Get to know Justin Garner

Justin Garner copy 2TOURING WITH TREY SONGZ AND outselling Beyoncé are just two accomplishments that are pushing pop singer Justin Garner to the forefront of the music industry. His ability to wrap so many genres inside his R&B and pop melodies even have people around world taking notice.

In 2011 Garner released his sophomore album I am, and in February a re-mastered version with new songs debuted on Japan’s iTunes R&B charts at #19. In just mere hours it had surpassed Beyonce’s self-tilted album for the #1 spot.

“I got on iTunes and looked for myself in Japan and found a big banner saying Justin Garner that was right next to a Beyoncé ad. I was number one and she was number 12,” Garner said.

While his music has been released in the United States, Garner said he believes that a big reason that it has received so much attention in Japan is that the Japanese approach new artists differently than Americans. Justin Japan itunes

“Overseas in Japan they love great singers and vocals. There, it’s more about the searching for music from abroad, but in America it’s more about the politics and marketing side.”

In an age where social media networks have become the standard way to communicate, Garner has

used the popularity of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to ensure that his music gets to his fans, which he refers to as the “JG Army”.

Garner said touring and social media have been great ways to gain exposure, but as an independent artist, without the support of a label, the biggest asset to his arsenal of marketing strategies has been his education. He has a marketing degree from Southern University that he uses as one of the biggest tools in the promotion of his music.

“Music is great but you have to have some level of marketing behind you to help you get music out. You can be the best singer, but you have to have the knowledge and know- how, and I feel that that degree gave me that.”

Garner refers to Michael Jackson and Usher as his inspirations, but said he developed his passion for music growing up in church. Yet while he acknowledges those things, he said he has been told that his talent comes from his father, Ernest “Oldie” Garner, who died when he was two. Earnest was a member of the Plaquemine-based band The Rockin’ Imperials who also saw international success.

Garner said he is going to continue his career and the trail started by his father as he prepares to release his newest E.P., 7. Inspired by a recent trip to California, 7 is a project containing seven tracks recorded in seven days. It will be released at the beginning of April. Justin Garner I AM Japan Version Coverage-2 copy

justin garner two copy“So many great things happened on that [California] trip and I came back on such an emotional high. I was inspired to write these seven songs.”

He is planning a summer tour in the United States and Japan to promote 7 and celebrate the success of I Am. But before then, Garner said he is also setting aside time to give back to Louisiana and will be working with the Baton Rouge Chapter of the American Red Cross.

“The people at the Red Cross are just like us, except instead of getting up to go to work, they’re getting up to volunteer to be there for their community.”

Last year Garner helped the organization start the “Give Back Campaign” where portions of the proceeds from a concert hosted by Garner were donated the American Red Cross. He will be doing the concert again this year.

With all of his recent success and the success expected to come Garner, he said he has a goal that goes deeper than just to entertain the masses.

“I enjoy seeing someone else’s expression to music, more than the spotlight, giving someone peace of mind for a just a few minutes is what I enjoy.”

In the future, Garner said he would like to be signed to major record label. His ideal music contract would be with a label supportive enough to invest in a singer who writes, co-produces and has independently released material. So far he has yet to be offered that non-controlling type of contract, but he’s hopeful. Until then, he plans to continue pursuing his independent career and making himself undeniable.

What I learned at SXSW

SXSW Wristband

As long as I can remember, I have always wanted to attend South by Southwest  in Austin, Texas. I’ve always considered myself a nerd so attending a conference that combines music and movies, and technology was nothing short of heaven. Attending SXSW did not live up to the high expectations I had spent years setting– it superceded them! Although for someone who has been, the experience can almost be overwhelming. So I compiled a list of 6 do’s that can help make your experience even better.

1. Be Prepared to Walk.

SXSW takes over all of downtown Austin, most of the busier streets are closed for the onslaught of pedestrian traffic. Venues are scattered throughout the downtown area so comfortable shoes are a must! I would also bring water because while racing from showcase to party, its important to stay hydrated in the sweltering Texas Heat.

2. Be Flexible

flash mob

( I literally got stuck in a flash mob, only at SXSW.)

Flexibility is key! Although lineups for shows and showcases are made months in advance “life” happens. You just never know what artist or panelist may or may not be able to make it to SXSW. Lineups are always changing, don’t cling to your schedule too tightly, be ready to adapt! This, in my opinion, is what made the experience the most exciting!!!

