The latest example of “local boy done good,” Arden native Justin Biltonen has risen to the ranks of bassist for alt-rockers 3 Doors Down (“Kryptonite”), and more recently has embarked on a solo career, pursuing his longtime love of country music.
“Growing up in Western North Carolina is genuinely where my passion to perform live started. I’m definitely a product of the late ’90s and early 2000s, so I kind of dove into every genre,” he says. “That was such an epic era for so many different musicians, and my hometown was this mixture of all of them. There was punk and heavy metal, all the way to Americana and more traditional bluegrass.”
The video — his first overall as a solo artist — for his third single, “Worth Hanging Onto,” was filmed in Leipers Fork, Tenn., not far from his home in Nashville. Directed by Sarah Elizabeth, the visual accompaniment enhances the song’s themes of valuing one’s roots and honoring important people and mementos, and features such cherished personal items as Biltonen’s great uncle’s bible and a rifle given to Biltonen by none other than Charlie Daniels.
The T.C. Roberson graduate’s family still lives in the Asheville area and he pays them regular visits. But whether back home, in Tennessee or on the road, he’s often reminded of getting his start “playing basement shows or pop-up concerts” on local stages, and credits his success to those early opportunities.
“I was influenced by so many different artists, and I got to see some of them in action while I was working at The Grey Eagle. I remember running security for The Living Wage tour and seeing Tom Morello, Shooter Jennings and so many other amazing performers live and in person,” he says. “I feel like I got to watch Asheville evolve into a serious center for major touring acts and, eventually, that pro-level set up was offered to local bands. That’s where I got my first taste of what life as a musician was going to be like for me.”