by Adelie Salagnac
World Café Live and Boy Wonder are well known for hosting some of the most competitive competitions and inviting the most talented local artists. Justin Graham is one of them. Singing, rapping, and playing the guitar, this accomplished singer/songwriter ended up being the 1st runner up at the Philly Rising yearly showcase competition.
“Participating in the Philly Rising showcase was definitely fun,” he says. “I am a fan of a few of the other artists like Anna Spakeman, Vessna Scheff, and Fresh Fire, so hearing them all at once was amazing. As far as lessons learned, I have always looked at competitions as an opportunity to network. Being an artist, I fundamentally don’t agree with the idea of one artist being better than another artist when art is subjective.”
Seasoned performer, Graham also released Seasons of Love, Vol.1, back in 2014. “Wow, I had forgotten that it was two years ago,” he laughs. Skilled and smart, Graham has not only proved his musicianship, he also proved he was a resourceful self-starter, by successfully releasing this record as an independent artist.
“I guess the hardest part of releasing an EP being an independent artist is the financial burden,” Graham admits. “Things worked out easier for me on the first go around because of friends like Rasheed Williams who produced and recorded five songs on the album, while Williams Sankofa produced two songs. Both of these friends did the work for free. As far as writing the project songs just come from life’s situations, a vulnerable and honest place. I’m working on volume 2 now and I’m a little less than half way done. The project should be complete by the end of the summer.”
Shining at his art, Graham has a lot to be proud of. When asked what his greatest accomplishment is, he says, down-to-earth that it would be “forward progression”.
“I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by positive intelligence professionals and I take every opportunity to learn from them,” he says. “People like Christopher KP brown, Kirwyn Sutherland, Carol Payne. I’ve opened for Jon B, Mint Condition, Howard Hewitt, Jesse Boykins III, and Lydia Rene. However, what I’ve been made to grow in has been the circle of business minded individuals who focus on forward movement.”
Philly native, Graham does not forget where he is coming from, and makes of point of supporting his fellow local artists. “Along with being an artist, I’m a fan first,” he says. “So I’d much rather support someone who is actually accessible instead of these international artists. Philly’s music scene is filled with artistic diversity. That’s one of the benefits to hosting my own show, I get to pay my favorite local artists to perform.”
In case you are not aware of it yet, Graham is hosting the Justin Graham’s Chill Spot, a monthly showcase where he invites some of his favorite artists and friends to perform at his side. It is “a place where Dope meets Vulnerable meets Love meets YOU, so meet ME there!!!”
“I started the Justin Graham’s Chill Spot, artist showcase and open mic (Urban Arts Gallery) last April to create a platform for artists to share the stage who ordinarily don’t,” he explains. “It’s definitely been interesting being on the other side. Organizing the show, sending out emails, responding to emails, text messages…being responsible on that side is actually something I can get used to. The show is held on the 4th Friday of the month April-Nov.”
Graham also hosts an open-mic every Tuesday, called Pecola Breedlove Tuesdays.
More info on the Justin Graham’s Chill Spot can be found at https://www.facebook.com/Soundsofthecityshow/
To learn more about Pecola Breedlove Tuesdays, head over to http://www.poetry247.com/breedlove/