Today’s Feature – September 19-20: Justin Stein

September 23, 2008 at 6:25 pm (Today's Feature)

Every year thousands of young hopefuls hop on planes heading out west to Los Angeles, chasing their dreams of success in the entertainment business. Many have grand delusions of being spotted on the street by Steven Speilberg or expect to find every top agent and producer waiting for them – contract in hand – on the tarmac. But, this is not exactly how things work. Success in today’s entertainment industry is rare; only a handful are able to ditch their job waiting tables and say hello to fame. However, earlier this year a plane left Chicago carrying Justin Stein – a young actor, dancer, singer and songwriter who has become one of those fortunate individuals.

Two days after graduation, Stein, who deferred acceptance to NYU, bid farewell to his family and wished his college bound friends the best. He figured college could wait – his dreams could not. While his friends spent their summers in Ikea picking out furniture for their dorm rooms, Stein traveled the country with Corbin Bleu’s 2008 summer tour. He even inked a deal with Disney; “My manager is the one who hooked me up with Radio Disney. He gave them my demo CD and they told him that they wanted to play it and support me as an artist. My manager told me the news on my 18th birthday… definitely the best birthday present ever.”

This had to be reassuring news for Stein’s parents who had reservations about their son veering off the standard track of a high school graduate. Despite any doubt, both family and friends are rooting for him. “I am incredibly fortunate to have the support I have from my parents and friends. Mom and Dad come to the majority of the shows. My brother jumps on the tour with me sometimes and works merchandise. It’s great having him on tour.”

An entertainer since the age of 12, Stein understands the responsibility of a professional artist. After all, the Disney tag carries a higher standard of excellence – one which Stein plans to live up to. Years of performing in children’s and community theatre productions in and around Chicago, along with diligent vocal and dance coaching have given Stein what Disney sees as a bankable future. The attention that comes with being a Disney star has been helpful as well. “I especially like seeing Radio Disney reps at the venues. They always hype the crowd and are just really fun people.” But it hasn’t been a difficult job getting folks excited for this up and comer – His infectious blend of pop, rock and R&B has been compared to artists such as Justin Timberlake and Chris Brown.

Today, Stein’s catalogue of teen pop hits like “Leave It On The Floor,” “Loose Control,” and “Don’t Be Playin’ With My Heart,” are just a few samples of Stein’s energetic stage presence, while tunes such as “Sweetest Girl” and “I’ll Never Look Away (Hey Girl)” allow Stein to showcase his classically trained voice. He has compiled these songs onto his self titled album in hopes of portraying the real Justin Stein, rather than what most pop acts are told to portray. This, without a doubt, is what has made him so successful.

Still, I can’t stop thinking about what must have been going through his head when he was on a plane with no plans of turning back and no cushion to fall back on. I had to ask him, ‘You left your family, said goodbye to your friends – What was going through your head on that plane ride?’ He replied, “Pursuing a career as a solo artist is something I have wanted to do ever since I started writing songs around 12 years old. On that plane I was just thinking ’Wow! I’m actually doing it!’” Stein is living proof that sometimes, all it takes is a “WOW moment” to have your dreams take flight.

XXQs: Justin Stein

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Just days after graduating high school you hopped on a plane to LA in pursuit of his dream, even foregoing an acceptance to NYU. What made you decide to jump into the business so hard, so fast? And what was going through your mind when you were on that plane to LA?

JS: Well, pursuing a career as a solo artist is something I have wanted to do ever since I started writing songs around 12 years old. On that plane I was just thinking “Wow! I’m actually doing it!”

PEV: Hailing from Chicago, what kind of music were you listening to growing up?

JS: I listened to a lot of Broadway and Stevie Wonder growing up interspersed with some pop music. My parents were always playing Celine Dion and Whitney Houston… I guess that’s where my love for powerhouse vocals came from…
PEV: You have two singles currently featured on Radio Disney on the Disney Incubator – “Leave It On The Floor” and “Loose Control”. How has working with Disney been for you and how did this come about?
JS: It’s been great being on Radio Disney. Working with them has been a lot of fun. I especially like seeing Radio Disney reps at the venues. They always hype the crowd and are just really fun people. My manager is the one who hooked me up with Radio Disney. He gave them my demo CD and they told him that they wanted to play it and support me as an artist. My manager told me the news on my 18th birthday… definitely the best birthday present ever.

PEV: Being a singer, actor, dancer, songwriter and composer, what was it like for you when you were first breaking into the music business? Before you were getting press, regular gigs and touring around the country?

JS: Before the tour I was in high school. It was difficult juggling my school workload, after school activities and recording my CD at the same time… but it all worked out. I literally graduated from high school two days before I jumped on the plane to LA.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Justin Stein show?

