By Mike Bahr
“My favorite Christmas memory is from when I was eight years old, and my family finally got a piano,” recalls OUTMusic Award-winning singer/songwriter Justin Utley. “It was an old Conover upright, and it weighed a few tons. I grew up playing it, wrote my first songs on it when I was 12, and moved it in and out of a number of apartments before I moved to New York City. My parents still have it at their house today. It’s a nostalgic piece and means even more to me when I play it.” In “All Is Bright,” his first holiday release, Utley sings how even during these dark and tumultuous times, there’s still a silver lining. “The pandemic has brought people closer together,” he says. “There’s nothing like spending time surrounded by the people who matter most, even if it’s over Zoom.” Written and produced by Utley and T. Harts, “All is Bright” is an optimistic yet not overly sweet holiday song. Utley describes it as a little-bit of Lumineers/Mumford & Sons mixed in with a lot- a-bit of Justin. “It’s a unique sound that I believe has the makings to become a new holiday favorite.”
2020 was a tough year. How were you impacted by the pandemic?
It has been a really tough year, emotionally and socially, due to Covid, and most all my gigs and touring were canceled this year due to the outbreak. It’s been really hard for me to not be able to do live shows right now, but I feel that next year will hopefully be even better for it. I’ve thrown my efforts behind music videos and some new music to keep buzz going and keep engagement up.
How do you remain so optimistic?
Because there’s always a silver lining. Even if you can’t see it, and you have to make one. Good things are on the horizon, so while it’s been a really rough year so far, I have a lot to look forward to and be grateful for.
Do you lean on faith in turbulent times such as these?
I lean on my faith in the goodness of people and the hope that things will work out for the better. As disappointing as it’s been to sift through who I can really lean on during these times, it’s also created deeper relationships with the people who’ve stepped up. Those are the people who matter most in life.
Why was it important for you to write and release “All Is Bright” this holiday?
This particular song has been swimming around in my head for over a year or two. I felt with everything chaotic and grim that’s happened this year, the timing would be perfect to release the song and hopefully brighten up the holiday and close out the year on a hopeful note. The pre-sales of the single will be donated to the Homeless Youth Resource Center of Utah. About 42% of our homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, which is higher than many other states. Giving back to a cause is important to me, and this season I’m grateful for the opportunity to help out a cause I believe in so strongly and a resource that is needed so badly.
Who do you hope to find under the mistletoe this holiday?
I think I might be mistletoe-free again this year. But if Henry Cavill happens to stop by with something to decorate with, I’d happily accept.
Justin Utley’s “All Is Bright” is available on all digital platforms, as is his latest album, Stars. Visit Justin Utley’s website @ Justinutley.com. Follow him on Instagram @ justinutley and Facebook @ justinutleymusic.