Dig Baton Rouge

A Win, a Song, and a Goodbye

By Leslie D. Rose 

1:55 p.m. – July 19

Baton Rouge singer Justin Garner sat alone in front of his television set. He was watching an episode of MTV’s newest singing series “Copycat” – he was watching himself as an Usher copy win the title of the Ultimate Copycat.

Later that day he watched again with family and friends in his hometown Plaquemine.

“We had two huge HD TVs – one indoor and one outdoor – for all of my guests to watch,” Garner said. “It was so much fun and overall great moment. Everyone cheered to the top of their lungs after each round I progressed on the show, and their reaction was even louder when I won!”

Hosted by Jonathan Bennett (“Mean Girls”), “Copycat” is a closed-ended episodic series that features young singers competing to win over the studio audience in a sound-a-like competition.

Often compared to Usher, Garner still contends he was a bit nervous during the taping of the show, but when his first round opponent forgot the lyrics, his opening round win became a cake walk.

“My performance went great,” he said. “The crowd was incredible! I received a standing ovation after finishing my performance.”

It was the final round that slightly unnerved him again, but there was a cool factor involved in that the show has the copiers dress in their idol artist’s clothing – Garner was styled by MTV and Usher’s management. Wearing Usher’s signature black jacket, he faced his next opponent, a male Ke$ha copycat with an Usher song that he didn’t feel quite suitable for his voice.

“Going into the final cat fight was a bit nerve racking,” he said. “I had reservations about ‘You Make Me Wanna’ being the final song. I feared it wouldn’t showcase my vocals enough to pick up the win. I was so wrong! I received a standing ovation and the girls went crazy!”

Immediately after his win, a special victory single, titled “Confetti,” was made available on iTunes. The song, produced by Shaun Andrew, is an up-tempo club banger celebrating Garner’s MTV’s Copycat success.

But success aside, what did Usher think of Garner’s performance? Well the international pop icon is said to have had some thoughts that are yet to be released to the media, but based on Garner’s huge win, Usher is likely amazed.

Garner also took home a $5,000 cash prize that night that he said he plans to use to enjoy his moment and indulge himself before going back to California and abroad on music business.

It’s been an undeniably great year for Garner. He snagged the number one spot on iTunes Japan through a dedicated fan base in Yokohama earlier this year with his album “I Am.” He plans to return for a few performances there to show his gratitude for the accomplishment that jumpstarted his year.

Leading up to his big goodbye, the video hosting service Vevo is documenting his life, music and rise to prominence with “The Road to L.A.,” a behind-the-scenes video series.

“I explain my sound, my journey and what I feel separates me from others in the music industry,” he said. “It’s not about the smoke and mirrors or gimmicks with me — it’s strictly about making great music.”

But before leaving town for a while, he’s got something huge planned for his local fans – an interactive concert – The Justin Garner Experience.

“Attendees can expect great live vocals, and a completely immersive experience,” Garner said. “The audience will actually be a huge part of the show. Come ready to sing, dance, be pulled on stage, drop a line on the mic, interact with my band, etc. It’’ going to be a blast.”

According to his Facebook fanpage, all the ladies in attendance will also get a free cherry bomb, as inspired by his popular song “Cherry Bomb.”

“#JGExperience will be trending that day,” he wrote on his page. “What we have in store will truly amaze you. I’m baring my soul on stage that night. Letting it all out. All of my passion will be on display.”

But where that passion will go after the concert is something that only Garner knows as contractual agreements have the singer tight-lipped about his next moves.

Garner started his career at home on his computer posting YouTube videos of himself singing covers from popular artists. Yet while his career began and rose to prominence as a copycat, it’s his originality that keeps him soaring.

The Justin Garner Experience

July 10

7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Allure Ultralounge

4715 Bennington Ave.

Tickets: JustinGarner.com/shows

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