WCHS alum named to 'Top 25 to Watch in Nashville'
You could say Justin Forrest started year 2015 with a bang - not a twang - (even though he's a standout in the Nashville music scene). Perhaps the phrase should be "with a riff," because his rock genre is more akin to his idol, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, and his powerhouse guitar licks.
However you describe Forrest's foray into the new year, the best illustration of this 21-year-old's music journey is his inclusion in Nashville Lifestyle's annual music edition "Top 25 to Watch," that hit the stands Jan. 1.
It's a nearly unattainable distinction for one so young. He and his story are in the glossy pages; along with 24 other rising Nashville acts the magazine predicts "will soon be household names."
"I am beyond humbled to be portrayed in the issue," said Forrest, who lives in Mt. Juliet. "When it hit the stands, people were like 'wow'. This makes it real. These are such creative and talented people, the top 25 artists in town."
Success leads to 'Top 25' -- Forrest said while Nashville is a country music mecca, he feels completely at home with his soulful rock style that is compared to Stevie Ray Vaughan, mixed with John Mayer and Mat Kearney.
He's made quite a name for himself as not only a gifted guitarist, but also singer/songwriter. He won the 2012 SESAC Project Next Showcase that highlighted up and coming writers. He wrote and recorded his first album, "Chapters" which debuted the song "City Life" that climbed to the Top 5 on independent radio station Lightning 100.
"It went into heavy rotation," said Forrest. "It was played along with Sam Smith and Coldplay. It was surreal."
"City Life," - which is about his stint in Los Angeles right after graduating Wilson Central High School, and the struggle of living in the city starting fresh- was also #5 on top Shazam'd songs in the area. He recently released his music video for "City Life" and within 48 hours it was a top discussed video on YouTube, with nearly 20 thousand views in 48 hours.
'Chapters' in Forrest's life helped shape music career
And even while Forrest is fairly young, he's definitely not new to the music scene. His grandparents bought him a guitar when he was 7 years old. It was then when he heard Stevie Ray on "Austin City Limits," and his "heart started racing, I wanted to be like that."
His father battled brain cancer 10 years, and during this time Forrest performed as a phenom guitarist and stunned judges at age 13 at the Mt. Juliet Star competition.
He partnered with uber artists like Regina McCrary, who toured with Bob Dylan; Micah Hylscher, who plays keys for The Alabama Shakes; Larry Hansen, whose played with Alabama, and Melissa Mathis, front singer with hot band Luella and the Sun.
This experience and life's unsettling events gave Forrest the depth to pull out searing lyrics, many that debuted on virgin album "Chapters." Several of the cuts on the album come from some heartaches in his short life; thus he's a self-proclaimed "old soul."
"I love reading about other artists and their struggles, they started a path like me, and I know I'm not alone on this journey," said Forrest.
Along with his father's unsuccessful battle against cancer, Forrest dealt with several suicides of good friends. He said their deaths lit a "fire" in him and made him more determined than ever, "because my friends were gone and couldn't pursue theirs anymore."
Forrest said in the past year he's talked with some of the "biggest record labels and booking agents."
"I know they are watching what I'm doing," he said.
Ready for the journey ahead
It doesn't hurt he was singled out as "one to watch" by Nashville Lifestyles.
"I hope I can continue to grow and reach a great audience," he said. "Maybe get an agent and hook up with a label. Whatever direction is best. I love Nashville, and it has major connections to Los Angeles and other places."
While Forrest took a short hiatus from writing, he's back at it again. He's in the pre-stages of his next album.
"I had to take a break awhile, "he said, "Writing, it's a personal journey. I was in the studio in December recording some new stuff."
Forrest has performed in Nashville and beyond, locally at 3rd & Lindsley and Mercy Lounge.
And while Forrest is not considered a "bad boy" of music, he does have some "tats" that mean something to him and cause people to ask what they mean. One is "J.S.F.", his father's initials. Another is from Matthew 6:24, about chasing dreams. People can ask him about the others.
As far as becoming a "household name" this year, Forrest is up for it. While he realizes he's got his whole life in front of him, he's happy to solidify his future earlier, rather than later.
Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at email@example.com.