There's nothing quite like a man, a
microphone and his guitar. With Pride season in full swing all around
the country, artists are coming out in droves to support the
festivities. Openly gay ex-Mormon singer/songwriter/activist
Justin Utley, who is big on the Pride circuit, released his
sophomore album titled “Nothing This Real” at the end of 2011.
Justin recently spoke with Mark’s List about the response to his
new album, what Pride means to him and leaving the Mormon Church
to find his own path.
Your sophomore album dropped in November
of 2011. What has been the response so far in 2012?
It's been fantastic. I've had a lot of
positive feedback, even from a few family members who can be
brutally honest. I have to say, it makes me wish the album had
come out sooner, though with all the touring I was doing in the
summer it would have been pretty impossible—I needed to sleep.
How would you describe your style of
music to someone who has never heard you sing?
Some rock/pop, country (but never full
ho-down), contemporary, inspirational. Alternative Country Rock
seems to be the genre that sticks the most. People suggest that
if the latter-career Dixie Chicks went Big Love on Daughtry, and
their son was raised by Sheryl Crow and Melissa Etheridge, and
Rob Thomas was the babysitter, you’d have me [laughs].
How involved are you in the creative
process of making your records? Do you write your own songs?
I compose the music and lyrics myself either
on the piano or the guitar. The words and melody usually happen
together—a particular mood, emotion, or passion will spark an
Will you be performing at any of the
Pride festivals this summer?
I would love to perform at
Pride in Fort
Lauderdale, but a scheduling conflict won’t allow it. My
Facebook insights tell me that I have a solid number of ‘Likes’
in or near South Florida; it would be great to have a gig down
there and celebrate Pride. There is always Miami and Fort
Lauderdale Pride in 2013.
What do you think makes a good Pride
Having the community come together to
celebrate love and equality is first and foremost—and not just
the gays; our straight allies are equally as important. Then
there are our political allies who speak out in support of it
all. Then of course is the music—really good music.
Do you watch any of the reality singing
shows like “American Idol” or “The Voice”? Do you think shows
like that are good for the music industry?
I haven't watched ‘Idol’ for quite some
time. I had a close friend on the show, and of course the
exposure is wonderful, but from what I understand you are
"owned" for a number of years after being on the show. It seems
to have become more of a pop-making machine than a talent
competition. As for the ‘Voice,’ it seems much more honest
about the artists’ talent, and the judges are more current and
relevant. Heck, maybe I should audition [laughs].
What was it like growing up Mormon
knowing you were gay?
To be honest, it was terrifying. Growing up
believing (or "knowing" depending on your point of reference)
that I was in the same boat as pedophiles, bestiality or other
sexual deviant categories of sin was pretty stressful. It meant
I wouldn't be allowed to live with my family in the next life.
After serving my two-year Mormon mission, I enrolled in two
years of the church's ex-gay therapy program, consisting of a
weekly group meeting and support group in addition to one-on-one
sessions with a therapist bound by church social science. After
two years I realized it didn't work. Thank God it didn't,
because I'd rather be who I am and honest with myself than
pretend to be something I'm not my whole life.