We had the good fortune of connecting with J. Santino and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi J.Santino, what role has risk played in your life or career?
There has been a multitude of risks that I have taken for my life and career. In some ways, my entire career path is a risk. I think risks are essential to becoming who you are and getting to where you want to be. Back in 2019, I was homeless and I took my last 86 dollars on a square space website just to have a chance to be presentable for motor city pride (Michigan’s largest pride). I didn’t even know how to create a website and I was past the application deadline. However, I still got picked. Once I got the gig I quit my job at wright and company as a dishwasher because I did not have time to rehearse for the gig and guess what at that gig kickstarted everything I am able to do now. Not every risk needs to be taken but being brave to face your decisions and make the best of them is the most important part.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Well I like long walks on the beach and all of that haha. Jokes aside my art is really serious but light hearted. Like many before me I like to tell stories of my personal life experiences coded in nice word play so nobody wont call themselves sueing me for defamation (haha). What sets my art from others though is the focus on the sound of the music the fun you’ll have at my shows and the brutal honesty. From me as an artist you’ll get a variety show that includes a great vocal, comedy, and wild experiences that you never know what you were gonna see.

At this current moment I am most excited about my new records I have coming. The most recent release being Gemini. It is probably the most expressive song vocally in my discography and it tells the story of how I was in a toxic situation with a man in the closet who so happened to be a Gemini. Dating a person in the closet is a topic that many people can relate too but never really talk about as it is such a tough topic. I wanted to give that story and people who may have dealt with that situation a voice.

My journey as an artist was wild and it definitely was not easy. I like many other discovered music at a young age from my mom who was a singer. However I dealt with alot of mental illness and abuse in my home due to my mother who was diagnosed with biopolar and schizophrenia so my home was never quiet as there was no home to go to. My siblings and I always lived in shelters. Singing got me through everything it gave me the peace I felt when I thought I had nothing. When I would go to school and be bullied cause I would go home to a homeless shelter right next to the school. Singing even got me out of fights with bullies.

When we finally got a stable home at a situation arose and I was forced to come out to my mom which resulted in me having to jump off of the second story balcony of the apartment we stayed at in the dead of winter with nothing on but a superman tshirt some shorts and some boots that I rushed to pushed on as she charged at me with a knife ready to take my life I felt that I was ready to die escaping than die there. I was 16 when this happened, I was 16 when I moved out. I was displaced again. I graduated highschool off of a miracle from the help of friends and chosen family.

I really focused on music in highschool. doing talent shows and learning how to record music, becoming an officer in my choir and (silent president) of the mens choir ( I call it that as my teacher gave me all the responsibilities of being president of the choir but never gave me the title because I was gay and she felt that a gay man could not effictively lead a group of straight men) My teachers and counselors at school that supported got me into college as a way to avoid homelessness

in college I was flourishing I found my tribe of musicians and started really discovering music and myself. shortly after my first year I became homeless again due to me not understanding how dorms worked I found myself ended up working as a dishwasher in downtown detroit and sleeping on a cot where I saw trans women and other lgbtq youth actully doing sex work to survive because they could not get jobs due to them living in their truth (my song forever was based off of this). Living in a space where people thought I was weird and crazy because I focused so hard on practicing my music and my passions. I wrote my entire first ep at the table next to the cot. I took the risk of spending my last 86 dollars I had for the work week on a website to apply for motor city pride to look presentable as I told my self if im going to believe in myself I have to give myself the best shot I can. I was past the deadline however the next day I got an email saying they wanted me for the gig. It was my first big gig. I ended up taking an even bigger risk to quit my job as a dish washer because they wouldnt give me the time to rehearse for the gig. However my day as a dishwasher I got a recommendation from hudson edit to cara niemi at assemble sound and I scored a sync deal that changed my life.

The pride gig was a success and changed my life because of those events ive im able to say im no longer homeless. Im active doing charity work for my city helping the Lgbtqia community here in detroit. Helping my fellow artists with the knowledge that I had to learn from experience. i’ve gone on to headline that pride in 2021 my music has been placed on national tv and now im doing out of state gigs with my home girl @teetwotimes its only up from here for me and I cannot wait to see what comes next.

The biggest lessons I learned was being able to take pride in my choices and making the best out of whatever im dealt. I learned to reach out and be charismatic you never know who can help you. I learned that in the middle of the struggle. if you cannot appreciate the struggle you will never learn from the struggle. I learned that being positive will really allow you to move way farther than you can if you were to be negative. Always practice and push your craft even when people call you crazy for it. Its your dream not theirs. I learned that nobody will believe in your dream if you dont believe in your dream, So you have to work for it even when nobody believes in you and even when you dont believe in yourself.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My favorite spots in the city are in downtown Detroit for sure.

I would visit sid’s gold request bar if want a fun karaoke bar experience with a live pianist

The woodward bar and grill if youre a little on the wild side.

If Sangers are your thing then Bakers keyboard lounge and the willis show bar.

Leculture cafe for some amazing soul food.

Campus Martius park for the amazing scenery.

I would also like to recommend the 7 mile area for its amazing view of black excellence.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Tee Two Times

Website: www.officialjsantino.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/officialjsantino/?hl=en

Twitter: https://twitter.com/iamjsantino

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JsantinoMusic/

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