Friday, June 14, 2024

Justin Utley releases New “Scars” Album and Video on World Suicide Prevention Day

OUTMusic Award winner Justin Utley is releasing his third studio album, Scars, and its title track, on September 10, World Suicide Prevention Day. Recorded in Salt Lake City, the album is the most heartfelt, brutally honest, thought provoking and vulnerable collection of songs Ultey has ever produced and introduces a new up-tempo sound for the out singer.  

Though thematically heavy, the title track is passionate and anthemic with hints of influences from a diverse group of artists including Lennon–McCartney, Freddie Mercury, Trent Reznor, Michael Hutchence and Johnny Cash. Justin Utley has a lot to say on the epidemic of young people taking their lives in America today. Several in his own family have committed suicide. Others have tried, including Justin.  

“I know how quickly the walls close in, how easy it is to get to that edge, and the years of lasting impact it has on those left behind. It’s devastating, tragic, and also preventable.”  

Justin Utley

Suicide in America is dominated by men, who account for 70 percent of all cases. In Utah, where Justin Utley recorded the Scars album, suicide is the leading cause of death for children, teens, and college students. It is also the second leading cause of death in adult men and women to age 44. “I came dangerously close to ending my own life,” Justin explains. “Close enough that my good friend called the police.”

Life for Justin quickly unraveled after his boyfriend, Brent, passed away from an unexpected heart attack.  Living in Utah within a devout Mormon community, the men were not out about their relationship. Justin was forced to grieve alone.  He wasn’t even allowed to attend Brent’s funeral. 

He sought guidance from his bishop but instead of consolation, was reprimanded for quitting the conversion therapy program that had been prescribed to him. Justin’s bishop told him he had jeopardized his own salvation, and that God taking Brent away was punishment for their deviance because the two men were not supposed to be in that kind of relationship. Justin recalls everything crashing down on him emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. He could find no reason or value in his existence and didn’t believe anyone would love him again.

“The one thing I hear all the time is that ‘even religious leaders make mistakes’,” Justin reflects today.  “While that may be true, it doesn’t excuse the harm they have inflicted. Religious bullying is costing lives and it has got to stop. While I hope Scars is empowering to survivors and encourages them to acknowledge, understand, and even celebrate their stories, I also hope the album sparks conversation and leads to real change in the religious community.”

Born and raised in Utah, Justin Utley’s music career took off when he was selected to perform at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. After breaking ties with his Mormon roots and moving to New York City, Justin became a sought-after talent, spending much of his career touring as a performer at Pride Festivals worldwide where he has shared the stage with top international acts including Dan Reynolds, Icona Pop, Tegan & Sara, and Margaret Cho.

In June 2010, Utley released “Stand for Something,” a single written to inspire and motivate action towards securing LGBT marriage equality in the United States. The single was nominated by the LGBT Academy of Recording Arts for 4 OutMusic Awards, including Best Songwriter and Artist of the Year.  It won Best Country/Folk Song of the Year. 

Justin has served as a guest contributor on CNN’s ‘Faces of Faith’ Sunday news segment, NPR, SiriusXM’s OutQ and MSNBC. He is a two-time recipient of the FBI’s “Inspiring Citizen of the Year” award, and “Artist of the Year” by SiriusXM’s OutQ Radio.  He regularly provides insight on issues of faith and the LGBT community at colleges and universities throughout the USA.

After Justin learned that his friend had called the police to warn them about his intention to harm himself, he fled. He eventually agreed to meet the police to show them he was ok, but when he arrived, there had been an accident. Sadly, his mother had been following behind the police and was now being pulled out from her car that was totaled beneath an SUV.

For hours, Justin waited in the ER for news of his mother.  When she was finally released, she sat next to him, bruised and bandaged, and said, “if this is what it takes for you to know you are loved the way you are, I’ll do it again”.

That night changed everything for Justin.

“To those considering suicide, know that the darker and longer the shadow, the brighter the light is that casts it,” says Justin. “There is always help available to get you out of that space where there appears to be no way out of.  Once you’ve found that safe space, reach out to someone else who might be struggling to find it. Empathy is more powerful than sympathy alone, and that outreach can be life changing.”

The Scars album and its title track are being distributed independently and are available on Bandcamp on September 10; Apple Music, Spotify and all digital platforms on September 20. 

The Scars music video is available on Youtube. Visit Justin Utley’s website –  Follow him on Instagram @justinutley and Facebook @justinutleymusic.

Watch Justin Utley’s Scars below!

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Queer Forty Staff

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