Rise & Shine with Damien Horne“Rise to the occasion and shine by stepping in purpose and doing what you were called to do.”
International recording artist Damien Horne has overcome some of the hardest obstacles life throws at us. With God by his side, Damien fought every day to be a better person and chase his dreams. His journey has led him to Nashville, TN, where he pursued his music career. He has toured with Big and Rich, John Legend, Kid Rock and countless others. He’s written top hits and joined diverse music groups through the city of music. His personal motto, “Rise & Shine,” gives a whole new meaning to waking up every morning with your face towards God. He shares with War Cry about overcoming adversity and pursuing his God-given purpose to inspire through music.
WC: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Damien: I’m originally from Hickory, NC, from a big blended family of 12 children. I grew up in a lower income area there, raised by a single mother, and that is where my life began and things started for me and just experiencing a lot of the things that I came across in life at a very young age that almost set me on a path to where I am at now.
WC: How did you meet the Army?
Damien: I came to the Army as a kid through a local Boys and Girls Club. It became a safe haven for me to get out of the streets and stop being a part of the things that I saw going on around me. I would attend the Boys and Girls Club and just play basketball, do homework and those kinds of things, but one particular evening, Major Pete Costas from The Salvation Army, which was connected to our Boys and Girls Club, would play basketball with us and just kind of talk with us. He invited us to church one day, and that is how I kind of got introduced to the Salvation Army Church. I started to attend the programs and then got super interested in going to the summer camps. Before I knew it, the Army pretty much became my family.
WC: Would you say that that is how you found your faith?
Damien: Yeah, I think so. I grew up in a town where it’s part of the culture to be a church all the time. So I was always attending church with my mom growing up, but my faith really grew at The Salvation Army. Major Pete Costas actually gave me my first Bible, and I remember written inside of it was two scriptures—Jeremiah 29:11 and Proverbs 3:5 and 6. The first one being, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” and the second was, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
These two scriptures spoke to me so loudly because I had just lost two older brothers to the streets, and my two younger brothers were in prison. To hear words like that made me believe that there is a good future in front of me and that somebody cared about where I was headed. These scriptures resonated with me, and I decided to really dive into the Word a bit more and see what is in store for me.
WC: Most teenagers don’t really give themselves to religion and faith. Do you think that that was a very pivotal moment for you in your life?
Damien: It was definitely a pivotal moment in my life. I know now looking back, I definitely believe in the divine intervention of what God was doing and what He was prepping me for at that time. At the time, I thought it was something I just stumbled into, but now I can see the orchestration of what God was doing the whole time. He put me in the position for Him to use me. Growing up in the area I did, there weren’t many options, either I was going to die early or I would end up in prison, and that is not what I wanted. I know now that at that time, God’s Word was showing me and offering me something better.
WC: You’ve been open in the past about a time in your life where you were homeless. Can you share your story on that?
Damien: After I started attending the core and my faith started growing and becoming stronger, I realized that God had something different in store for me. I started believing the Word that I was reading and it started manifesting in my life. I was the first one in my immediate family to graduate from high school, and when I did that, I realized that if I can do that, I can do anything. I thought about what I wanted to do with my life and being an 18-year-old kid, I wanted to be rich and famous. I saved up some money, packed up my things and got a one-way Greyhound bus ticket to Hollywood. I had only $400 and one bag of clothes and found out really quickly that it takes more than that to make it in Hollywood. I ended up homeless there for the next couple years. Clear across the country, I had never really been outside of the Carolinas. And then now I am on the other side of the country with no one, and knowing no one, and no money, and no place to stay, and that is how that began.
WC: Did you ever reach out to The Salvation Army for help?
Damien: I did! They even helped me when I was a kid before I even knew what The Salvation Army was. I remember getting toys and clothes and things for Christmas based through The Salvation Army, but then as I started attending the corps, I realized all the programs in the things that they offer to help people in need. So I knew exactly where to go.
WC: You were so young when you experienced homelessness. Did you ever waver from your faith during that time, or how did your faith affect you during those difficult times?
