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Justin Hiltner

banjoist | songwriter | journalist | activist


“a leader in the burgeoning movement to welcome and highlight queer voices in bluegrass.”

- NPR Music



 Justin Hiltner is a banjo player and songwriter based in Nashville, TN. His high-energy, Scruggs-style picking is unique in its combination of traditional aesthetic and progressive, outside-the-box thinking. Having a dynamic, variable voice on the banjo has given him opportunities across genres, not simply in straight-ahead bluegrass or “newgrass” alone, but also in folk, country, singer/songwriter, and Celtic. His original songs don’t fall neatly into any of these genre labels, but are instead focused on their stories - which are intensely personal, while maintaining relatability and accessibility. Now in the process of recording his debut album, Justin performs solo - a man, his banjo, and his songs - as well as performing with a rotating cast of Nashville’s greatest pickers in the Justin Hiltner Band. 

 Over the course of his seven years in Music City he’s toured, performed, and collaborated with bluegrass greats such as Roland White, Laurie Lewis, Jim Lauderdale, Ronnie McCoury, Molly Tuttle, and Missy Raines. In 2016 he was nominated for the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Instrumentalist Momentum Award. As a songwriter he has been featured in the IBMA Official Songwriter Showcase and he received an Honorable Mention in American Songwriter magazine’s Lyric Contest.

 An activist and proponent of inclusion and visibility in roots music, he produced the first ever showcase of diversity in bluegrass, now an annual event at IBMA’s business conference, and he authors the eponymous “Shout & Shine” interview series, which focuses on underrepresented and marginalized identities in roots music, for The Bluegrass Situation. 

 His debut full-length album, Watch It Burn, made with friend, co-writer, and bluegrass renaissance man Jon Weisberger, was released on Robust Records in August 2018. The record features 11 songs written by Hiltner and Weisberger and an all-star cast: Molly Tuttle, Tim O'Brien, Kimber Ludiker, Tristan Scroggins, Casey Campbell, Brandon Godman, Corrina Logston, Amanda Fields, Vickie Vaughn, and Ellie Hakanson. 








Robust Records