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Singer-Songwriter Justin Moody Doesn't Make Pretty Things

Justin Moody is scheduled to perform on Saturday, March 22, at Axiom in Peoria.
Justin Moody is scheduled to perform on Saturday, March 22, at Axiom in Peoria.
K.C. Libman

Justin Moody writes songs. They sit firmly in the folk vein -- dark, self-deprecating tales that are often vicious to their characters, capturing the excruciating eye for detail that only a storyteller can see.

Justin Moody also lives in a one bedroom apartment on the edge of Arcadia, a space cluttered with vinyl, acoustic guitars of varying vintages and requisite musical memorabilia hanging on the walls. Despite the trappings of a musician's life around him, there's a sense of transition within him, whether it's his restless chain smoking of Camel Lights as we sit on the tailgate of his white Ford Ranger or his inability to sit still when playing new songs from his upcoming record.

That record comes from a new place, likely from the same source that compels Moody to move as much as he does. The album is conceptual, built around his request for his closest friends to each send him a letter detailing aspects of their friendship that they might not have been able to say in person. It's heavy fodder to the point that Moody says he has knots in his stomach every time he checks the mail. It's a self-inflicted tribulation, but one that he feels points to his maturation as a songwriter.

"Up until this point my music has been very one-sided emotionally -- I got left, someone cheated on me, 'poor me, poor me,'" Moody says. "I had never really written about someone else's emotions toward me after something detrimental, like a breakup, so I wrote out this mass Facebook message about this letter concept. There's probably some times between everybody where they haven't said something because it's awkward -- either good or bad."

Part of this new image is the shedding of his previous moniker, The Balcony Scene, which Moody carried with him from Prescott upon his move to Phoenix last June. Though it's the banner under which he gained most notoriety in Phoenix and in Prescott, his birth given name now suits him just fine -- Justin Moody has the ring of a troubadour's title anyway.

 

"If you don't really know why The Balcony Scene was called The Balcony Scene -- me wanting to commit suicide [by jumping] off a balcony -- you're probably going to think Romeo and Juliet, and it kind of played in perfectly to the fact that I was singing sad love songs [laughs]," he explains. "It validated it to the point that I kind of felt goofy going under that name."

Such heart-on-sleeve honesty is the goal with the letter-fueled album, of which Moody's already penned five songs, two of which he previewed. They're just as visual as his past works but draw from a more restrained place that's as biting as ever. Ultimately, it's a record that will be recorded in his home in a cradle-to-grave cycle of song inception to album mastering that's yet another departure from his past ventures.

"I love putting more emotion in my songs than necessarily cleaning up my songs," he says. "When people go to see me, you're going to get two sides -- the side of me that's playing in a bar that pulls up the tempo a bit, but when I play a living room, you're going to see a very emotional [side]. When I'm in my living room, there's not any other time where I'm more emotional, singing my songs, where they come from."

If such emotion turns people off, then so be it. The subjects of Moody's songs are meant to break hearts and have hearts broken, much like the past life of the writer himself. It makes for compelling work, and he's rightfully unapologetic about it.

"Anybody who knows me personally knows that I don't want to go out to a bar; I want to fucking sit at my house and drink beers and listen to music and talk, and it weirds some people out that I'm so emotional," Moody says. "I want to know emotionally what's going on in some people's life, and that's all part of my music, that's where I want to end up."

Justin Moody is scheduled to play Axiom Venue in Peoria on Saturday, March 22.

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