Justin Jay on His Evolution as a Producer and Finding a Balance in Songwriting

We linked up with Justin Jay to further understand his diverse musical output
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We linked up with Justin Jay to further understand his diverse musical output

Here at Magnetic, we love when a producer shows versatility. The best in the game are able to showcase a full spectrum of their artistic expression and Justin Jay seems to be on a mission to reveal his wide range of musical endeavors. In fact, when talking to the budding producer, it's not a specific mission at all, rather it's his natural thirst for the unknown that pushes him to produce various styles, which is evident on his Fantastic Voyage series.

Fresh off the release of part's 1 and 2 of the Fantastic Voyage, featuring collaborations with his talented friends on more song structured music, Justin Jay assures us he will continue to dig deeper into his magical bag of musical tricks. We got the chance to ask him about his diverse output, what inspires him in the studio, and his evolution as an artist. As he gravitates to a multitude of styles, we can be sure to see more progression coming from him in the future.

Your fans might be more familiar with club oriented music from you, which seems to be different from your new release. How did you approach writing the new music?

Initially, the songwriting aspect was really foreign to me, so for most of the songs, we started with chords, a melody, or some lyrics before moving on to the production. I wanted to really do the songwriting justice. Now that I'm a bit more comfortable with the songwriting process and my friends are used to how I produce, we’re able to push ourselves a little bit more and we’re more open to starting with either aspect of the process. 

You are definitely showing a lot of versatility with your sound as of late. 

Songwriting has been so cool because it gives production a whole new dimension. I can play off of the lyrics and energy of the vocals while I’m making the song. It's so much fun!

Over the past year we've seen you collaborate with Josh Taylor & Benny Bridges a few times, who are they to you?

They're both good friends of mine from my frat when I was in college. Ben is finishing up his last semester right now, and Josh and I became friends our freshmen year. These guys are just my homies from school that I happen to make music with. 

We're figuring it all out, kind of on the spot. We've made a lot of music together. It's weird, because I think I've made my artsiest, most forward-thinking stuff with these guys. We have music that is the catchiest, most feel-good stuff that I've ever made, and I feel like it's a little confusing, and I'm all over the place, but I like the idea of pushing myself just to make stuff that's weirder and crazier and more out there than I ever have. And then stuff that's more feel-good and fun and just gets stuck in your head. I'm interested in the full range of music. And for me it's less about pushing a specific musical idea and more just about me having fun making music and trying something new and grappling with how difficult it is to do that. That's the idea.

Are you going to continue with this evolution towards more classical songwriting?

I don't know man. It's honestly a little scary to really try something new, and my roots in club music are just so firmly planted that I don't feel like I'm anywhere close to departing completely from those roots. I think there are moments where club music and proper songwriting are at ends with each other, because I think some of my favorite moments on the dance floor are when things are really repetitive and there's no vocals and I'm getting stuck in this trance-type feeling. It's really cerebral in its own way, different from when lyrics take you on a more explicit emotional journey. I feel like I'm just beginning to learn about these things, and I have no idea where any of this is going to go. And yeah, I'm going to go with the flow and see what feels right, both in the studio and then when I get to play for people. I'm trying to take risks, and risks can be really scary.

What are some of your biggest influences outside of dance music?

I'm all over the place. I’m inspired by everything from soul, to funk, to disco, to classic rock, to blues, to jazz, to classical music – you name it. I wish I could pause time and just listen to infinite amounts of music.

You just got done with a string of gigs in Australia. What was the scene like down there and how did the crowd respond to your music?

Australia was soooo much fun! Everyone is so excited about the world of underground dance music and I got a lot of love. Australians also know how to party, even when the weirder/deeper tracks come out.

You graduated from college last year, congratulations mate! What was the best thing you took away from that experience?

The best thing I took away from college was making great friends who I might not have become friends with otherwise. For instance, Josh and Ben didn't listen to house or techno before we started hanging out. We might've judged each other at first for our different tastes, but it ultimately made collaborating so much fun and so rewarding. I guess it just goes to show how important it is to keep an open mind while meeting new people. 

I just feel as though there's still so much to learn. I remember being obsessed with astronomy and the universe as a little kid, and it was Carl Sagan or someone who said, "The more we learn about the Universe, the more we realize how little we know." One of those inverted things, where there's no limit to discovery when it comes to music or science. It's a really cool thing, like this endless journey. Honestly, it's not very glamorous, because if you're really trying to do something new, sometimes it sucks. And then sometimes-

You've got to fail.

Yes, exactly. And then when it comes together, in any way, shape or form, you just never take it for granted, and I love that as well. I think also moving slightly away from club music, it really only just reaffirms how much I love it. It's like if you have your favorite food... if ice cream's your favorite, and then you don't have it for a while and then you have it again, you really learn to appreciate it that much more. That's what it's all about. I really do feel that, because that's heart, for me. I love dance music so much, because when you're on the dance floor as an audience member, you're really a part of the music. There's a tangible, visceral thing. I've started going to a lot of shows outside of dance music recently, just to learn more about live music and stuff like that, and I've seen a fair amount of shows where people are really standing still and having a cool emotional experience. So I think it's really interesting and dope. But personally for me, I want to get people moving.

If you go see Ben Clark or Marcell Dettman and you're listening to really cool techno music, I feel like it's very physical. It's primal. It's very outside of your head. You're getting caught up in this wave of energy and motion. If you go to a folk show and everyone's standing, watching and getting sucked into someone singing, playing guitar on an emotional level, that's so cool in a different way. I'm interested in seeing where those two things can meet, and where they don't meet. It's about exploring and trying new things. And Justin J and Friends is about realizing that I can explore and learn so much from the people around me..

What are your thoughts on the current state of dance music? Where do you see things going from here? What styles and trends are coming and which ones are fading away?

I know a lot of my college homies who just got back from Coachella are insanely hyped on Bob Moses. So yeah, that's getting played at frat parties now, which is pretty wild. I’m not quite sure where the state of dance music is going, but it's definitely evolving, and it’ll be exciting to see what happens.

Whats next for you this year?

Parts 3 and 4 of my Fantastic Voyage Album are dropping on Soul Clap Records and Repopulate Mars over the next couple weeks. Beyond that, working on new music and playing more awesome shows. Lightning in a Bottle and Hard Summer are two highlights for sure. 

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