Maybe his strength is in his voluminous afro, signature set of cornrowed braids, lyrics he composes, guitar he strums, or perhaps Damien Horne, country music sensation with an R&B twist, garners his strength from his mother’s words.
“She always says, ‘Keep that joy in your heart and a smile on your face because the Lord Jesus is with you!’” Damien says, “She’s literally said that to me almost every day of my life! And honestly, just to know that Jesus is always with me is all I need to really know!” recalls Damien.
When most people visualize a country singer, they picture a ten-gallon hat, silver spurs affixed to the back of cowboy boots, and a guitar. Well, one out of three still makes a complete package when it comes to Damien Horne because he does have the guitar which he naturally, gently strums with ease and precision. This young man with his tapered mustache, chiseled stature, and the neatest cornrows ever, leisurely, yet confidently strolls onto the stage in a long-sleeve, camouflaged t-shirt with #RISEANDSHINE emblazoned in large, white, block-style, capital letters across his chest. “Rise and Shine is my mantra,” he declares. “Every day I get up and RISE to the occasion and SHINE a light through living out my God-given purpose,” says Damien as he continues to softly play chords on his guitar.
“The genre of music I subscribe to is good music. I like all styles and perform all styles. It just needs to be good!” He does have a comprehensive list of favorite artists which helps flesh out his well-roundedness as an artist. According to Horne, those artists, “…range from Sam Cooke, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, to Chris Cornell, Counting Crows, to Mos Def, Outcast, Biggie, to Fred Hammond, Smokie Norful, Mali Music, to Bob Marley, to Johnny Cash, Don Williams, to Chris Stapleton.” He takes a breath from naming the artists and simply says, “…This list really could go on FOREVER!!!”
Defying Death and Destruction
Damien Horne, who is 1 of 12 children, will never turn his back on his character which was built via his humble beginnings, and his reverence for his mother is what keeps him moving forward. “Growing up in the projects of Hickory, NC, born to a mother who still to this day cannot read or write, it amazes me that she was still able to keep food on the table and clothes on our backs,” says Damien. The yearning feeling that burned within Damien, even as a little boy, turned into a fire that would catapult him to success as he found purpose through ironically disobeying his mom one major time during his childhood when he left the house without permission.
Boys and Girls Club
As a latchkey kid during the 1980s it meant that, as parents worked, the children were supposed to go home, unlock the door’s latch using the key that dangled around their neck, and open the door for absolutely no one. Damien chuckles as he recounts the story. “Every afternoon, I would let myself in and go over to the window watching the kids get on the bus.” Pausing as if he could visualize the bus in his mind’s eye, Damien said, “I knew I had to get on that bus because those kids looked so happy.” He did just that, and he recalls being disobedient to his mom for the first time, yet this disobedience would lay the firm foundation for his life that would later catapult him to success.
He says, “When I disobeyed my mom and got on that bus, I finally realized why those kids looked so happy. It was because they were going to the Boys and Girls Club.” Damien remembers that he started attending the Boys and Girls Club as a young teen. He shares, “I am an alumnus of the program and because of how it changed my life, I am an ambassador of its cause to this day.”
Through disobedience, he was introduced to a place of refuge, and he discovered his gift and purpose. In addition to the scheduled activities at the Boys and Girls Club, Damien remembers, “…sitting there for hours writing poems that become songs and later putting these songs to music.”
Damien says, “I was the first person in my immediate family to graduate from high school. I knew if I could do that, I could do more.” He felt that going to Hollywood would be the key to success. Therefore, after graduating from high school and working a summer job to save money, Damien Horne purchased a one-way bus ticket, and he moved to Hollywood.
Bought With A Price
One could say that Damien Horne’s success was bought with $400 – actually, it was $500. When Damien left his hometown of Hickory, NC, with $400 that he saved from working a summer job, he took a bus to Hollywood where he soon discovered that $400 would not go very far. Becoming homeless soon after his arrival, he remained in that state for nearly two years. As he recalls this two-year stint of homelessness, Damien reminisces, “The struggles I faced growing up gave me the confidence that even though life can be hard at times, I had – within me – the ability to overcome!” He may have been homeless, but he never became heartless and still possessed the joy of which his mother always whispered in his ear.
