Charlotte resident Justin Panigutti is a gifted singer-songwriter who recently signed on to Blue Raven Artist Management, a national  booking agency that features acts such as Blue Oyster Cult, Arlo Guthrie and Blood Sweat and Tears. It has been a welcomed change for the skilled musician and allows him to transition to his future job of just “showing up and rocking.” He admits that what he was doing in the past for his own music simply wasn’t cutting it.

“With more competent help comes larger venues and larger range, increasing touring distances in 2019 around New England and ultimately the national market and beyond,” he says. This is a real game-changer for Panigutti, but it was no easy feat. 

In 2014, Panigutti was a finalist in the Advance Music Singer Songwriter competition where he swept the crowd away with a song about a working construction man doing the best he can, called “Singing for Today.” While Panigutti proved a captivating force in the music scene, his lifestyle choices kept him in the shadows of local stardom. 

“I like to say I cheated on my long-term love (music) with an actual romantic love and for a time stopped playing music completely.” 

So what brought the soulful singer back into spotlight? Panigutti was asked to play at a wedding, which motivated the musician to put a band together for the event. The setlist for the wedding was chock full of Van Morrison covers and proved a success on all fronts. 

“The wedding left me thinking. Maybe now is the time to start this Van Morrison Tribute Band thing, as people have always told me I sound like Van.” And just like that, Panigutti started a Van tribute band, Into The Mystic (ITM).  He booked a one-off night at Nectar’s, which became the start of a “wild ride that shows no signs of letting up.” While playing with ITM as band leader was confidence boosting, Panigutti longed to write and play his own music. 

In 2017, the Justin Panigutti Band (JPB) was born and took on the style of “American Rock n’ Soul.” The artist lineup for JPB and ITM is essentially the same, which allows his original music to be featured alongside ITM. There have been some recent changes in the ITM band members, as the previous ones were not able to perform on the road. 

“It’s always hard to transition from an original team to a new team, as the original will be sorely missed, but with new relationships comes new opportunities, and my vision sees nothing but great things to come in the future!”

Members of both bands include Dan Rahilly (lead guitar), Chris Doncaster (bass) and Micah Carbonneau (drums). Mike Fried has been the long-term pianist for ITM, but Panigutti also uses subs for some gigs. Avery Cooper (Avery Cooper Quartet) is ITM’s alto saxophone and section leader. Currently, Matt Dolliver is playing tenor saxophone. 

Panigutti feels that both bands are now “road ready and blissfully capable.” Having this newly acquired booking agency will help to facilitate the band’s marketing and publicity potential. For those who have not had the fortune of hearing Panigutti sing, his voice is energizing and can be characterized as a strong blend of blues and rock. 

You can catch Panigutti with Into The Mystic on Dec. 21 at the Higher Ground Ballroom. This performance will feature some of the deepest cuts from Van Morrison’s catalogue. Although Panigutti’s journey may have been challenging at times, it continues to be worth the while. 

“Between the fun I get to have, as well as the band, performing his [Morrison’s] songs live coupled with the audience’s response makes for an unexpected wild ride I am really enjoying. This bird has finally come to roost.” For more information, check out the JPB website.

Julia Beerworth is a high school teacher at Vergennes Union High School and a local singer songwriter with The Beerworth Sisters.