Former Mormon turned out artist Justin Utley will be in New York City to perform tracks from his new album, Scars, this Saturday at Triad Theatre.
Released Tuesday, on World Suicide Prevention Day, the album is the most heartfelt, brutally honest, thought provoking and vulnerable collection of songs Utley has ever produced; where the singer reveals his own battles with suicidal thoughts.
“I know how quickly the walls close in, how easy it is to get to that edge, and the years of lasting impact it has on those left behind," he explains. "I came dangerously close to ending my own life. Close enough that my good friend called the police.”
Life for Justin Utley quickly unraveled after his boyfriend, Brent, passed away from an unexpected heart attack. Living in Utah within a devout Mormon community, the men were not out about their relationship. Utley was forced to grieve alone. He wasn’t allowed to attend Brent’s funeral.
He sought guidance from his bishop but instead of consolation, was reprimanded for quitting the conversion therapy program that had been prescribed to him. Utley’s bishop told him he had jeopardized his own salvation, and that God taking Brent away was punishment for their deviance because the two men were not supposed to be in that kind of relationship. Utley recalls everything crashing down on him emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. He could find no reason or value in his existence and didn’t believe anyone would love him again.
“The one thing I hear all the time is that ‘even religious leaders make mistakes’,” Utley reflects today. “While that may be true, it doesn’t excuse the harm they have inflicted. Religious bullying is costing lives and it has got to stop. While I hope Scars is empowering to survivors and encourages them to acknowledge, understand, and even celebrate their stories, I also hope the album sparks conversation and leads to real change in the religious community.”
Suicide in America is dominated by white men, accounting for 70 percent of all cases. In Utah, where Justin Utley recorded the Scars album, suicide is the leading cause of death for children, teens, and college students. It is also the second leading cause of death in adult men and women to age 44.
“To those considering suicide, know that the darker and longer the shadow, the brighter the light is that casts it,” Utley says. “There is always help available to get you out of that space where there appears to be no way out of. Once you’ve found that safe space, reach out to someone else who might be struggling to find it. Empathy is more powerful than sympathy alone, and that outreach can be life changing.”
Scars is available now on Bandcamp and will be available on Apple Music, Spotify and all digital platforms on September 20. Tickets for Justin Utley's NYC show at Triad Theatre are available here.
Visit Justin Utley’s website @ Justinutley.com. Follow him on Instagram @ justinutley and Facebook @ justinutleymusic.