By P.A. Geddie for County Line Magazine
Published: June 21, 2019
Performing singer/songwriter Justin Kemp of Dallas is making the rounds this summer in the Upper East Side of Texas.
Kemp writes and sings with “lone star attitude” and all the momentum and spirit he absorbed from a household of eight brothers and sisters and a father that was into country-western music.
“Acts like Hank Williams and Ray Price were his favorites,” Kemp says. “I guess music has always been around in one way or another.”
He got started in music in his 7th grade year in school and hasn’t stopped being involved in bands, performing, and songwriting ever since. He says he finds inspiration all around.
“I try to make my music representative of myself and my generation. I love the places that most people don’t give a second glance. My music is a reflection of my experiences — heart break, redemption, and joy.”
Like his father, he’s inspired by Hank Williams and also Classic Rock legends like Toto and new artists like Post Malone, he says. He also likes the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Marvin Gaye, The Beatles, Garth Brooks, Steve Winwood, and Peter Gabriel.
“I am inspired by whatever hits me. I like great lyrics, melody, and structure.”
While songwriting is his greatest passion, he enjoys performing both solo and with his band — Justin Kemp Band — and it helps him get what he needs out of the songs.
“The thing I like most about being a songwriter is the ability to create. I like performing because it gives me a chance to hone-in on my songs — the ability to see which parts people react to the most. This helps in my writing process.”
With about 25 years experience now, he’s got his creative process down.
“I have to have something to write about at first. Then, I start messing around with different ideas and chord progressions. From there whatever feeling invokes me I write about, then I focus on lyrics, then structure and after that arrangement.”
Some of his favorite words he’s written are in his song “So Mean” — “your tongue spits fire and your words take root.” “It was one of my most painful songs to write but it was very cleansing,” Kemp says. “I was going through a divorce and these are things I wanted to say to my ex but I started thinking that maybe these were things my children were picking up on too. When I realized my kids were probably thinking these things of me, it really hit home.”
Kemp has an EP entitled “Drive On” that he released in 2017. He puts out singles now and there are links to them on his website. One running theme often shows up in his writing. “I’m finding that the ‘road’ has been coming up a lot in my songs.”
That’s good news for fans who want to see his shows.
“I love performing in more intimate settings like songwriter nights. Twenty to 40 people are perfect. Wineries are great.”
A few of his upcoming gigs include the East Texas Country Music Festival in Grapeland July 4, Music on Main in Royse City July 12, Halcyon Dallas July 18, Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards in Pittsburg July 19, Chestnut Square Heritage Village in McKinney July 21, Lone Star Wine Cellars July 27 and Rick’s Chophouse in McKinney August 1, Downtown Rockwall August 17, and Moore’s Store in Ben Wheeler August 23.
When he’s not on the road, Kemp’s favorite thing in the world is spending time with his family and raising two boys. And his least favorite thing is a bit more complicated.
“Struggling with sin,” he says. “We all have the struggle. Sometimes I like the fight but sometimes I like the peace.”
He likes island life, beaches, road trips, and adventures and wants to get more into boating. He has his real estate license but he’s making more money with his music now so that’s where he’s happy to spend his time along with heavy doses of family.
It’s family that matters to him most and when his road in this life comes to an end he hopes that’s how he’s best remembered.
“Being a good dad, son, and friend,” he says is most important. “I would like God to tell me, ‘Well done.’”
Learn more on JustinKempSongs.com