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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Deeper Dish with Justin Utley


Justin Utley has come a long way since he first started playing the piano at age seven. Raised as a Mormon in Salt Lake City, the openly gay singer-songwriter began his music career performing to mostly religious and faith-based audiences in the late '90s and earning numerous awards such as "Best Singer and Songwriter" by Salt Lake City Weekly. He was a featured performer at the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympics, and his theater credits include a seven-month run as Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as well as the lead in the 2005 Utah premiere of Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida. During this time, Justin also embraced his sexuality after two years of conversion therapy in a church-sanctioned ex-gay program - which he discovered doesn't work.

In November 2005, Justin released Runaway, his first nationally distributed CD, and the following year he left Utah and his Mormon faith behind and began a new life in New York City. These days you can find the handsome and talented guy singing at gay rights fundraisers and pride events, and he recently released "Stand For Something", a digital single available on iTunes and Amazon.com with all proceeds going toward local and national equality non-profit efforts. I am so delighted to have Justin here on the Dish to discuss his career and answer a few pop culture questions.



Let's begin with your new single, "Stand For Something". What inspired you to write it?
The idea for the song came while I was living in Utah, being faced with some choices of either standing up for myself, my rights, and what is right and fair, or just keeping quiet and letting things work themselves out (which usually doesn't happen - as is custom with most LGBT equality in Utah). The song and idea was shelved for quite some time, and then Prop 8 came into the spotlight as did Obama's election. Both events moved me in very different ways. I dusted off the track, re-arranged and re-wrote it, and it found its light and its place. The emotion of what happened in November 2008 definitely resonates in it. It's about being a change-agent, and standing up for something, for yourself and those you care about, even when no one else will and even if you think you're the only one who will stand up. Your actions can make a world of difference. Even though equality under the law should never be put up for a public vote, Prop 8 was too close to have gone the way it did. Had more people believed that their vote and voice mattered, the outcome would have been much different.

What was the very first song that you ever wrote?
5th grade. Reflections contest at Orchard Elementary school. I won a pencil set. Lots of notes in the key of C.

What is the most memorable moment you have had while performing?
At the Winter Olympics in 2002, the governor wasn't ready to take the stage, so they asked me to play another song (and I had already played everything I had prepared at that point). I got back up, sat at the piano, and played an off-the-cuff but damn good slow version of "Time After Time".

What acting role have you enjoyed performing the most?
Tommy Dautry in Our Country (it won Best New Musical last year at an off-Broadway theater festival). It's about a gay and closeted country superstar who, at the peak of his stardom, gets outed. He goes through ex-gay therapy, and eventually gets back into the game by being true to himself - wasn't too hard to find the motivation for the role.



Since you've lived in New York City since 2006, what would you highly recommend to a visitor to see or do there?
There are, of course, museums and buildings and parks - but aside from some of the cooler touristy stuff, there are quite a few really amazing places to eat that are off the beaten path - and by path I mean Broadway, Times Square, etc. A lot of these niche places are in the West and East Village and you won't find them anywhere else. I'm an eater, and enjoy a good cereal milk ice cream at MilkBar and some custom Mac-N-Cheese at 'Smac - or Lobster Rolls at Luke's Lobster. The list goes on and on. Eventually I'll dinner my way over to the Statue Of Liberty.

If you could go back and give your 19-year-old self a wise piece of advice, what would it be?
God made you exactly the way you're supposed to be, and wouldn't change anything about you, so don't try to change what and who you are. You'll save yourself a lot of headache.



In high school I was:
A dork, but a popular one. Very skinny. I once got made fun of for having no ass.

My favorite comfort food is:
Cereal milk ice cream from Milk Bar. This is the second time I have mentioned this place. Go get some.

The last good book I read was:
The instruction manuals for my Korg Triton Extreme keyboard. I'm on the second book (there are three volumes).

When I was growing up, I never missed a television episode of:
You Can't Do That On Television, Double Dare, The Price Is Right, Voltron, He-Man, Bewitched, Mr Wizard's World - and Remote Control and Monty Python's Flying Circus (until my parents disconnected the evil MTV).

Today I never miss a television episode of:
Big Love (ha!), True Blood, Nurse Jackie, Project Runway - not much time for any TV.

The very first record album or CD that I purchased with my own money was:
INXS Live Baby Live. The band was amazing, and the live cuts really motivated me to want to play to a big crowd and grow my hair long.

If I was stranded on a desert island for a year, I would want to listen to:
Coldplay, Melissa Etheridge, Tears for Fears (their newest album is incredible), Sarah McLachlan, and the soundtrack for the 1992 movie, Singles.

Three of my favorite movies are:
The Descent, Alive and Milk.

If I was asked to choose the Sexiest Man Alive, it would be:
Alcide (Joe Manganiello), the new werewolf on True Blood. I want to know who his trainer is. And what he eats - or doesn't.

If I could have anyone in the world - living or dead - be a guest at my dinner party, I would invite the following three people:
Harvey Milk, John Lennon and Henry Stuart Matis [a young gay Mormon who committed suicide in 2000].



What's next for Justin Utley?
Well, 2010 has been busier than I ever expected. Working with Dan Maierle and Leone Kraus [who handle his marketing and PR] has been awesome, and we've been able to reach audiences that I never thought I'd reach. My goal is to keep the momentum in both performing and recording. In addition to the digital release of "Stand For Something", there will be an extended-single released at the beginning of August with extra songs, which include live tracks from my performances at The Stonewall Inn and Rockbar, and an acoustic version of "Goodbye Goodbye". This fall plan on seeing a new CD of all new tracks. It definitely has pushed me musically and vocally - the faster tracks are more edgy and the slower tracks are deeper. I've also started writing a book called From the Inside Out - and no, Dad, if you're reading this, I'm not going to mention how many times you forgot about me and left me at the park after Jeremy's baseball games.

Thank you, Justin, for getting Deeper with us here on the Dish. To learn more about Mr. Utley and his groovy music, check out his MySpace page. You can also become a fan on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and YouTube, and sign up for news and updates at broadtexter.com/justinutley.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

HOT.... HOT!!

Where is this guy?? He should be touring with the big boys!

Frank C said...

Quite an amazing guy. In an industry where looks are everything, he's bringing much more to the plate. Way to go Justin. Wishing you much success.

TARA P said...

luv u Justin. so proud that you are standing up for yourself. YOU ROCK!!

Anonymous said...

Nicest guy you will ever meet