JS: High energy awesomeness! Some surprises… Expect to be thoroughly entertained! (Laughs)

PEV: How have your shows evolved from when you first started out?

JS: They are so much better now! You can actually go on youtube.com and see the progress… I am much more comfortable onstage, my dance moves are sharper, and I know how to work the crowd now.

PEV: Any embarrassing or crazy live show stories? There has to be tons, I’m sure…

JS: The popcorn lady: One time during my song “Sweetest Girl,” I jumped out into the audience and as I was coming back to the stage there was this lady selling popcorn. I almost bowled her over.

Dad and the cops: My dad is a pretty reasonable guy, but at one of the shows one of the cops was giving my brother and my friends a hard time because they were backstage without their passes. The state trooper was not the smartest and was fed up with my brother and my friends so Jordan (my brother) went to get my dad who had his pass on him. He told the cop that my brother and my friends were supposed to be backstage and that since he had a pass, he was going to take them in. The state trooper would not let this happen and blocked my dad’s way. He then put his hands on my dads shoulders and dad knocked his hands away. Then the cop threatened to throw dad in jail. All this time… I was performing and had no idea what was going on. Later, five cops approached dad saying that he pushed the state trooper. Dad and my bodyguard James explained what happened and said “If I had have pushed him, he would know it!” Then the officer in charge said, “Well if you’d of pushed him, you would know it.” Then dad said, “You’re right, and I don’t know it so go away.” My dad was almost arrested at my concert!

Corbin Cricket: The other day we were all chillin’ out in Corbin’s bus and his friend had given him this gift basket filled with edible insects. Corbin and I downed a salt and vinegar cricket together. Its little dead eyes were disgusting but it actually tasted decent.

PEV: If you could collaborate with one artist out today, who would it be and why?

JS: Stevie Wonder. I think he is the greatest songwriter of our time. He is truly amazing and one of my biggest musical influences.

PEV: Tell us, what can fans expect from your upcoming self –titled album. How is this different from other music you’ve worked with?

JS: It’s a fusion of pop/rock/and R&B. All of the songs I write are based off of different life experiences I have had. Some songs are based on past relationships while others are about just letting lose and having fun. I try to put all of me in every song so that people can connect. Hopefully there is something in there for everyone.

PEV: How is this album different from other music out today?

JS: It’s me!

PEV: When you sit down to write a song what kind of environment do you surround yourself in?

JS: Well, it depends… I used to sneak away during first period in school and sit at the piano in the choral room. Sometimes I write at my room at home. I love going to the studio and writing music with my producer in his studio downtown Chicago. Sometimes I’m in the shower… just when inspiration hits… I try to either have a piano or a tape recorder handy… if not, I just remember it or try and write it down… I have a little recorder on my phone that records for a minute… I use that periodically.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Justin Stein?

JS: I’m a really good golfer. I play about ten times a year and shoot pretty well every time. I used to play a lot because my dad is a fanatic.

PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to all your success? Was there ever a point when your family thought you were “crazy” for pursuing an entertainment career?

JS: Everyone has always been incredibly supportive of me and my career path. I am incredibly fortunate to have the support I have from my parents and friends

PEV: If we were to walk into your practice studio right now, what’s one thing we’d most likely find?

JS: A piano

PEV: How is life on the road for you? Good parts? Bad parts?

JS: Awesome! I love it! It is a lot of work but it is a blast. The best part is being able to perform. Its what I love to do. I also love meeting people after the concerts. Everyone is so incredibly supportive. Bad parts… not many… sometimes living on the bus gets cramped… especially when the air conditioning doesn’t work halfway through the night or it breaks down en route to the next show. The only bad experience I had was one venue wouldn’t let me stay afterwards and meet the audience… that upset me. But besides that… everything has been fantastic!

PEV: In your opinion, is there a certain city (US or International) that you find to be the best city for music?

JS: CHI TOWN!!! YEAH!

PEV: As well, where’s one place you haven’t played, you would like to? Why?

JS: I think it would be awesome to go overseas… Italy maybe…? Any place with pretty girls and good food.

PEV: Where will do feel your career will be ten years from now?

JS: Hopefully I will continue to be successful as a solo artist… have sold millions of CDs… be working on my 7th album and my 2nd greatest hits, haha! Also, I want to have starred in a couple of successful movies as well as directed and produced. Basically, I just want to continue doing what I love to do, perform!

PEV: So, what’s next for Justin Stein?

JS: There are a couple of things on the burner, but nothing solidified yet… maybe another tour… maybe a movie… maybe a TV show… we shall see…

For more information on Justin Stein, check out www.JustinStein.com

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1 Comment

  1. emoboy said,

    hy, i’ve got photos of my new emo hair style
    at http://xrl.us/ouog2

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