When Justin Cash was asked to record two more songs for his Shadow Mountain Records debut ““Beautiful World,” he knew just what he’s choose.
Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
The song is an apt summation of Cash’s attitude on life, and that positive, never-quit attitude has made him the newest signee to Shadow Mountain Records, the Salt Lake City-based recording label owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“After 10 years of small clubs, jerk [club] owners who don’t pay you, and jerk people, the dues have paid off,” said the 34-year-old Texan father of three sons. “This is the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Cash is a talented guitarist and flexible vocalist whose love of the blues has seeped into the way he picks and sings ever since he began taking guitar lessons from a Denver bluesman. While Cash’s style of the blues is more reminiscent of Jason Mraz and John Mayer rather than Muddy Waters or Eric Clapton, being a blues artist of any kind on Shadow Mountain Records is a rarity.
In fact, it has never happened before.
“We get submissions all the time,” said Bob Ahlander, head of the label that is an arm of Deseret Book. “Not often do we get something like this ... We don’t have anything like him at all.”
“Shadow Mountain Recors has a reputation that is changing,” said Cash. “It’s not just happy church music. I’m a contemporary blues artist.”
For the first time, Shadow Mountain label executives will not be scanning the Billboard classical charts, but the Billboard blues charts. Although his album was released on July 31, this week the label has begun a marketing blitz that has already resulted in Cash’s album breaking into the iTunes blues chart.
The signing almost never happened. Last year, Cash recorded the album with his band, and then submitted the record to labels all over the country, hoping for a bite. He was a friend of Shadow Mountains singer David Osmond — they both served LDS missions at the same time in Spain — but expected to get a quick “No” from the label, at the time thinking that all Shadow Mountain Records was interested in was recordings from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
As expected, he didn’t get an e-mail from the label.
Oddly enough, he hadn’t heard from anyone for nearly six months.
But at about the same time he sent out his album to labels, he changed the look of his website, and that included a different e-mail. Cash called his webmaster to ask why he hadn’t been receiving any e-mails.
The e-mail problem was quickly fixed, and soon hundreds of e-mails written over the past six months flooded his in-box. With his wife Annie crying in the background, Cash noticed an e-mail from Ahlander, who sounded interested.
“I loved him from the first,” Ahlander said.
Cash called Ahlander immediately, and left five voice-mails throughout the day. Finally, they reconnected, and Ahlander offered him a deal — but only is Cash recorded two more covers.
It was the culmination of 10 years of being the sole breadwinner in his growing household. With support from his wife, Cash had been a working musician for the last decade, but it was difficult to eke out a living. “Some nights, I would only make $40,” Cash said of playing clubs around Dallas. “If I don’t earn money, we don’t eat.”
But Cash’s positive world-view — which appears throughout “Beautiful World” — was never shaken. “When I write, I try to think as positivity as I can,” he said of his craftsmanship style. “I turn off the inner critic ... There’s plenty of negativism out there. So much of it brings you down.”
But it doesn’t bring Cash down.
To listen to Justin Cash, go to www.gojustincash.com