Damien: There was definitely a period where doubt started creeping in. I started thinking, “Well maybe these words do not really apply to me” or “Maybe they are not as true as I wanted them to be,” because I felt like I had left a bad situation for a worse situation. I kind of equate it to The Exodus experience for the Israelites when they left Egypt. For some reason, God kept putting what I call divine encounters in my path to give me a push to the next day or to the next direction that I needed to go. And one particular day, I remember being at the end of my rope. I had been in Hollywood for a while, and I remember walking into a random church and going up to the altar to pray. A complete stranger walked up to me and he puts his hand on my shoulder and asked what he could pray for. I didn’t really know what I needed at the time. I just know I needed a breakthrough. I needed something to be different. We began to talk, and he offered me a job at his company. It was something I desperately needed, a way to make money and start saving. I remember that moment being a huge thing for me because once again, I felt like I was at the end of my rope and I felt like nothing was going my way. But when I prayed about it, I received an answer to prayer pretty immediately, and it just once again reaffirmed to me that God had plans for me to prosper and if I just trusted Him. He guided and directed me and it gave me a boost to fight another day.
WC: You mentioned that you had moved across the country with no family by your side. Was there ever a time where you almost packed up and went back home?
Damien: Oh, yeah, multiple times. There were times when I wanted to go back home, but there was a part of me that felt like I was supposed to be there for something, and now looking back, I can recognize that those were the breeding and training grounds for my faith and where I was headed in life. I think I definitely needed that experience to really see the realness of God and how He operates.
WC: Would you say that the man from church who gave you a job is how you started to get out of homelessness?
Damien: Yes, but that was just the beginning of it. He offered me a job which gave me the opportunity to make and save some money. It gave me something to keep pushing forward. Eric Best, the man who gave me the job, gave me a second change to work towards my new dreams. I no longer cared to be rich and famous, I wanted to help people. I want to be that person for somebody else that Eric was to me. I wanted God to use me in positions to help people discover their purpose and discover God.
WC: How did your music career takeoff?
Damien: After I left Los Angeles, I made my way toward Nashville, TN. When you get to Nashville, you hear music on every corner. I remember going on Second Avenue and Broadway and I would see people do what we call “busking,” where people sit on the side of the street and perform for the crowds. So, I thought, “Alright, that is going to be my first gig. This is what I need to do.” One particular night, after being in town for about a month, this guy walks by with a big, black cowboy hat and a handlebar mustache with some friends of his. He stopped to listen, and he threw $100 into my guitar case. He asked me about my music and invited me to come play with him and a group of his friends called the MuzikMafia. By joining this eclectic group of musicians is how my career took off.
Before I knew it, I was working with the country duo called Big and Rich, Gretchen Wilson, James Otto, Shannon Lawson, and I even opened for Hank Williams Jr., which was something I never imagined I would get to do! My first publishing deal was in 2004 with Big Love music, and then I started developing my own artistry, not just as songwriter, but as an artist. I had the opportunity to tour with John Legend as a solo artist and ended up becoming a part of this country trio called The Farm that got signed to Warner Brothers. We toured for years and had a top 20 song on country radio. It never slowed down and opportunities just kept coming up. I continued to write with my partner, Krista Marie Oswald, and we are songwriting duo. And then a part of a group called The Magi, which is a very inspirational, almost biblically based kind of music, and the list just goes on and on. And now I am actually a host of a television show called “The Song” that is on Access TV that aired in July.
WC: Can you explain what a publishing deal is?
Damien: A publishing deal is when you actually get paid a salary or some kind of fee to write songs for other artists. I have always liked songwriting, and it is always going to be my first love and I honestly, before I even got to Nashville, I didn’t know you could do that as a living. Nashville is the songwriting capital of the world. A lot of the top hits that you hear on radio were not written by the artist that performed them. Usually those hits are created in Nashville.
WC: Who are some of your musical influences?
