Today, Justin Jay, of Dirtybird fame, continues his fantastic musical voyage by releasing his first ever singer/songwriter album - everything will come together pt. 1.
For the uninitiated, Justin Jay is a house music artist who has been a mainstay on Dirtybird for years. His high energy is constant in both the DJ booth and the studio, and he has built a reputation for top-notch hits like last year's "Can't Hang." Through this latest project, he presents the next chapter of his life embodied in a vulnerable and groovy tale of a man looking for love in a world of uncertainty.
I had a chance to sit down with Justin Jay at the recent Dirtybird BBQ in LA to gain more insight into this new creative outlet.
To begin, tell me a little bit about the last six months leading into this, what has the life of Justin Jay been like? Both as a person and an artist. We’re here to dig deep.
Damn great question, man. This is great, this is like therapy - ya know like “tell me about YOU.” Well, that takes us back to six months ago, right around December. So yeah, I think uh in December it was kinda crazy because I was trying to finish up this album and I was SO overwhelmed. The songs just kept on coming and I was just like “fuck there’s like 20 something songs - this is a PROBLEM” and I had this idea.
Ya know what? Instead of having a fuck ton of work to do, and like a humongous album, why don’t we cut the album in half and break it into two parts? And now I’m almost done with this album thing!
Tell us more about the first half and what that split symbolizes for you.
It’s super cool - so the first part of this double album is called everything will come together - part 1. A lot of these songs are all just songs that began as me writing a song, whether it was piano or guitar or just in front of my laptop.
Historically, you’ve been deep into electronic production, what’s been steering you towards songwriting?
Songwriting is something that I’ve only really gotten into more recently. At first it was super scary - now its a little less scary but just so deeply satisfying. The best part about songwriting now is that if you’re feeling something, whether it’s good or bad, you can always win by writing a song about it, ya know? You feel better and you have this thing you hopefully like. What’s funny is like, I think a lot of these songs are a time capsule. A lot of the initial ideas came from about a year ago.
What was going on in your life to bring around this singer/songwriter interest?
The first song of the album is called "I know you’re out there" - I was very single and just really hoping that there was that special someone out there just for me. That’s what that first song is about. The album is called everything will come together and I think it’s sort of about having this blind optimism that things will work out even if you have no idea. That’s all embodied throughout the first song and the rest of the album. A lot of the songs that poured out of me were about telling the story of finding love - and it not working out - and now we have to see what happens. Cliffhanger ending! We don’t know how it’s going to work out.
Man I just wanna say it’s just been SO fun figuring it out and exploring that, you know? Lots of moments like getting home at four in the morning, feeling all sorts of weird things, and then a song just pops out.
What was that first ‘oh shit‘ moment you decided to hop into the singer/songwriter path?
It was a couple years ago. I was touring heavily and making house music and it was awesome. Everything looked perfect on paper but there was something missing and I didn’t know what, and it was giving me really bad anxiety. I was getting a lot of pressure from agents and managers saying things like "you’re gonna play this huge show!" And I’m just like "ahhh I don’t know if I’m ready!" And I didn’t totally realize everything but I just wanted to take some time to fuck around and make some songs.
The pressure got so intense that it just was NOT a very graceful sort of moment. I fired a manager, I canceled a tour, and I moved back in with my parents. I was just one year out of college and that’s where my album Home came from. The music and making it was so therapeutic for me - the songs have a very introspective undertone because I was just grappling with my anxiety and all this stuff.
Was there a particular moment that brought you out of that, and into this positive, expressive mindset?
Yeah! After I finished that album and I started getting back on the horse - also this new album has horses on it! I’ll probably be the only person that gets satisfied by that imagery. I think it was a natural thing to slowly be building up confidence and momentum to show myself that I feel good, I feel good *by myself*.
Are there any lessons early on that you learned early on in your career that you still carry with you today?
Yes for sure! Having fun is important. Feeling artistically free is important, like super super important. Not feeling like you have to make like dubstep or whatever it is that you think you need to make - you can make whatever you want. For me, a lot of the songs in the new album are not house songs at all. It’s all very band-sounding stuff, guitars and live drums and stuff like that.
Have you felt that the different type of creative expression has renewed your love for the DJ and production side?
Absolutely! And I think a big thing also is learning what it’s like to play music as a band and touring as a band has deepened my appreciation for DJ’ing as well because they really complement each other. Band stuff like gear and sound checks are intense, and shit’s going wrong on stage all the time. Things are getting unplugged, the computer is dying, this synthesizer is out of tune, Ben broke a guitar string. That stuff can be super crazy but when you get through it and when you’re able to perform through the fire it’s like ‘YES!’. And of course, DJ’ing is just the best experience ever - the best experience is one that feels like a party you’re just with your friends and making yourself dance. Both are super important to me.
How about earlier inspiration, what kinds of media did you spend the most time with? My big thing was video games.
DUDE! I played the shit out of HALO in my formative years man. That’s so fucking cool and I never really get to talk about that. Yes man I really love games and the connection you can have with that type of experience. That for sure contributed greatly to my formative years.
Can you tell me a little bit about your daily routine, do you have any rituals that you follow?
Dude. I need to get my shit together. I have the worst daily routine - I wake up with emails and then maybe eat a couple hours later. I feel like I need to get some yoga and exercise in the morning and structure it out more for sure.
Is there a particular activity that brings you back to that safe place?
Emails for sure. Juuuust kidding I was just seeing if you were listening. But seriously I need to be in a better groove man. My favorite shit is just like getting to make music - that’s like the most fun thing.
How about after a show/set, how do you unwind?
Generally, I’m an introvert - I like to spend time by myself when I need to recharge and I mostly keep to myself. But when I am on tour, surprisingly enough I actually really appreciate all the social interaction. Like this, like after a set I really love coming out and talking to people and connecting and socializing and I find that actually recharges me a ton.
So how do you balance your needs to deliver on your needs as a DJ and stage performer like this, and juggle a totally different band project?
Well I feel like I do both, but not as good. You can’t be a perfectionist, shit is going to be wrong. Smiling and having a good time goes a long way and I think it just all kinda works out.
With the tour coming up, what are you most looking forward to with this new project?
Dude I’m just excited for it to come out and just start working on finishing Part 2. There’s times when, as an artist, there’s a huge amount of time between you make the music and have the inspiration and when it comes out. Part of that is just like for me, it took a long time to finish these songs. To finish the nitty gritty mixing of the songs I had to level up and get help from friends. Mixing guitars and big vocal stacks and songs that have like 200 tracks are monsters - to make them sound like effortless little tunes gave me some big battles to tackle. Now that it’s all done I am just excited for the new stuff.
Do you have any closing thoughts for us as we look forward to the future?
Man I just hope I don’t confuse too many people going from like a band set, to like I just finished DJ’ing IDM and weird stuff and like techno, to putting out a trance song. I want to just keep having fun with whatever it is I feel like doing in the moment artistically, and hopefully some people are down for the ride.
Also to everyone that’s supported me, I love you guys!
Catch Justin Jay on his upcoming Tour, and listen to everything will come together, part 1 now here.
May 17-19 Gulf Shores, AL @ Hangout Music Festival
May 23 Santa Barbara, CA @ The Barn (tour pre-pary)
May 26 Tempe, AZ @ Shady ParkJune 2 San Francisco, CA @ Hotel VIAJune 8 Chicago, IL @ Estate
June 15 NYC, NY @ Circle Line Cruises
June 22 Baja Norte, MX @ Genius Fest