Musician develops devout following

From the The Brunswick News

If you haven't heard the name Justen Harden yet, chances are you will soon. The 19-year-old Brunswick musician is taking online social media -- like the video sharing site Vine -- by storm.

"I have 327,000 followers on Vine," Harden casually said with a humble smile.

He also has 5,400 Likes on his Facebook page -- Justen Harden-Music. Over on his YouTube Channel -- pickinandgrinning -- he covers popular country music tunes like Josh Turner's "Your Man" and Old Crow Medicine Show's "Wagon Wheel." Many of his songs have racked up more than 100,000 likes.

But his meteoric rise to Internet stardom hasn't gone to his head. The humble guitarist says his musical career began in 2005.

"I started taking lessons when I was 11 in 2005. I grew up listening to country music, but I just started singing a couple of years ago," the Brunswick High School graduate said.

Though he has sang behind closed doors, he didn't share his powerful baritone vocals until recently.

"I always liked to sing, but I never did it in front of people," he said.

All that changed last year. That's when he sang for his close friend Avery Bell, a fellow musician, and Harden's youth pastor at Pinecrest Baptist in Brunswick. After listening, both encouraged him to sing more often.

"(The youth pastor) asked me to play music for a church fundraiser, so I played Josh Turner's 'Long Black Train,'" he said.

The rest, as they say, is history. Harden developed a devoted following among his fellow church members. As a result, he was tapped to be the worship leader for the youth group, leading students in song on Sunday and Wednesday. He has appeared at Woodbine Opry and Relay for Life.

He also shared his talent on the road during a mission trip to Pascagoula, Miss., to help out another church last year. That was a special trip for him.

"I was a senior and I knew it was the last chance I would have to go on a mission trip," he said. "There were about 25 of us and we did yard work and painted. My group put up nice basketball goals. We also helped out with their food pantry and did Bible studies," he said. "And Avery and I played. It was really cool. It was a great way to connect with other kids."

These days Harden finds himself busy with work at Publix, studying at the College of Coastal Georgia and keeping up with church activities. But he keeps his music in the forefront of his mind.

"I hope to get my own album out. I've been working on one big song. But it takes time," he said.

Harden remains cautiously optimistic about a career in music. He knows that it's not an easy industry to break into so he continues to put his education first.

Harden, a dual-enrollment student and fifth in his graduating class, will start his junior year at the college in the fall. He is currently studying business.

"I would love to travel and perform. It's not always something you can make a living at," Harden said.

In addition to being a stellar student and musician, he always counts being an Eagle Scout among his achievements.

"I started Scouts when I was in first grade and I made Eagle Scout when I was 16. It feels really good to have made it. I think it's only two out of 100 Scouts make it, so it's pretty special," he said.
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Release Date: 7/7/2014
Source: The Brunswick News

By Lindsey Adkison
Photo by Lindsey Adkison