Photo by Ural Garrett for Okayplayer.
First Look Friday: Understand The Real That Is Los Angeles' Own PJ
With a beautiful voice and a story all her own, singer-songwriter PJ is a survivor of good, bad and ugly times. Her recent release, "Gangster," showcased her enjoyable personality, but one look at the Los Angeles native can reveal that her lifestyle is full of real life, no gimmicks. For the countless audiophiles who became a fan of PJ after listening to her Walking Around Pools EP, it's no secret that her feel good, R&B soul vibe stems from actual events. As she said in a previous interview, "'Gangster' is basically my life's story, [as] I have a habit of always being the nice guy, biting my tongue and dealing with a lot of B.S."
Being an underdog might be the artist also known as JustPeeJ's "season," but she is definitely a personality and voice that stays true to her own. As a rising star in the industry, PJ has already scored big coups such as working with Hits Since '87 star and CEO, Hit-Boy, and talented South Central, L.A. songwriter, Gizzle. Addressing her life's situation on Walking Around Pools is one thing to not miss, but to see her progress in becoming the recent signee to Atlantic Records is another. In fact, her advances have been so stellar, that we're excited to premiere "World Go Round" from PJ for your listening pleasure!
A motivational force for anyone who truly knows her, PJ comes highly recommended after working on records with the likes B.o.B., Meek Mill and Wiz Khalifa. Proving to be a multifaceted artist, one look at her Soundcloud page proves that she's ready to drop a few big tunes on the masses this year. Don't let the cute face fool you into thinking that PJ is someone to overlook, as we had the pleasure of learning, this week's First Look First subject is on the verge of cracking through and making herself known to the masses in a very creative way. As this young gunner is ready to ascend to greater heights, PJ talks with us about her passion for music, how she feels outside the music industry scene and why she plans on changing the game as we all know it.
Okayplayer: To music snobs the world over, you are making an impact on both sides of the U.S. What is it that Californians are seeing and hearing that the world has yet to discover?
PJ: I think the only thing people get from in me in California is just that I have had a chance to perform, and get better at it.
OKP: For those who have a passion for music, they honed their skills and practiced their craft. Who are your most cherished influences in music and why?
PJ: I think Disney soundtracks are a major part of me sonically and especially melodically [laughs]. But, on the real, I think that John Mayer, Kanye West and Kid Cudi are definitely my most cherished influences. John Mayer was someone I started listening to heavily in college, and then Kanye and Kid Cudi just embodies that energy and creativity that inspires me till this day.
OKP: Your song, “Gangster,” is a very dope sounding song and has placed you on the radar of music snobs who have a heavy presence in the industry. Can you talk about how life was for you while developing as an artist in Los Angeles? How have you reacted to your first bits of press?
PJ: I think developing in Los Angeles is kind of like this jungle, and nobody is really telling you where to go [laughs]. So, you run into a couple of walls, might climb over a couple more, trip and fall, run into spiderwebs and shit [laughs]. Now, I am getting my pose down, y'know, for those moments when I have to go to red carpet events. That to me is the scary thing because naturally I'm such a shy person, so being extroverted is my biggest obstacle. What people should know about becoming an artist, once you decide to be in that field, there is so much other shit that matters outside the music.
OKP: Can you also talk about the importance of the music industry scene in Los Angeles How do you see it evolving in the next five years?
PJ: Honestly, I feel like I'm in the industry, but not really apart of the scene. I'm in this little bubble, y'know, and I'm slowly working myself out of it. Ultimately, I'm just happy to hear all the types of new sounds, new artists and new experiences popping up! There's this whole world that exists outside of mainstream radio and I think that more and more people are slowly being exposed to it.
OKP: What are some elements that you've learned about yourself that comes out in your music?
PJ: I think that my fight is more visible in my music. For a long time, I waited on other's approval or acceptance. But that battle, that fight is in my music, so I can address it. Sometimes when I hear the pain and anger I have within, it kind of throws me off because I can lock my emotions away a lot of times.
OKP: What were some moments from your recent travels that will forever stick with you? Why?
PJ: I think going to London to work with Usher was just absolutely crazy! It was a city that I told myself that I always wanted to go to and—boom—I am there. Being at Church Studios, where Adele works, was crazy because I got to meet Paul Epworth. It was super cool to get an opportunity to learn directly from a legend.
OKP: What was the first song that you ever wrote entitled? Can you talk about what it has come to symbolize since you've entered the professional life?
PJ: [Laughs] The first song that I wrote was something I think called, "At Midnight." It was horrible. I wrote it using an old piano and a voice recorder on this old-ass HP computer. I put the piano by the speaker and was just playing it. To me, it just symbolizes the start of everything. I used to write parody songs to songs on the radio, and now I'm here crafting original pieces.
OKP: How can your music speak truth to power in an age where people are so quickly digesting sounds and disposing of artists in a nanosecond?
PJ: I think it gets right to the people and resonates. People digest music and move pretty fast these days because I believe that the connection between them and the audience is gone. Nothing that somebody actually believes in wholeheartedly is a fly-by-night type of thing. This means that you don't just stop believing in something and drop it. With my music, for the everyday person and the underdog, it applies through-and-through. Your family, your friends, your significant other — it resonates because I'm talking about what we all go through. I've gone through it myself, y'know. When you watch the old legends tour and perform, you see them sell out stadiums because of that strong connection. It is so strong that you see people crying, and that's the type of response that I'm shooting for.
OKP: Collaboration is uniquely a key to the success of certain creative individuals who wish to change the game. Who would you want to work with this year and why?
PJ: I mean, listen, at the top of my list every year are Drake, Kanye West and Kid Cudi. But, Anderson .Paak is super dope, too, Sampha is incredibly amazing and I would absolutely love to work with Jeff Bhasker one day.
OKP: What is the overall message that PJ is trying to present in her music?
PJ: What I'm trying to present to the people is that you can do it—whatever it is. Whatever you wish to do, you just gotta take the first step! People are always going to try to talk you out of it and put a negative label on you and your dreams, but that's just because they don't understand. Anything beyond their own understanding is going to be a limitation, so you're not the one that's fucked up. They are! My music is here to let you know that you are unique and that you are rare. Instead of allowing society to dictate who and what you are by yelling at you to step back in line, you should leap from that line and embrace all the things that make you, you.
OKP: Can you break down the inspiration behind your “Make Me Better” song? Could you speak on the creation and production of that song for the masses?
PJ: "Make Me Better" was a song about dealing with other people's BS, which is a place I find myself in daily [laughs]. Trying to not let other people change who I am, [the track] started off with me and Bham crafting a cool guitar loop. He had that already, but then Smurv added his magic to it and the song just came out crazy! I actually didn't expect so many people around the world to like it, but I'm forever grateful for the love.
OKP: How do you see yourself changing the music industry for the better versus all of the bad stuff that goes on within it?
PJ: I am just going to rep for the ones that you don't hear on the airwaves, as well as the shit nobody talks about. I really just want people to win, y'know, and I want them to know that they can.
OKP: If the reader’s learned one thing from this First Look Friday chat with PJ — what would it be?
PJ: [Laughs] That would be that "Gangster" is out now for listening and RARE is on its way this spring. Just know that project sounds like nothing that you've ever heard before. I'm bridging the worlds of pop, hip-hop, R&B and folk into this hybrid sound that will surely nourish your earholes.