Described as the next guitar phenomenon, Nashville Singer/Songwriter and guitarist, Justin Forrest, 21, brings a breath of fresh air to today’s music industry. Since winning the 2012 SESAC Project Next Showcase, Justin has started to build quite a reputation on the Nashville music scene and gained a good following here in the southeast. The Project Next Showcase is sponsored by SESAC to put a spotlight on up & coming writers and or Artists and it found a gem in Justin. After winning the showcase, Justin went on to debut himself at Hard Rock Nashville and sold out the venue. Since the beginning of 2013, Justin has been in a hiatus creating the groundwork to his career, and recording his debut album entitled “Chapters.”
Q: How long have you been in Nashville playing music?
A: First time was when I was 11 and have just been doing it ever since. Around 15 years now.
Q: Who are the biggest musical influences, and who do you think you sound like?
A: Before my father passed away he put in a DVD of Stevie Ray Vaughan. This was probably when I was about 6 or 7 years old. After watching him on the DVD player it moved me and I knew I wanted more of it, so that’s what I think really influenced me first. As far as songwriting goes, definitely Bob Dylan, John Mayer, and even Jay-Z because of his empire that he’s built and his determination that he has with his music.
Q: Since winning the 2012 SESAC Project Next Showcase, how has things changed?
A: Once I won the showcase I no longer felt like I had to prove myself because I had producers and other music industry professionals from SESAC backing me. It was just the validation that people actually liked my stuff. After the showcase I got a fire lit under my belt that I can actually do this.
Q: Tell us the process you take to write music.
A: I definitely always write music from the heart. I am firm believer that if an artist is singing a song, you can’t sing it unless you have some sort of special relationship to it. For instance, when I wrote “City Life” in the LA airport, I was searching for a fresh start, or a new chapter in my life. A chapter to just be anonymous in LA but still struggling with leaving Nashville because I love it so much. But, I still had that urge to try something new.
Q: Do you have a favorite track off “Chapters,” if so what is it?
A: Saved by the sun is probably my favorite, because I go wild every time I play it live for a crowd. Pulling out Hendrix moves and what not. I just connect so well with it because it reminds me of when I first picked up the guitar and played blues and R&B.
Q: What are your long-term goals as an artist?
A: I just want to keep pushing forward, making good music so I can continue to connect to a wide audience. I want to keep the intimate vibe, whether it be at Exit-In, The Ryman, or even the Bridgestone Arena. Hopefully 5 years from now I’ll be touring the US and maybe even internationally. Whether it be signing a record deal with Sony or small independent label.
Q: What is your advice for others following their dreams? (not just in music)
A: I think society puts it in people’s heads that you graduate high school, then go to college, then get a white picket fence and get married. But every single person is different and they walk their own path. My heart desired to play music, so that’s what I did. I believe people need to take leaps and go towards the happiness that their heart tells them, and not just what people expect them to do. For the last couple years I’ve been blessed to work for a ma and pa music shop here in town and my boss taught me to just go for it and follow what you think it right. We only live once and when I am 80 years old, I want to say I lived a life that was meaningful. Even if I have had failures, I just kept moving forward on to the next chapter.
Interviewed by Mitchell Manning