Damien: I have influences from all styles of music. From rock, I’m a huge Chris Cornell fan and pop is a big group including Michael Jackson and Prince. In the soul world, I was a big Sam Cooke and Otis Redding fan. R&B would be Bright Midnight. From gospel would be Stevie Wonder. I could list names all day long and people who have influenced my music.
WC: Does faith influence your music?
Damien: It always does. It’s the guidelines from which I write. I’m what they call a mainstream artist because I do not always write specifically Christian music, but I am a Christian who writes music, so my faith is always an influence in that. There is no way for me to get around it—it’s a big part of who I am and it comes out in my music.
WC: Alive or dead, who would be your dream person to perform with
Damien: Oh, I would have to say Michael Jackson. He is, to me, the best performer of all time. To be on stage and perform with him would be phenomenal.
WC: Explain what your motto, “Rise & Shine,” means.
Damien: It started when I was a kid and heard the lyric, “Rise and shine and give God the glory.” It’s always stuck in my head, and it took on another meaning for me. We’ve all overcome obstacles and trials, but we have to rise to the occasion in a way we do that is by what the scripture says, trusting in God and leaning to His understanding and not our own. Rising over obstacles and trials that come in our life. What I mean by shining is I believe when we finally tap into what our purpose is, we shine, we illuminate, and when we do that, we shine light on the Father in Heaven. A combination of those two terms can be put on a bigger scale of life. Rising to the occasion and shining by stepping in purpose and doing what you were called to do and when you do that, I feel like you liberate other people to do the same thing.
WC: How has your faith changed throughout the years?
Damien: My faith has definitely grown throughout the years. I feel like I have lived multiple lives. I’ve had a lot of experiences where my faith has been tested. But faith is ever-evolving, ever-growing and will continue to grow because I believe that God has always given me opportunities to put it to the test.
WC: What is some advice that you would give to anyone in any similar situation you have been in?
Damien: Well, I mean for me, it all comes back down to my faith. A lot of it starts with my own understanding, and a lot of times, that put me in some weird positions and not-so-good positions. To me, it just comes back to trusting in God and being obedient to God, and I know sometimes it sounds cliché, but I have seen it time and time again in my life. A lot of times, we feel that we have to do something, and we have our part to play, but the best way to do our part is through God’s leadership and His guidance. He has the understanding and the knowledge of this world that He created. He knows what is happening at all times. So, when you don’t know what to do, sit back, listen and read his word. Put His Word to the test and follow that. I’m going to trust that God loves me and has the best plans in store for me.
WC: What does kindness mean to you?
Damien: Kindness to me is a genuine understanding and an intentional effort to show compassion to someone. It’s not just one thing, it’s a conscious intentional compassion for a fellow human being.
WC: Tell us a time where kindness impacted your life somehow.
Damien: Jerry Sorrow was the executive director at the Boys & Girls Club at the time when I first started going there. I was very rough around the edges, a tough little kid, the kind who would cause a lot of trouble. But he extended kindness and gave me mercy multiple times when I messed up. Pete Costas was there for me when I was going through the corps, he was patient and kind and offered me opportunities. Same thing with Eric Best when I was in Hollywood. He didn’t even know me, but he offered me a job. There have been plenty acts of kindness in my life that catapult with me to the next part of my life and forward.
WC: How has COVID-19 affected your career?
Damien: It has affected my career a lot. I had a lot of tour dates coming up that all had to be cancelled. On the other end though, I’m definitely blessed because there are other things that have come along that allowed me to keep moving forward. I miss being on the road and I miss playing for live audiences, but it has also given me the opportunity to sit down to create and record a lot more.
WC: Do you have any virtual performances coming up?
Damien: Yes, I actually do! I have some that I am doing for The Salvation Army. There were a couple of events that I was supposed to go perform and speak at, that I am going to do virtually now, so stay tuned for that. But every Friday, I usually do like a virtual show from my Instagram and Facebook account and just play fun songs. I know a lot of people are stuck at home and missing out on the connection of live music. So, it’s kind of my way of giving back to the music community.
This article was published in the September 2020 issue of The War Cry.