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From Homeless Shelter to Keith Urban and Faith Hill Co-Star, The Incredible Story of Damien Horne

“What I do know is no day is complete for me if I haven’t done something to help another individual.”
I had the pleasure to interview Damien Horne. Damien is a singer, songwriter, speaker and philanthropist who’s a Hickory, NC native and currently lives in Nashville, TN. If he’s not in the studio or doing a pop-up show in the city, he’s on the road singing and speaking nationally or internationally. Chances are, you’ll catch him wearing a T-shirt with a Scripture, something inspirational or with #RISEANDSHINE on it — -a one-man show that he’s developing to take on tour in 2018.

What is your “backstory”?

Where do I begin? I’m from Hickory, North Carolina. I was born into a blended family of 12. I fall somewhere in the middle. Two of my brothers died to the streets. Two others spent 10-plus years in prison. I’m the first of my siblings to graduate from high school.

When I turned 18, I decided to leave Hickory because I felt like if I stayed, my life would end up like my brothers did, one way or another. I worked and saved up $400, took a bus out to Hollywood, California and was broke within a month. That left me homeless for two years sleeping everywhere from abandon buildings and squats to the pier and Covenant House. Wherever I could find a semi-safe place and a meal, that’s where I would be.

I eventually saved up enough money to return to North Carolina, just long enough to save up enough money to venture back out. I was in a music group at the time called Stellar Tree and we flipped a coin to decide where we would go. The choice was between Austin, Texas and Nashville, TN. Nashville won. That was 2002.

For about a month, I was homeless there too. There’s a street that a lot of aspiring singers play on to make a couple of bucks called 2nd Ave. One night, while I was playing my guitar, a man with a big cowboy hat and thick handlebar mustache put $100 into my guitar case. When you’re broke, that definitely catches your attention!

We started talking and I found out he was John Rich from the country-duo Big & Rich. He invited me to come out and play with this movement he and his partner had started called the Muzik Mafia. It stands for Musically Artistic Friends In Alliance. It doesn’t matter what genre of music you love, it’s about supporting each other’s passion and purpose.

Since then, life has been a whirlwind of confirmations and blessings! I landed my own publishing deal with Warner Chapel. I’ve performed alongside Keith Urban, Faith Hill, Robert Randolph and John Legend. I was in a country trio The Farm (we charted a couple of singles) and I’m currently in a hybrid of that group with a great artist and friend Krista Marie. It’s called New North.

I also have some solo projects. I’m a huge supporter of non-profits that supported me throughout my life including the Boys & Girls Club and The Salvation Army. If I’m not on the road singing or in the studio recording, I’m out speaking at some of their events. I really enjoy speaking to youth. They have a way of inspiring you as you’re inspiring them!

I’m also developing a one-man show about my life’s journey called RISE & SHINE. I’ve done it a few times already, but I’m really looking to make it take off next year.

I really can’t believe how a kid of Hickory, a place that’s known most of furniture, has so many stamps on my passport! I was in Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii just this summer alone! God has been really good to me.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

Man. (laughs) One time, I was out with The Farm and we were giving autographs to fans. One woman asked for mine and as I was signing, she asked “Is that how you spelled Darius?” She thought I was Darius Rucker!

That’s happened more than once, actually. Another time, when we were getting ready to open up for Darius, some fans hopped on our bus to get autographs and they thought I was him. I just signed them all “Darius Rucker” and said, “Make sure you check out my opening act.” They said they would. You should’ve seen some of their faces when they saw me come out with The Farm. It was too funny!

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Are you working on any meaningful non-profit projects?

For the longest time, I used to think that music was my purpose. I now realize that it’s simply a tool. I believe I’m here to encourage, inspire and motivate others to find their purpose, to have hope in hard times and to live their best life.

How I make that happen varies from day to day. Sometimes it’s mentoring kids. Sometimes it’s giving back at a homeless shelter or partnering up with another organization that I’m passionate about, Samaritan’s Feet. Sometimes it’s giving money to someone in need or just listening to a friend. I have a landing page called “encourage inspire motivate” that features videos and articles that have caught my attention. What I do know is no day is complete for me if I haven’t done something to help another individual.

And, as far as my one-man show, eventually I would like it to get to a place where others can join in with me to share their RISE & SHINE stories. One day, it would even be cool to see chapters of it on college campuses.

Matthew 5:14–16 are Scriptures that kind of anchor the movement. There’s a lot of darkness in the world. We all know that. But man, how brightly we can shine in times like these!

Wow! Can you tell me a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

Is it OK if I tell you about two people who have impacted me to get to where I am instead?

To this day, my mother is my hero. She can’t read or write, but she’s that kind of light I was talking about. She is a big part of the reason that I gave my life to Christ at 7. She does all that she can even now to make sure my siblings, nieces and nephews are good. She had so many odds against her and she’s still hopeful and helpful. My mom is such a beautiful person to me.

Eric Best is a man who provided me with a job when I was homeless in California. One day, I was praying in a church, he walked in and asked me how he could help. That has always stayed with me. It’s important to try and help others find solutions. Not just say kind words, but see what you can actually do for them.

The resilience of my mom and the compassion of Eric impacted me in a way where I hope to do the same things for other people.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

You have to have money to make money. You can tell I didn’t know much about how the world worked to go out to Hollywood with only $400. It’s not that you need to be rich to follow your dreams, but you do need to have a plan and know what you’ll need to fund it. It’ll make your life so much easier.

Dive ALL the way in! Even though being homeless was one of the most uncomfortable times of my entire life, in many ways, it was also the best. I grew closer to God, met some amazing people and became a much stronger person. It also taught me that you can’t really halfway do things. “Fallback plans” are sometimes just that — something that you fall back on instead of moving forward. When you risk your all, it gives you a sense of courage and even boldness that you wouldn’t have otherwise. If you want to make something happen, give 100 percent to it!

Don’t be overly-eager. Not everything that comes to you is for you. When I first moved to Nashville, there was a guy who kept trying to work with me. I couldn’t shake the bad vibes I had, but he kept pushing and I eventually recorded a song for him. Long story short, he stole some of my music and a few others in the city. What’s meant for you will come and you’ll have peace about it. If you don’t have that, wait. It might not be the right opportunity or the best timing. Your gut will let you know what’s good.

Do something every day that develops your craft. It’s important to discipline yourself to invest in your talents. For me, not one day goes by when I’m not either practicing my instrument or singing. I try and do something daily on the business side too. I’ll be the first to say that I’m not the best multi-tasker, so I have to set aside time to respond to emails or do administrative things. But what I try not to do is procrastinate. That only makes inboxes bigger and overwhelms you. Just make sure that whatever you do is benefitting your overall agenda. You can waste a ton of time otherwise.

Be balanced. Philanthropy is a huge component of my mission. But when your purpose consists of constantly giving, it’s very easy to get burned out. You’ve got to make sure you are good before you can be good to and for others. I used to really struggle with boundaries and with saying “no”. Not so much these days. I wake up knowing what my limit is on talking, giving and committing myself to things. When I feel myself getting stressed, it’s time to stop. Tomorrow is another day. I’ll have more to offer then.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, or I might be able to introduce you.

Who doesn’t want to meet Oprah? She takes “rise and shine” to the next level!

Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on November 27, 2017.

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