Justin Stanton, Elizabethton-native and Grammy Award-winner, continues to make music despite pandemic

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(WJHL) — The pandemic continues to hinder live music performances, forcing musicians to find new ways to create.

That includes Grammy Award-winner and Elizabethton-native Justin Stanton.

When 2020 began, Stanton had concerts booked and an album in the works, but those plans never came to fruition.

“It’s been a change of pace of say the least,” Stanton told News Channel 11’s Josh Smith.

The ETSU graduate is a trumpeter and keyboard player in the group Snarky Puppy, a jazz fusion band he joined in 2006 while in graduate school in Texas.

“It’s people creating music in the moment, and that energy is infectious,” Stanton said.

“Looking back, I don’t think any of us would have expected the things that happened.”

Stanton and Snarky Puppy at the 2016 Grammy Award’s (Photo courtesy of Justin Stanton)

Stanton’s journey began in the choir and marching band at Elizabethton High School and continued to ETSU. He says great teachers pointed him in the right direction.

“These were all very inspirational people to me early on and very supportive,” he said.

Despite the canceled concerts, Stanton is still working, recording, and collaborating from his home in Portugal where he lives with his girlfriend Gisella Joaoa, a renowned Portuguese singer and recording artist.

“It’s left a lot more time to set here,” Stanton said. “I have my piano here. I bought a piano while I’ve been in Portugal.”

He says his main concern is with the crew that traveled year-round with Snarky Puppy, people who are like family to him and who now have no way to work.

“Lighting engineers, sound engineers…their streams of income are really gone,” Stanton said. “And it’s unfortunate that they’re not able to get assistance.”

While his journey has taken him to new places and brought him much success, Stanton says he hasn’t forgotten where he came from.

“I love all my Tri-Cities people and appreciate everyone who helped me along the way to get me where I am now,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it. There’s no way.”

Stanton hopes to release an album called Mirrors in the spring that’s a collaboration with four other artists.

Two recordings he played on have been nominated in the upcoming 2021 Grammy Awards: Snarky Puppy’s “Live at the Royal Albert Hall”, which is up for best contemporary instrumental album, and “Slow Burn” with Becca Stevens, which is up for best arrangement, instrument, and vocals.

The 2021 Grammy Awards will air Jan. 31 on CBS.

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