We are shining a spotlight on Drew Justice of Knoxville, Tennessee's pop-punk outfit, On My Honor, to see what it is like to be an openly-gay lead singer of a band on the cusp of big things. Check out our interview with Drew below and be sure to give On My Honor's debut album, I Never Deserve the Things I Need, a listen (or four). Oh, and follow the guys on Twitter.
Could you introduce yourself and what you do?
My name is Drew, and I sing for On My Honor.
Do you identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender?
You’ve sort of become the face of the LGBT pop-punk community since your Alternative Press Op-Ed. What has it been like?
I'm happy to say that things have been rolling along pretty normally. My original post wasn't meant to be the "coming out" that it sort of became spun as, but more a comment on the manner in which these things are often discussed--the polarity that I think a lot of people unknowingly fuel by being so militant in their approach, referring to both sides of the conversation. There were a fairly large number of messages once it circulated, mostly support and a lot of discussion, which I tried to address all of. A handful of conversations have been had with people I meet at shows since, and I guess I'm just happy that people seem to feel so comfortable coming up and talking to me about whatever is on their hearts, regarding that or otherwise.
How would you describe your coming-out process? Coming from Tennessee, do you feel like coming-out was more difficult for you than, say, someone from a more liberal area of the country?
I don't feel like I can really compare it to much, and I feel like the process is a very individualized thing, regardless of locale. I accepted it myself and started having the conversation with my friends and family almost four years ago. I personally didn't feel the need to make any sort of event of it, though I understand that some people may need that type of outlet. Some people were surprised, a lot of them weren't, but I'm fortunate to say that I didn't lose any friends or relationships, like I know many others experience. Some people have let me know that they have issues with it, mostly based on their personal faiths or religions, but none of those people have treated me any differently. We still talk about the same things we always have, do the things we've always liked doing and love each other just the same.
What’s something you know now about the coming-out process that you wish you would have known when you first came-out?
I expected my mom to handle it much differently than she did. If I'd have known how chill she was going to be, I may have had the talk with her sooner, but I can't say that I would change anything. I think it all happened when it was time. My family comes from a very different time and also from the south, so I'm just happy that we were able to discuss it at all, when we did, and that we still can.
How has your experience as an openly queer pop-punk musician been?
I don't know that I've ever thought of it that way. To be honest, I don't think that it's deviated much from the way it was when I was questioning, coming to terms, or less "open" about it. Maybe it's made me a little more confident when it does come up, though.
We consider it vital to promote bands and musicians who support LGBT bands and musicians. Have there been any bands or musicians who have been particularly supportive of your decision to come out or inspired you along the way?
All of the bands and musicians that I've been friends with for a while responded the same way. To plug a few of them, the guys in Latin For Truth and Audiostrobelight have been some of my best friends for a very long time and always supportive of me as a person and LGBT causes. My friends in Cautioners from New York and Times New Roman from Virginia were the same way. Jono from The Swellers re-blogged my post with some nice things to say as well, and there are countless others who I love and appreciate on a near-daily basis.
Is there anything you would change in the music industry in order to improve the queer experience?
In the "industry" I can't think of much. I'm not a fan of many of the things I know about the "industry," but most of that discontentment has nothing to do with sexuality for me. As far as the music community, I do think that people are often too self-righteous to their causes, including (and maybe especially) those dealing with gender and sexuality. I think most people on the internet could benefit from a reality check, in the sense that someone disagreeing with you doesn't necessarily make them a villain. In the conversations I've had, I've found that making an attempt to be respectful and empathetic will do much more for progress than just telling others how much you think that they're ignorant or wicked for not agreeing with you.
Who are some bands or musicians who have inspired your music?
I grew up being really in to a number of what we call the "Drive-Thru Era" bands--New Found Glory, Hidden In Plain View, A Day at the Fair, The Starting Line, The Early November, etc. Over the span of On My Honor, I've found a lot of inspiration and love for bands who are our peers in some way. I love Fireworks, Latin For Truth and The Swellers. My buddies in Playtime Revenue are some of the most talented and heartfelt musicians I can think of. Saves the Day, The Movielife, Rancid, and The Get-Up Kids are some of my all-time favorite, and lately I've really been in to The Hotelier (The Hotel Year), I Am the Avalanche, and Pentimento.
You were recently on tour with Hawthorne Heights and you’re going on a full U.S. tour in July. What is next for your music? What do you hope to accomplish going forward?
On My Honor is writing a lot right now. We're looking to start recording almost as soon we get back from the U.S. run, and we're excited to get some new material out. We'll probably do a little more touring in the fall, and I'd love for us to get back to Europe soon.
What do you hope fans take away from your music?
I've always hoped that people get whatever they're needing at the time out of what we do. We've never been a band to talk much about hating a home town (because we love ours), break-ups or the things most people have come to consider "cookie-cutter pop-punk." As a sweeping statement, I hope that people can find something to make them feel less alone, and introspective in some way. The term "fans" has always been and is still an odd thing for me. I consider a lot of the people who understand our band to be friends, because we make a point of getting to know them. Most of us attach to whatever On My Honor is about because we feel the same thing about things, and watching that community grow has been infinitely rewarding. The songs I attached to when I was younger were the ones that gave me something to believe in or question, and push myself to be where I wanted to be, all the while knowing it was okay if I fell. I've been fortunate to have a number of people tell me that they've felt something along those lines from our band, so the further that goes is really just icing on the cake for me.
Is there anything you would like to say to any fans who identify as LGBT or who are struggling through the coming-out process?
As cliche as it is to say, just be you. Take your time, and don't let anyone trick you in to believing that there's a "right way" to do things. You don't owe anyone anything, and taking care of yourself is paramount. It all pans out in the wash.
Perhaps the most important question: would you rather battle 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?
My dad and I started raising poultry when I was in the fourth grade (his pet turkeys just had a new dozen baby chicks), so I'll take the duck. We raised about six ducks, starting in a kiddie pool in my grandparent's basement, when I was younger. As nasty as I think ducks are, I'll take a giant duck over anything with hooves in combat any day of the week.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
For anyone interested, please check out our tour dates with The Sheds and Smalls over at onmyhonorband.com, and come say hey. We also ran into some van problems just before the tour with Hawthorne Heights and have an Indiegogo campaign with some cool perks for anyone who would like to help out. Other than that, you can grab our full-length I Never Deserve The Things I Need on our bandcamp, and check out our video for "Gypsy Summer" on our YouTube.
For anyone dealing with their sexuality, hang in there and remember that the people who love you and matter always will. Life can be rad.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!