Justin Van SantCypress SaloonDecember 19, 2014 8:00 PM
12710 Telge Road
Cypress, TX 77429
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Everything's BIGGER in Texas, including the booming baritone of Lone Star native Justin van Sant, whose ebullient vocal style and undeniable charisma flow effortlessly together in a rushing stream that refuses to be stemmed. "I'm always performing," Justin says. "I'm performing at work, I'm performing standing in line at the post office." Influenced as much by country's ultimate entertainer, Garth Brooks, as by Texas music mainstays like Pat Green, Randy Rogers and Robert Earl Keen, who've built their careers on legendary live shows, van Sant has developed a keen sense of showmanship that shines brilliantly through on his debut indie album, Justin van Sant.
Growing up in Houston, van Sant shared his love of music with his two triplet siblings and younger brother ("If we'd practiced, we could have been the Von Trapp family," he quips). He sang constantly. "When I left for college," Justin says, "the thing my Mom missed the most was hearing the sliding glass door open and I'd come in singing, all the time." At the University of Texas in Austin, he began playing in a motley assortment of bands and developing his unconstrained songwriting style. When he later moved to Nashville to pursue songwriting, "I found out there were all these rules about writing— you have to use a lot of ‘furniture' *strong visuals+, you have to go verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus. And I kind of understood that, but I wanted to bring in a freer style of writing. I wanted to be able to be myself," Justin says. To truly be himself, he began to realize that he needed to be an artist.
Both as a songwriter and an artist, van Sant was welcomed warmly in Music City. "As soon as I got off the plane, literally walking through the airport I heard live music, and immediately I knew this is where I wanted to be and this was what I wanted to do." He spent the rest of the day downtown on Broadway, sponging up the scene and telling anyone who'd listen that he was a moving to Nashville to pursue his music career. He located a friend in Nashville who offered him a couch to call his bed, and he quickly found a job waiting tables, where he met his co-writing partner, Richard Karg, mopping the floor. Together, the pair penned "Whiskey Two-Step" and "Destination Me and You," two of Justin's first adventures in co-writing.
Richard soon introduced Justin to producer/musician/songwriter Paul Sikes, a Monument Publishing writer with an Emerson Drive cut, an appearance on the "Today Show" in NYC and holds by Brad Paisley and George Strait to his credit. Impressed with Justin's rich vocals, Sikes offered to produce an album for him, playing most of the instruments himself and "proving what you can really do in a bedroom." Sikes collaborated closely with van Sant on song selection (the album features a few well-chosen cuts by #1 hit songwriters including Lee Brice, Luke Bryan, Rory Feek, Tim Johnson, and Will Robinson), as well as the writing of "Lifting Weight" and "Something I Can Do With My Eyes Closed." Altogether, Justin had a hand in writing seven of the 12 songs on his debut album, all of them distinct—from the jazz-tinged romance of "Fall's Coming Early" to the tongue-in-cheek humor of "When The Honeymoon's Over." "This album, it's my perspective on life," Justin says. "I think if you have a unique perspective that draws people in and makes them feel inspired, that's the point of it all."
This special point of view, along with a magnetic, fun-loving personality and spectacular voice have begun to attract a following for van Sant. From the storied Bluebird Café to Tootsie's, Puckett's, Douglas Corner, and The Listening Room, his often humorous, always energetic performances have charmed crowds across Nashville. For Justin, there's nothing more satisfying than connecting with people in this way.
With his album complete and a band ready to go, Justin moved back to the great state of Texas headlining shows at The Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Hideout as well as the cook-off, Midnight Rodeo in Austin, Billy's Icehouse and the County Line San Antonio for their Texas Music Series. He's opened for acts like Cody Johnson, Josh Abbott, Wade Bowen, Brandon Rhyder, Charlie Robison, Honeybrowne, Brian Burke Band, Bart Crow, John David Kent, and Reckless Kelly. He released his first single to radio in June, "Destination Me and You.
"When it comes to food and people, I'm willing to try anything you put it front of me. If your hand is held out, I will shake it and get to know you," Justin says, recalling with excitement his first record release party at Cactus Music. "After the show, people I didn't know were waiting in line to meet me. It was maybe 6 people, but for me it was 600."