They say Nashville is a 10-year town, and that is proving to be true for country artist and songwriter Justin Adams. Justin moved to Music City shortly after graduating from college in 2010. This summer – just shy of that 10-year mark -- he is playing major festivals and opening shows for country stars Chris Lane, Chase Bryant, and LoCash.
Justin first became interested in music at the age of 12 when he discovered a beat up old acoustic guitar in his uncle’s garage. “It wasn’t even in a case, it was just sitting on a shelf collecting dust. I was drawn to it…. it was like it had sunshine coming off of it!” His uncle was happy to give him the guitar, and from there Justin taught himself how to play. He performed with a few bands in high school, but his main focus was football.
Justin got a full ride scholarship to the University of Northern Iowa, where he double majored in Movement and Exercise Science and Sports Psychology. In four years as a linebacker (and defensive end his senior year), Justin never missed a game. He still holds the school’s record for playing 54 consecutive games.
One night when he was out with friends during his sophomore year, Justin had an experience that turned out to be a game-changer. “I was THAT guy at a bar. I was like, ‘Man, I play, let me get up on stage,’ and was heckling the band.” The bar manager pulled Justin aside and agreed to let him play a couple songs after the band was done. The manager loved what he heard, and invited him to come back the next week for an open mic. Justin says, “I came back and packed the place, and I felt that energy and that feeling and sensation of being on stage, and I was hooked. From then on, my attention shifted and it was all on music.”
After graduating from college, Justin moved back home to Oklahoma for a short time before moving to Music City to pursue his dreams. He only knew one person in Nashville, but lessons he learned on the football field helped him tackle the challenge and demands of the music business. “I love the aspect of what college football and sports has taught me – discipline and time management – and that’s always been a thing that’s carried over to music.”
Justin worked odd jobs for years before he was able to make a living with his music. “Until I signed my first publishing deal, which was four years ago, I had been waiting tables, personal training, landscaping, picking up as many jobs as I could just to pay my bills to stay here.” He also took every opportunity to surround himself with talented musicians, songwriters, and producers. “I got to be a fly on the wall for a lot of studio sessions early on in Nashville and learn from those guys and girls in the industry that are so good at what they do.”
Playing live shows is Justin’s favorite thing to do, and touring with other country artists and bands has also helped him to hone his craft. Some of the acts he has shared the stage with include Gary Allen, Jon Pardi, Trace Adkins, Dan and Shay, Eli Young Band, Dustin Lynch, and Chase Rice. “Those guys have record deals and songs on the radio, and that’s for a reason. So there’s always something to learn from them.”
While much of Justin’s success is due to his hard work and perseverance, he also gives credit to God for the opportunities he’s been given. “I’m so lucky and incredibly blessed. I believe God has given me a gift to do this and I’m never gonna take it for granted.”
Justin has a new project in the works, which will be his third album/EP release. Six of the tracks are already recorded, and his team is in the process of shopping for a record label – with the goal of putting out a single to radio. Last year, Justin signed a new publishing deal with Frank Rogers and AJ Burton at Fluid Music Revolution/Spirit. “They book sessions and get me in rooms with other amazing writers that I wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to be with.”
One of his recent writing sessions (with Bill Luther and Derek George) resulted in the feel-good song “What It’s Made For.” At the end of June, Justin and members of his band went to Sound Stage Studios with Imagine Recordings and cut a demo of the song. In the second part of this story (July 22 Music Monday feature at Live Laugh Love Nashville), we’ll take you behind the scenes in the studio, show the recording process, and give a video preview of the new song.
Follow Justin at www.JustinAdamsCountry.com
For more information on taking a behind-the-scenes tour of an actual recording session in Nashville, go to www.ImagineRecordings.com
FUN FACTS AND TRIVIA
Justin loves blues guitar (Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Muddy Waters)
Must-haves for touring: Wranglers, boots, coffee and healthy snacks
Restaurant: The Pharmacy in East Nashville (burgers, fries, shakes)
Honky Tonk: Robert’s Western World
Coffee shop: Crema
Book: Bible, Wild at Heart by John Eldredge
Movie: Dumb and Dumber, Caddyshack