Lancaster singer works with John Legend, launches career
As Jack White rocked out on a New York stage in front of thousands of crazed fans, Justin Baron was focused on his laptop and his checkbook.
Backstage, the Lancaster native was running the numbers — how much should the security team get paid? How much should White get paid?
"When you think about it, somebody has to pay (White) the night of the show," Baron said. "Somebody has to have the checkbook."
But as he wrote out the checks, Baron dreamed of the day he'd be on stage instead.
That's the reason he came to New York in the first place — to pursue a career in music.
Baron, who graduated with a degree in accounting from Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, said he would have taken any job when he decided to move to New York a year after college. But the job he got was working as a "rock show accountant" for Live Nation, a concert promotion company in New York.
The job introduced him to a lot of important names in the music industry, but it wasn't until a year later that Baron got his big break.
Through a connection he made in college, Baron learned that Grammy Award-winning singer John Legend was looking for new music to record.
Baron called in sick four days in a row, and four sleepless nights later, Baron and his friend sent Legend three tracks, two of which Legend turned into songs. One of the tracks became the single "Made to Love," which is featured on Legend's fourth studio album "Love in the Future."
"When I found out I had a single with John Legend, I went to the president (of Live Nation New York) and said, 'I have a single with John Legend. I quit,'" he said.
"Love in the Future," which also includes the hit song "All of Me," was later certified Gold and nominated for a Grammy in 2014.
"That was my entrance into the song-writing world," Baron said. "I had the golden ticket because I was the guy who wrote that song."
Baron spent the next year networking with anyone who would listen. But the problem was finding a way to break into the music industry as a solo artist, and not as a song writer.
Soon enough, Baron caught another break.
His former boss at Live Nation saw Baron perform one night, and within a month, he was Baron's new manager.
"(My boss) had 30-some years of experience and knows everybody and believes in what I'm doing," Baron said.
When the president of Live Nation New York heard about Baron's music career, he wanted to be a part of the team, too.
"All of a sudden, I was managed by this huge industry veteran and the current sitting president of Live Nation (New York)," Baron said.
A month later, Baron landed his first major gig, opening for Jason Derulo in front of 15,000 fans at Jones Beach Theater in New York.
Since then, Baron, now 27, has shared a stage with artists, including Ariana Grande, Calvin Harris, Magic!, Flo Rida, Nick Jonas, Charlie XCX, Echosmith and more.
Read about the William Penn High grad who's worked with Rihanna, Ariana Grande and more
His largest show will be the Billboard Hot 100 Music Festival at Jones Beach Theater Aug. 22. The two-day festival features 40 artists on three stages, including Justin Bieber, The Weekend, Skrillex, Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne.
At the festival, Baron will perform upbeat "vintage pop" music with a seven-member band that includes a horn section, drums, piano and guitar.
"(Vintage pop) is finding a way to capture '60s soul melodies and writing styles and finding a way to put them in a current soundscape," Baron said. "We're trying to bring back a different sound, but not at the expense of being a throwback band."
This summer, Baron released his debut solo single "I'm Still Believing" and plans to release his second single "For You" Aug. 19. Most of the songs he writes, he said, are about love or heartbreak.
"I've gotten my heart broken more times than I care to admit," he said.
Baron's success as both a songwriter and a singer was largely achieved in New York, but Baron said he has his Lancaster roots to thank for turning him into the artist and person he is today.
From encouragement from his piano teacher to being bribed by his mother to sing to the humble mentality he learned from the Lancaster community, Baron said he gained the confidence he needed to take his music career to the next level.
"I never wanted to give up and walk away," he said. "Because I had someone so encouraging, I stuck with it My future was set. That's what I was going to do with my life."