FUQUAY-VARINA, N.C. (WNCN) – For Justus Bennetts, music runs in the family. His style of music, though, is a hybrid of alternative sounds he was brought up on in the Seattle area blended with what he discovered upon moving to Fuquay-Varina at 14 years old.
Now that he’s found his sound, Bennetts is finding plenty of success as a musician. His music draws hundreds of thousands of listeners on Spotify, millions on TikTok, and one tune has even become a mainstay on satellite radio.
“I was always around music. I was always listening to music,” Bennetts said. “Music was definitely a big part of my life. My mom would record songs. My uncle was in a band called Point Defiance. He was the lead singer for the band. I was always around it, so it kind of, I guess, bled onto me.”
Bennetts said some of his earlier memories are of seeing his uncle’s band play at bars and a jazz band his mom and aunt were in together.
Being a full-time artist wasn’t always in the cards for Bennetts. It started with him rapping with friends. While working as a car salesman in Dunn – his last job before his passion began paying the bills – Bennetts opened a music studio in the laundry room of the house where he lived with two other people.
“It was able to help keep me afloat until my music started doing well. Luckily, it started doing well really soon,” he said.
It was in that laundry room that it dawned on him that his hobby could become his livelihood.
“Some of the first songs I made in there, listening to my own music was never really a super-satisfying feeling for me. That’s why I never thought I could do anything with my music when I was rapping and stuff,” Bennetts said. “Once I got the right tools, I guess, it just made my music super satisfying to listen to. I was listening to it all the time. That feeling is what gave me the motivation to basically start everything.”
Linking up with his manager was the game-changer. Bennetts went out to New York and was able to record some songs there, including his first big hit: “Nightstand.” That didn’t come without its hurdles, though.
“I went out there (to New York) and was supposed to be in the studio for two days, but he (his producer) got food poisoning, so I wasn’t able to go. The next day, the day I was supposed to leave New York, he hit me up and was like, ‘You can come today around this time.’ I was like, ‘OK,’” Bennetts recalled.
“So, I had to check out of my AirBnb and walk to the studio. We had like two and a half hours before I had to leave to go back to the airport. So, we just pumped out ‘Nightstand’ in about two and a half hours.”
“Nightstand” debuted on TikTok shortly after and got some 2 million hits. It was also highlighted on new-music sections on Spotify.
“Real Life Sux” debuted with even more social media fanfare before hitting the satellite airwaves on Alt Nation. Bennetts said his manager had connections with Sirius XM.
“He sent the track their way. They debuted it on Alt Nation. They played it once, and then people were like tweeting at them about it. Basically just through my manager,” he said. “He’s been such a help in just guiding the process and helping me become a better artist, pushing me to become a better artist, and just getting me linked up with all these music people he knows. It’s been a blessing.”
The two tracks have entirely different vibes. “Real Life Sux” is a fast, upbeat tune that would be perfect for a party scene in a college movie. “Nightstand” draws on hip-hop vibes, sounding like something that would fit in with an opening act for an artist like J. Cole.
Bennetts’ newest track, “Insomniac,” will be out on Aug. 3.
The creative process in producing such different musical styles really just boils down to how Bennetts is feeling on a given day.
“I just kind of go into every session with just like how I’m feeling that day — what I’m thinking about, what’s going on. It’s a struggling process sometimes,” he said. “I struggle at it sometimes, but most of the time, especially when I’m working with a lot of like-minded individuals and stuff like that, it helps the process move along a bit quicker.”
Such versatility isn’t all that surprising, though. Bennetts said his first iPod was loaded with songs from his dad. He listened to a lot of Green Day, Linkin Park, Pearl Jam, and Papa Roach. Then he moved to North Carolina and was turned on to rappers like J. Cole, Logic, and Chance the Rapper.
“I kind of intertwined the two genres and my preferences on music. I listen to a little alternative music and stuff here and there, too. I just try to take all the music that I like and put it together in a blender, blend it up, and spit it out,” Bennetts said.
Getting his music career off the ground with these two hits was no easy feat during a pandemic. Bennetts said having a place to record in his house has been important. Social media has been integral in getting his tunes out to people, as well.
“I can just sit here and post it on the internet, promote it a little bit, and people start listening to it. It makes life easier, but there’s always obstacles,” Bennetts said.
Things seem to be reverting to normal after the pandemic. Bennetts said he wants to eventually begin performing shows in the Raleigh area to build a local audience, then one day move on to touring with someone. He said if he could pick someone to go out on the road with, it’d be Post Malone, Dominic Fike, or Linkin Park.