Interview: Jose Morales & Luis De Jesus / Photography: Jose Morales / Fashion Direction: Luis De Jesus
"My art is to create small musical journeys.
- Blake Johnston
New York City – What first got you into music?
BJ: My father and my uncle both shared a love for making music. My dad would play many different types of records around the house and in the car when I was growing up. He played all styles of music – a lot of soul, funk, and R&B. He used to be the singer for a group when he was young and started playing bass when I was growing up. When I was a little older, I started picking up his bass to copy how he played. He noticed and bought me a red Squier Strat and a fender amplifier on my 13th birthday, and I have been singing and playing since.
• How would you describe your music and style?
My music is guitar-heavy since that’s my favorite instrument. I like to layer guitars, rhythms, and vocals. I remember listening to Laura Mvula’s “Make Me Lovely” one day and deciding that I wanted to work to make songs with good dynamics. My art is to create small musical journeys.
• Is there any particular artist that inspires you?
BJ: A lot of the artists that I meet inspire me. In particular, Masego was a remarkable example for me -seeing someone my age from my small city in Virginia, making a significant impact in the music world. He made things feel real and obtainable. Also, my bro Billy Mercury has always inspired me artistically and as an example of a very selfless and humble person.
• What is your creative process like – from writing a song to composing and recording?
BJ: Some of my songs are old notes or poems I’ve written. Sometimes I feel pressed to use every poem and make music around them. Typically, I enjoy composing and producing more than writing words, so I often start with the music. I always have guitar ideas, so most songs are born from a riff or chord progression. There’s really no pattern after that. I start the recording process in my room, as I have a lot of my own equipment, which allows me to try new things easily.
• What does music mean to you?
BJ: Music helps me chill out. Music is open and free. You can make music as challenging as you want or as simple as you want, and you still can never fully master it. I share music in common with some of my favorite people, allowing me to create strong relationships.
• When discussing your album, Reasons to Smile, what was the inspiration behind it and which guided its production?
BJ: I originally wanted the album to be only of old poems I wrote about my ex-lady. A lot of the songs are about her, but it was an unrealistic goal. It was hard making an album for the first time. I was new to professional production, and I wanted to own the process from start to finish, so it took quite some time. I ended up selecting only the songs I liked best, which at times can be challenging for an artist to pick and choose only specific songs from a body of work.
• Which of your songs do you feel most connected to, and why?
BJ: “Forward” is special to me because it was the first song I produced, even though “Reasons To Smile” was the first single I released. My friend Samoht is featured in the song. I took a mini-vacation away from Virginia to his spot in Brooklyn. His energy, and literally the space in his apartment, gave me the inspiration to stop making excuses and learn to produce. Thanks, Thomas!
• What future projects are you currently working on that you can share about with us?
BJ: I’m almost done producing an album for my band “The Groovemnt.” It’s a gritty, live Soul/Funk/HipHop bedroom album with lead vocalist Billy Mercury. I took old jam session recordings and warped them into songs. It’s sonically unique!
Also, I have enough music ready to release my sophomore solo album, but it is not being released just yet. One of the names I have in mind for it is “All Things Considered.” Additionally, I will be releasing some of my first visuals very soon and cannot wait for the world to see them! – GM
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