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From Sullen to Pop 

Singer/songwriter Justin Froese strikes sing-a-long gold (finally)

Look no further than the jazzy blues standard, "Love Has," from Justin Froese's latest album, Fireflies, in order to accurately imagine the bulk of his catalogue, which now spans two full-length albums and an EP.

That track—a slinky song that touts fragile vocals and crashing emotion—is something you might emphatically and repeatedly dip your chin to in agreement with the mood, but certainly not a ditty you wake up with in the morning perched on your tongue and singing in the shower. And that's perhaps even truer for the track that follows it on the album—the rumbling rock song, "Attention."

In fact, going back to Froese's 2007 solo debut album, Here Rules, hushed, rootsy rock and jagged ballads reign supreme with not a pop song among them. Froese's music is for listening to, not for singing along with.

Just don't take that as a negative. His intensely personal songs are indeed filled with a real-world quality that resonates with anyone who's ever experienced uncertainty, stepped out in faith or paused to really evaluate their surroundings. That makes for some good listening that feels personal.

So how then did Froese end up with the endearing and infectious pop song, "Finally Here," on his latest studio record? Well, it started by collaborating with his songwriting cousin Nancy Montgomery.

"The song just came out so naturally," commented Froese in an email to the Source. "When we wrote the chorus, I was like, 'Duh, this wants to be a big gang vocal, kinda gospel chorus.' And so it was. As songwriters and lovers of great songs, my cousin and I just knew what catchy was and let ourselves be guided by what it was asking for."

Apparently, what "Finally Here" was asking for was the perfect marriage of all of the necessary elements of a catchy tune; making it a song that from the first few plucky strums of the guitar strikes a friendly nerve, in stark contrast to his other work. There's the easy-to-sing-along-with, mid-range key—as opposed to the Bono meets Damien Rice, shaky and sorrowful vocals of songs like Froese's 2010's heartfelt "One More Time"—as well as a bouncy cadence that begs for toe tapping.

By the time the warming chorus launches with sweet harmonies and Froese exclaiming "Amen!" the hook is in and it's evident that "Finally Here" has got the legs to stretch into a subconscious hum later in the day.

As Froese explains further, perhaps the way the song came together is a clue for how "Finally Here" can so easily bury itself into the brain.

"We talked about wanting to write a song about home, that's all we said really," wrote Froese. "Something about that word was resonating with the both of us. One day she was at the grocery store and in the parking lot before she even left the car, the first gleams of this song came to her. She rushed home and walked in saying, 'I got it.' Knowing her and judging by her tone, I grabbed the guitar and we went for it. It all came together in under an hour. The song sort of wrote itself from the get-go."

While Froese does return to his intimate ways for most of Fireflies, "Finally Here" draws from the idea of a safe harbor, a place that one can always return to even after some of the raw experiences that he sings about on other songs. And that's really the best metaphor for the song; it's special, just like home is special.

Justin Froese

9 pm. Sun., Sept. 28

Volcanic Theatre Pub, 70 SW Century Dr.


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