3. Arrive there EARLY!

Parties during SXSW are the only parties where RSVP doesn’t mean guaranteed entry. Yes, the person who did RSVP two hours before the party, that  you previously RSVPd to weeks ago, could possible get in before you if they are ahead of you in the line. Although shows rarely start on time they tend to open the gates on time and the bigger the artist, the longer the line and greater the chance you WON’T get in to see the show. RSVP and get there EARLY! (Unless you have press passes of course, oh the delight!)

ANYWAY BACK TO THE TOPIC AT HAND…

4. Stay Linked in.

If you aren’t on Twitter or Facebook, yes there are still some of them out there, then SXSW is the best time to get acquainted or reacquainted. This is especially true for someone who has never been to SXSW. Social network sites will be one of the best guides during your SXSW experience! These sites will keep you aware of the locations of “secret shows” or locations to recharge a cell phone or laptop. Don’t only rely on social networks, take advantage of websites like Eventbrite and RSVPster to help find showcase and RSVP to them for free.

Phone Charger

( this phone charger at an American Airlines event saved my life but following @sxsw on twitter helped me find it)

5. You will get FREE stuff… BRING A BAG!

Converse Bag

(thanks Converse)

SXSW is swag heaven! There are tons representatives from every company you could think of ranging from MTV to American Airlines. Those companies and their reps will want to put of their merchandise in your hands; trust me they will fill up quick! I got everything imagiable from aluminum water bottles (thanks ASOS!) to free shoes from Converse and more t-shirts than I care to count. Theres nothing worse than being in the hot Texas sun lugging around 10 Swag bags from venue to venue.

SXSW BAG

6. Network, Network, Network!!!

So many people come to SXSW with many different goals. Filmmakers, musicians, managers and publicist, and marketing execs were everywhere! There tens of thousands of people in town with tens of thousands of goals, you never know who you will run into and how long you have to make an impression. Make sure that you bring lots of business cards! Send someone to your Facebook, Twitter or WordPress, with links to all of your other works. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to anyone! If you’re within their range, don’t stop and stare or just stop to take a picture, if you’re there for business, NETWORK!

KIa Shine( I literally bumped into rapper Kia Shine sometimes even the artist have to walk from venue to venue)

Gospel Artist AV Mitchell Uses Music to Inspire and Give Back

AV Photo Michael “A.V.” Mitchell is a rising artist who not only wants to inspire the world with music but also possesses a strong desire to give back to the community every step of the way.

Mitchell, a 30-year-old Baton Rouge native, was inspired to enter the music industry after commiting to Christ 12 years ago.

The journey has led to the release of his second album “Spiritual Motivation” a  year ago and as lead him to two national award nominations.

“I want the music I write and how I carry myself to align with the Word of God and confront issues people are facing,” he said.

Mitchell’s mission has garnered the attention of listeners nationwide.

He has been nominated for two Rhythm of Gospel Awards. “Spiritual Motivation” has been nominated for Album of the Year and his single, “Radical,” has been nominated for the Holy Hip Hop Song of the Year.

“It’s a great feeling to be nominated and acknowledged by my peers, but my greatest reward is knowing my music is helping people move forward,” said Mitchell.

The Rhythm of Gospel Awards annually spotlights and recognizes churches, religious groups, community leaders, and independent gospel music artists. This year’s the awards ceremony will be in Jacksonville, Fla., this summer.

Before then, he plans to release his third album later this month, “Mind Maintenance,” with seven tracks, which he will take to Nashville  and perform during showcases around the 28th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards.

By April, his fans can expect a fourth full album, “VIP Status,” from Mitchell.

He said his desire is to motivate people beyond musical performances, so his community outreach program, the Vision, Identity, and Purpose Project, allows him to inspire young people to reach their full potential no matter what their circumstances in life are.

“If you know and have an understanding of who your identity you can discover your purpose in life and once you find your purpose you can then develop a vision to help you reach your purpose,” said Mitchell.

He uses the V.I.P project to reach people by delivering motivational speeches at churches and schools.

Mitchel said his mother is an exceptional role model who reared him and six sisters, but he was lacking someone to encourage him to reach his full potential.

Now, his ambition is to be that encourager for many others.

This ambition and passion for Christ pushes him, he said, and it is felt in his music and seen through the VIP Project and his street ministry.

“Sometimes to reach people you cannot always expect them to come to you,” he said.

Mitchell mixes his spoken word  skills and music to motivate. Like his stage name, “A.V.”, Mitchell deliberately is “another vessel” for Christianity as he often takes time during performances to explain the experiences that inspired his songs.

This year, he plans to  create “The VIP Experience,” a series of motivational speeches aimed to reach adults and children.

“Just knowing that my testimony or delivering an encouraging word that motivated someone to change their life is a very rewarding feeling,” said Mitchell.