With all of this behind him, his music career started to gain momentum. He was invited to sing for the 2002 Olympics in Utah, where he performed for the IOC receptions during opening and closing ceremonies. Utley next started work on Runaway, his 2005 solo recording debut. He says much of this early music reflected the confusion and identity issues he was dealing with at the time.
His talent led to frequent flights to New York and Pride Festival performances all over the world. He moved to New York in 2005 where he still works full time at a bank. He has no regrets about juggling a double career. “Hey, the income definitely allows me to pursue whatever I want.” And his boyfriend, Joe, has been nothing but supportive about Justin’s music.
On top of his busy life, Utley is a staunch gay equality supporter. He became more involved when his step-family fought for the passage of Prop 8 in California (they live there). He says they would have mortgaged their home to pass it if they had to. He put many hours into campaigning against the anti-gay law.
With all of this experience behind him, he is ready for the drop of his new album this August. And hopefully new fans will embrace his good looks and incredible voice.
Want to hear more of Justin? Please be sure to pre-order Nothing This Real at his site.
As we finished our conversation, Justin reminded me of the inspiration behind his singing and songwriting: “Yes, my music has messages about where I’m from. But it is also about my other passion – to make a statement beyond performing.”
And did I mention he is pretty fucking hot?
If you live in San Diego, you can see Justin perform live at Pride on July 17. You can get details of his appearance at the San Diego Pride site.
Be sure to follow Justin on Twitter, Facebook and check out his site here. You won’t be disappointed – so listen and see the hottie below…
Justin Utley Stands For Something
Inspiring! Takes the listener on a journey.
Brings It Home
Justin's songs are smart and personal, a great combination. Justin really brings it home.
Born to be a Rockstar
Born to be a rockstar. Blends singer/songwriter sensitivity with a rock attitude.
This guy ROCKS
Totally blew me away. Entertaining & talented. This guy ROCKS.
PDF RiderJustin Utley Press Kit 2013.pdf
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