Singer-songwriter and Utahn Justin Utley released a music video for his new single, “American Nightmare,” Tuesday. With what has been going on in the past several weeks, the song’s name is particularly apt.
“American Nightmare” is Utley’s newest single release since his activism work that helped to ban conversion therapy in Utah. It is a very different sound for the alt-country pop singer as it is more of an angst-ridden industrial rock anthem.
Utley says he has been wanting to explore his edgier side and does so in this loud and aggressive yet melodic and catchy track. The song takes aim at conversion therapy and the current state of our country’s blind allegiance with political parties and religion.
“This whole album has been about exploring edgier, darker themes that I’ve always wanted to take on but hadn’t because I was told to stay in my safe zone,” he explains. “But I’ve learned complacency is dangerous. It nearly cost California’s LGBTQ community their freedom to marry. I have something to say about this world we’re living in today and I’m going to say it now because I don’t believe we can make it through another four years of this nightmare.”
Utley was heavily involved, along with Equality Utah and others, in the push to make conversion therapy illegal in the state. While it didn’t make it through the Utah Legislature, it was ultimately banned by being added to a list of practices considered to be “unprofessional conduct” for state-licensed mental health therapists. Punishments could include suspending or revoking their license, according to state law. Utah is now the 19th state to ban conversion therapy.
“The win was not only cathartic but rewarding and empowering,” he says.
Utley plans to take his fight to the other 31 states.
“I’ll take my guitar wherever I need to in order to keep this conversation going and get this horrific, shame-based sham of therapy banned. It’s unethical, it’s disproven, and yet so many are caught in its web of lies, inevitable failure, and suicide,” he said.
Utley blames the lawmakers who “blindly follow their party lines and church leaders” instead of the will of the constituents who elected them. It’s one of the reasons he chose to shoot the music video in a church (incidentally, the same church used for the Touched by An Angel series) and includes scenes with crowds in blindfolds, unable and unwilling to see the disasters that lie ahead.
“Finding candidates who will work to unite the country rather than divide us is a top priority this election cycle,” Justin says. “I have my sights set on October when, hopefully, this nightmare will end.”
Born and raised in Utah, Justin Utley’s music career took off when he was selected to perform at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. After breaking ties with his Mormon roots and moving to New York City, Justin became a sought-after talent, spending much of his career touring as a performer at Pride Festivals worldwide where he has shared the stage with top international acts including Dan Reynolds, Icona Pop, Tegan & Sara, Margaret Cho and Billy Porter.
In June 2010, Utley released “Stand for Something,” a single written to inspire and motivate action towards securing LGBTQ marriage equality in the United States. The single was nominated by the LGBTQ Academy of Recording Arts for 4 OutMusic Awards, including Best Songwriter and Artist of the Year. It won Best Country/Folk Song of the Year.
He has served as a guest contributor on CNN’s ‘Faces of Faith’ Sunday news segment, NPR, SiriusXM’s OutQ, and MSNBC. He is a two-time recipient of the FBI’s “Inspiring Citizen of the Year” award, and “Artist of the Year” by SiriusXM’s OutQ Radio.
He regularly provides insight on issues of faith and the LGBT community at colleges and universities throughout the USA.
This past fall, Justin Utley released his third studio album, Scars, a heartfelt, brutally honest, thought-provoking and vulnerable collection of songs that has been embraced by fans.
The stand-alone pop-single “Survivors” has now passed 100,000 plays on Spotify alone, and the three videos have received over a million views combined.
“American Nightmare” along with the entire Scars album are available on Apple Music, Spotify, and all digital platforms. Visit Justin Utley’s website at Justinutley.com, follow him on Instagram and Facebook.