JUJ is a 20-year-old singer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who now resides in Los Angeles, California. With her sights being set on breaking into the entertainment industry, JUJ found an agency, a full-time job, and a place to live, making the move to LA following her junior year of high school. In only two years, JUJ has emerged onto the scene through her powerful voice and songwriting abilities, working on her music in London, Sweden, Nashville, Philly, and LA. As JUJ continues to release music, including six singles set to release this year, her dedication to perfection will pay off big. JUJ is a star on the rise.
Jack Martin : I saw you were at the protests in LA yesterday (June 3), is there anything you want to say about that?
JUJ : It was a beautiful day out in LA to go here and protest. I originally was a little bit worried all week, just because I didn't know the safety aspect of it, but it's totally not what's shown on the media, it was a completely peaceful protest. There was tons of people of all races, ethnicities, colors, sexualities, everyone was gathered together which was super beautiful to see.
Where does the name JUJ come from?
Originally I was named after Julia Roberts and when I was five months old everyone started calling me Juj, so it's not just an artist name, I go by Juj for everything since I was younger. My mom's from Brazil so when I went back, I have dual citizenship, I went there and got baptized and lived there for a little and everyone was calling me Juj and so it stuck.
For those who aren't familiar with you and your music, how would you summarize who you are and what your sound is?
I definitely think that the audience I go for with my music is a similar audience that Khalid goes for. I want to give a voice to the voiceless, the people who felt voiceless trapped in the suburbs who want to go achieve their dreams, inner city kids at a young age, just people who aspire to be more, do more.
Production-wise I have East Coast inspiration, like Jon Bellion, who I really love, and I'd also grown up in theatre, so Lady Gaga has been a big inspiration of mine, so incorporating the naturalness of my theatre sound. I grew up in choir so incorporating choir into my music was a big thing for me. It felt genuine and authentic.
I've now released an EP and two singles but I have six singles ready to release. After releasing the EP I spent a year developing myself as an artist and working on my craft because I felt like I could find out more about myself and my writing the more I did it without trying to push releases. I just wanted to work on it for a year and hone it in, so I've developed into my own sound over the past two years.
What's your strategy for songwriting?
I prefer to have a concept of what I want to write about and how I'm feeling about it and think that through before going in. Lyrics are definitely my strong suit. A lot of the time I try to work out the hook and then work my way back to the verses.
When did you know that music was what you wanted to do?
It's definitely something I've always wanted to pursue. I love the entertainment industry, I act as well, so in a broader sense I've been doing music my entire life. My family's not even religious but when I was younger I would push them to find a church nearby that would allow me to sing in the choir, just because I wanted to be on stage any chance I got.
In middle school is when I really started writing songs and taking that seriously as kind of an outlet in not knowing how to express myself. When I couldn't find the words to express myself, music kind of spoke to me. Throughout high school I was always a good student but my heart wasn't in it. I was so passionate about the music and being on stage, I would spend time in class looking up auditions.
How did you get into the industry?
I realized when I got there [LA] that I was working so much as a nanny, like I could've done in Philly, I wasn't doing what I set out here to do. I started doing a lot of open mics and going on auditions when I could and doing work at home, like writing all my music when I got home from work.
At one open mic that I did I met a producer who introduced me to a songwriter who introduced me to my producer now who introduced me to my manager.
How did you get to collaboration with Vic Mensa (on "Mood")?
Our managers have been friends. It was cool to find out we have a lot of similarities. We've both lived in Chicago, his dad is an immigrant like my mom. "Mood" really stuck with him because he went through a similar story.
I couldn't speak when I heard the verse because it's not just any verse, I feel like it added a lot to the story having someone with a similar story as mine tell it. Like, it's not just someone who could rap on the verse and didn't relate to the story so that was super touching hearing his story about leaving home, his brother being shot, all to pursue music. It was super, super inspiring and then we got to do a video together so I met him on a few occasions.
Who are dream artists that you want to work with?
Lady Gaga, definitely. That's someone I've dreamed of working with my entire life. JP Cooper, as a lyricist, I really look up to him, I would love to be able to write with him. He's one of my favorite lyricists. There's this girl, Madison Ryann Ward, who's an underground artist who I love and she has a lot of soul and I just love her writing as well, so to just be able to collaborate with her would be amazing. I love working with Philly artists, something with PnB Rock would be really cool, that's someone I love and Jon Bellion, totally, because he inspired my EP and a lot of other music that I've made.
Have you found it easier to come up with ideas and experiment with different sounds [during quarantine] or has it been harder to harbor creativity?
There's been times where I've been so overwhelmed with being productive that I became a little bit unmotivated and uninspired but then I realized that's not an excuse, people don't only work when they're inspired, you have to create when you're uninspired; you have to push.
Are there specific albums and bodies of work that you turn to for inspiration?
I really enjoy reading, it's not like self-help books, I've been reading fiction and because I haven't really been experiencing and living a lot, I can't really write from recent life experiences. I've been reading a lot, because I also enjoy writing a lot for other people, so I've been taking different perspectives on situations and I'm writing in third-person, which has been interesting and I've liked doing that a lot.
What does the rest of 2020 look like for you?
2020 was the year that I was planning on doing a lot of live performances, opening for some people, traveling, doing some tour stuff. I was super excited for it because my favorite aspect of an artist's career is live performance, I love performing on stage. As far as we know there won't be any more shows in 2020, so it's been nice to do this shadow work on myself.
Before all of this happened, I finished all six of my next singles, so I have six new songs coming out during 2020 and everything's done for them. I'm waiting to release those and writing other music in the meantime, which I'm super excited for, a lot of them are up-tempos which is exciting because I haven't released a lot of up-tempos and one of them is actually a Brazilian song.
I just released a song called "I Still Cry At Parties", which was the first of the new six songs and I wrote it in Sweden. That was super timely because that's definitely how I felt during quarantine and I wrote it before, feeling lost as I entered my twenties.
Anything you want to say about your upcoming song?
"How Could I Be Mad" released on June 19, 2020.
It's called "How Could I Be Mad". I wrote it in Sweden as well. A lot of the songs were using for the next six we wrote in Sweden which was awesome, because I spent a whole year writing, and three that were the best out of the 100 that I wrote this year were from Sweden, which was really cool because I was only there for a week. I felt like inspiration was high that week.
The song's about a toxic friendship that I had that I had to let go of. It can be interpreted in a lot of ways, whether it be like a relationship or such, but looking at that and seeing a person hold onto that anger, I couldn't really attach to that because there were so many other things in my life that were so positive, that I was like how could I be mad when there's no rain out here in London, I'm out here doing my music, and you're still mad in LA. It was seeing the positive in a really bad situation and looking at it from above and asking, "How could I be mad?"
One year from this conversation, where are you going to be and what will you be doing?
Hopefully I'll be doing live performances in 2021 and I hope that the world's in a better place. I hope to be touring in some sense, whether it be opening or in the US would be amazing. Going to London, that's where I do a lot of my music, and getting to perform out there as well would be awesome.
A year from now I would hope to continue writing as much as I am now, to never think that I've done enough, which I never think I will because I'm very hard on myself. I hope I'm still learning. I hope to have been starting on an album because an album isn't going to be something I work on for three months and put out, it's going to be a long process. I put a lot of weight on my first album.
I like albums that are start to finish a story that people can just go on a long drive and listen to the full album, I don't want to put together random songs that didn't get used for my other stuff into an album.