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Rapping toward recovery artist drops his debut album

Justin Clancy, of Peabody, left, films his music video with videographer Eric Cameron owner of Readysettoast (readysettoast.com) on Maine Street in Peabody. (Jim Wilson)

PEABODY — Justin Clancy, who has dedicated his life to helping recovering addicts, is dropping his debut album this week.

“The Color Blue,” which will be available on all platforms June 22, features nine tracks written by Clancy himself. The singer-songwriter and rapper is also the co-founder of a non-profit organization called New England Addiction Outreach (NEAO) and works as a community outreach coordinator and treatment advisor for Banyan Treatment Center out of Wilmington.

“I still juggle both jobs and it’s difficult, it’s kind of like a balancing act, but I manage because I know if I didn’t do that then I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in today,” said Clancy.

The tracks on the album touch upon Clancy’s struggles with addiction and his upbringing on the North Shore. Even the album’s title is connected to Clancy’s ability to overcome obstacles; he and his producer, Nox Beatz, both have synesthesia, a neurological condition that blends the senses. When they hear the beat to a song, a color will immediately pop into their heads.

“When Nox tried making me listen to the beat for ‘TV Dinner,’ the first song I wrote for the album, I hated it at first but he forced me to really listen to it and that’s when the color blue was so prominent in that room,” he said. “I knew the concept for the whole album right after I made that song.”

Blue is the deepest color on the spectrum because it’s the only color that can be used to describe a mood or vibe and everyone identifies with it differently, Clancy said. Each of the songs on the album will represent a different shade of blue and the various emotions that associate with it.

“It’s such a deep color and it resonates with me very heavily so when I would write, my producer and I would keep a certain shade in mind and we’d try to sonically represent that rather than visually,” he said.

Clancy finished writing “TV Dinner” in December 2016 and aside from working his two day jobs, he’s been writing and assembling his debut album every day since. He finished the last track only a few months ago, a year and a half after completing the first song. That final song, “Back Home,” articulates what it felt like for him to come back to his city after getting clean from his years of struggling with drug addiction.

The Peabody native acknowledges that he struggled with yearning for acceptance while he was growing up, but he now knows that, at the end of the day, the only acceptance he needs is from himself. Clancy said the album expresses how his younger self always wanted to fit in with the other kids. It also sheds light on memories of his former high school classmates, who would throw his older music in the trash or out of their cars as they drove by him, refusing to accept him as a musician.

“Everyone’s process is their own process and who I was then and the trials and tribulations I’ve experienced have molded me into who I am today and I’m totally OK with that,” he said. “If I didn’t experience all that I’d still be wearing masks and being horrifically insecure surrounding myself with people who didn’t have my best interests in mind but I would still compromise that because I didn’t want to be alone.”

Clancy is a one-man business when it comes to funding his album and the music videos for a few of the pre-release tracks. He has taken every one of his paychecks and put them towards the album, even footing the bill for a pizza party in downtown Peabody last month to celebrate getting over 100,000 downloads on music streaming service Spotify.

“When I was younger I interned for a marketing firm, and I’d pass out CDs and albums for other artists in the blistering cold in front of the House of Blues, trying to learn the ropes and pay my dues. But it was never my albums and I always told myself that one day people would be doing that for me,” said Clancy.

His music video for the track “Work In Progress” was published on Huffington Post late last year and he’s been gaining fans all over New England while playing sold out shows with a number of national touring acts. In honor of the release of his debut album, Clancy will perform at his second ever headlining show at The Middle East Sonia at 10 Brookline St., in Cambridge.

Tickets are $13 in advance, with Clancy hand delivering them; $15 at the door; and $25 for VIP tickets. Special guests Tim Nihan, Anson Raps, and Wilson will open the all-ages show at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 13.

“The past year and a half has been a rollercoaster of emotional events and things of that nature, just a lot of up and downs, it’s like every six months my spirit goes through a major change,” he said. “I’m constantly evolving and constantly changing as an artist and as a human being.”

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