Folk musicians, for the most part, have it rough. Blindly thrust into the Dylan-esque pantheon, the overarching image of a folk-based singer-songwriter is that of the introspective introvert who shyly picks at an acoustic guitar before gracefully exiting whatever forum he holds. Yet when you're young and influenced by the croonings of Damian Jurado and David Bazan, both exceptionally dynamic musicians in their own right, you're bound to take a different approach to such a storied genre.
Justin Moody, operating under the moniker The Balcony Scene, is such an example, having recently returned to his native Arcadia after spending the majority of his teens in Prescott. Breaking out of the coffee shop mentality for the first time, Moody is making his biggest debut yet with Tempe powerhouses Dust Jacket, Instructions and Sundressed on Tuesday at Crescent Ballroom.
Moody, like other singer-songwriters his age, spent his high school years playing a coffee shop circuit yet maintained as low a profile as possible out of necessity. Coming from a family that didn't quite know how to interpret Moody's folk storytelling, which often touches on raw, emotive subjects, his parents tended to dismiss his musical ventures.
"I kept it a secret until like my senior year of high school," Moody says. "I get the fact that your parents aren't going to be completely down with you getting paid very little money and playing shows and trying to make it. I feel like that's not really any parent's dream."
Fulfilling dreams or not, Moody's sound borders on precocious, spinning stories of heartache and geographic isolation into something well beyond his years. As an earmark of folk tradition, his lyricism is straightforward, but the underpinnings to his songs are the result of a natural ear, often using angular chord arrangements that attract as much attention as his singing does.
"The Balcony Scene is my way of putting something that everyone feels into a really simple but emotional way," he says. "I don't ever expect any of my songs to really touch someone until I actually hear someone tell me that."
Moody's goals are simple, and his be-all-end-all dream is about as far removed from arena glory as a musician can get. Singer-songwriters have nowhere to hide in their music -- there's no backing band, no distortion, no way to mask human error -- but the 21-year-old wouldn't have it any other way.
"I'd love to just do a living room tour," he says. "I've always found a warm feeling in my heart when I play for 20 people sitting on the floor, really listening. I feel like it's more music that you gain an audience for and the audience that you get will always stick with you."
Humbling as it is, The Balcony Scene will be put to the test on Crescent's stage. Moody's goal isn't to reach as many people as he can -- it's about making just a few people feel what he does. Given the emotional range in his music, from boot-stomping and hollering to plaintive string-picking, it should translate well, and that all comes back to once being a kid with no one to show his music to but the audience that he hungered for.
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"I'd have so much on my mind, so much I wanted to do but I had nowhere to start, and it was overwhelming for everyone," Moody laughs. "I was waiting to do this."
The Balcony Scene, Instructions, Dust Jacket and Sundressed are scheduled to play Tuesday, July 23 at Crescent Ballroom.