An Interview with Justin Gambino
Singer/songwriter Justin Gambino shares how his life experiences have shaped his music.

AN NRT EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, An Interview with Justin Gambino
Posted: February 20, 2019 | By: KevinMcNeese_NRT
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Some people love to spread the word of hope and love of Jesus through music. And, artist Justin Gambino is one those people. Harmonies and melodies are the artist's language. The singer-songwriter believes that music can speak where words can't. So, he creates music for anyone to relate to, not a certain audience. We had the chance to get a few words with Justin. Here's what he had to say.

Tell us what Justin Gambino is all about.

I'm a singer/songwriter and worship leader from Houston, Texas. I'm passionate about sharing the love of Jesus and message of hope through music. And, I'm married to the love of my life, Ashley. My personal joys include soaking up the ambiance at coffee shops, drinking coffee. I also love watching movies and taking hikes.

What are some of your favorite artists? What music do you listen to and why?

I love to listen to Switchfoot, Jon Foreman, Needtobreathe, Shawn McDonald, Zach Williams, Ben Rector, NF, and Sleeping At Last. Wide variety, I know. But, I love to listen to different genres. For me, it's all about the song's message. What is the message that is being sent from the creator of the song? Not only do I enjoy listening to these artists, but their music has either inspired me or gotten me through something in my own life. Several of these artists I've met and have performed along side them at festivals. So there is a personal connection to some as well.

You were a member of the Navy and served a tour in Iraq. So first, thank you for your service. You left the Navy to pursue music. What perspectives did that experience and process give you?

I was. You are welcome and thank you. At a young age, I always dreamt of being in the military. Riding horses and playing good guy, bad guy was the norm for me as a kid. Waking up early and pretending that I was a Navy Seal was something my brothers and I did. We would wake up super early, go do push ups in the backyard, while yelling at each other as if we were each other's drill sergeant. Rain or shine, that's what we did.

If my mom is reading this, she's probably laughing. I joined the Navy almost right out of high school. I was 19 years old. During my time in the Navy, I wouldn't say that I was close to God, but He was pursuing me. I was only playing the guitar for four years at this time. And, I'll never forget when I was in Iraq. There was an open door: an opportunity to lead worship at the chapel on our base. What are the chances, right? So, I contacted my dad and asked him if he could ship my guitar to the base. It took nearly a month to arrive. But when it did, I was so happy. I began to write music and lead worship. And, I think, if I was still in the Navy, my buddies would still be encouraging me to pursue a music career.

Being overseas gave me an experience of a lifetime. Being close to death is probably a reason why I write about these experiences from time to time. Having friends die is never easy--especially within the service. Now, I'm a veteran and a full-time musician. Because of these, I'm asked to lead worship, share stories and songs, and sometimes even speak at events for vets. Most of my music that I'm releasing now was written when I was still in the Navy. So, a lot of folks in the military can relate to that. I'm thankful that God used those experiences to prepare me for what I'm doing now.

How do you approach your songwriting?

I get this question a lot and I love it. For me, songwriting is not only done when it "hits" me and I feel inspired, but also when I schedule time to do so. I write when I'm inspired and, fortunately, inspiration strikes when I sit down and hammer it out. Now, I don't write everyday. It's really hard to do that. But, I find that when I schedule it on my calendar, it happens. Sometimes, I'll write a few terrible songs before I get to a good one. When I do, I take it to the bank, so to speak. Or, I'll write a good hook or line and will also save it for another time.

There was a time when I was still working full-time, while pursuing music. I had a line come into my head. I wrote it down on a sticky note and then brought it home and put it away. Three years later, I'm touring full-time and writing a song that needed a bridge. I was stuck. I began flipping through all my notes throughout the years and came across that sticky note. It fit perfectly. 

Sometimes, the lyrics come first. Sometimes it's the opposite. Then there are those sweet times when they come all at once. Those are the best moments in songwriting, in my opinion. 

Why Christian music?

Simple. I'm in love with Jesus and what He did for me. I want to use my music to bring hope to the hopeless. I grew up in the church, so worship has always been a part of my life. My dad was in a Christian band back in the '70s. His dad was a maestro; he conducted symphonies and played the violin. So, I guess you could say that the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. What pulls me to music that honors God is my relationship with Him. I don't try to stick within a certain genre. I think anyone that listens to my music can attest to that. It's different. It's me. It's what comes out of me naturally and I try my best to stay true to who I am and what I'm feeling in that moment while I'm writing. 

When I was searching for my calling, I was reading a book called "The Circle Maker" by Mark Batterson. A few words in that book sparked something within me: "Find the one thing that brings you and other people closer to God. That's your calling." For me, that was music. I was reading that book around the same time that people were coming up to me and saying that when I sing and play the guitar, they felt the presence of God.

What are you working on right now? What's next?

Right now, I'm working on new music. Last year, I released my first full-length album, Journey Within My Soul, as a solo artist. After a nationwide tour, I returned to the studio. And, shortly after that, I released the instrumental version of my album. I love instrumental music. 

I'm really excited about my new work. "Going Under," my latest single, is a good representation of the things to come. God is continuing to open doors for me and my music. Not only in the U.S., but around the world. I'm excited to see how it all unfolds. Scary? Sure, it is. But, I don't think God calls us to do things that we can do easily or within our comfort zones. With that said, I'm excited to release the new music, which will be followed by new videos, a new tour and new songs to come from that as well. 

How can we be praying for you?

Please be in prayer that I would stay true to who I am. That I would remain humble. In this industry, it's so easy to be blindsided. I want to honor God in all that I do and it's my prayer that when people see me and hear my music, that they see and hear Jesus. Thank you for your prayers.

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