Within a week, that $400 vanished. Damien says, “I soon learned that $400 would not go very far in California. I found myself sleeping in abandoned buildings, squats, the pier, Skid Row, missions, the Covenant House, and anywhere I could find a hot meal.” The Covenant House in California is a non-profit youth homeless shelter that provides sanctuary and support for homeless and trafficked youth, ages 18-24, and it was instrumental in helping to keep a roof over Damien’s head, and during these low points in his life, the words of God still reverberated in his head.
After managing to slightly get on his feet and save some money, Damien Horne decided to pack up his few belongings, consisting primarily of his guitar, and move to Nashville, TN. History repeated itself as Damien once again found himself homeless and void of cash. He continued to keep that same heart, hang onto the words of joy that his mother instilled in his heart, and play music whenever and wherever he could. Damien recalls, “One particular night while playing music, or busking as we call it, on the corner 2nd Avenue and Broadway, this gentleman dropped a $100 dollar bill into my guitar case.” Later I learned that this stranger would become very familiar. “It was John Rich of the country music duo called Big and Rich, and he invited me to come play,” says Damien. Not too long after this, his career took off, and he secured his first publishing deal in 2004.
Today, Damien performs in a plethora of venues as a member of the group The Farm as well as Nashville’s MuzikMafia. One of his latest collaborations is a duo with Krista Marie called The New North.
“Growing up in Hickory, NC, I lost one of my older brothers to the streets when I was 14 years old,” recalls Damien. “Later, I lost another brother to the streets. After that, I lost two of my younger brothers to incarceration.” Because death and destruction were so rampant during his childhood and within his family, he recalls feeling as though his only options were to end up dead at a young age or incarcerated. He felt that way until something amazing happened.
“I discovered the Creator of all good things. I discovered the Grand Designer of this world, who I am as a person, and the Giver of purpose,” says Damien. He smiles and shares, “This happened for me through the Salvation Army. It was a church organization that, during the holidays, when my family could not afford meals, clothes, or Christmas presents, they helped make that possible. Not only that, I started attending church through them and learning more about God. This particular discovery of my life was the most important thing that ever happened to me because it gave me a new focus, a new vision, and a new outlook on life.”
When the opportunity presents itself, Damien Horne shares both his gratitude and personal testimony when he makes appearances on behalf of the Salvation Army such as his most recent appearances at the Tulsa, OK Salvation Army Dinner in March of this year and the Fayetteville, NC Salvation Army Luncheon this past May.
Damien recalls the moment he learned what happens when your gift intersects with your purpose. “The more and more I learned that my gift was music, the more that I learned that my why or my purpose was actually people. I thought it was music, but I learned that it was people.” He recalls, “I know that it was so many people who spoke life into my life, and I wanted to do that for other people.” Essentially, he wants to be somebody’s hero.
To Damien Horne, being someone’s hero means living out one’s dreams by using their God-given talents. He says, “When you walk in your purpose, you cause others to shine thereby liberating them. The things our youth deal with today and the resilience they show motivates me along with their spirit for life. Damien knows first-hand about some of the same struggles that today’s youth deal with such as struggling with belonging, finding acceptance, attempting to finish high school, living with a hard-working mother and an often-absent, alcoholic father, yet despite these obstacles, he continues to, “…pray that the way in which I have lived and continue to live my life is a motivation to them.”
Singer, songwriter, and survivalist Damien Horne says that he, “…believes a big part of my purpose is to encourage, inspire, and motivate, so my desire is to do that in every area of my life with every resource I possess. I hope that when I speak, it is motivating someone to move in the direction they are purposed for.”
Damien says, “I’m inspired when someone says that I was a part of the reason why they started chasing their dream or really started seeking after God, or even just love a particular song that helped them get through a tough time. These are the best compliments ever!”
Sometimes all you need is your fro and your guitar.
Same pose…switched up style
This trip changed my life. It was where the “Heart of Africa” was birthed after a mission trip there. It is like a second home.
Written by Johnnerlyn Johnson