SJ is a man of many talents: songwriter, producer, musician, DJ, and live artist. He has two songs: “Reflection” and “Calabasas” that are both Million Play songs for What’s In-Store Music. Scott and Bob had a chance to hang out with SJ at his studio a few weeks back and wanted to share more of his history with our Artist Spotlight this week.
For a young guy, you already have an impressive career happening. What drew you to music as a kid and when did you know this was your calling?
I always had a knack for messing with stuff. I'd take toasters apart and build things with my hands. I liked learning skills. I was a champion pole vaulter and actually a really good juggler. I think music came as an extension of that. There was a technical aspect to it when it came to actually playing an instrument, but music itself was like this incredibly complex machine that I could take apart and learn the inner workings of. It didn't occur to me as a legitimate career until I was in college and had a band that was touring the country. I remember thinking one day, "Huh... Maybe I should actually give this a shot."
You worked at Curb Records as a staff writer and producer plus toured with some of their acts including Marie Miller. How did Curb find you and tell us about some of the artists and producers you worked with?
I've had a lot of different musical lives before I found this one. I wrote at Curb for a few years after I left my first band. In hindsight it seems like such a random place for me to be, but truthfully, it's what developed my love for songwriting. As I've progressed, I've found that skill has given me an edge in ways I wouldn't have expected.
At some point you moved to L.A. from Nashville and your music focus shifted to more of a pop/dance flavor. Was this always your music of preference?
Deep down it probably was, but when I was coming up music creation was much different than it is today. The path of least resistance into music for me was a guitar and a piano. I learned to play and sing and write. The technology wasn't there to let me discover production the way kids these days are able to discover it. Now, the path of least resistance into music is honestly EDM because of all the resource that's available. I came up as a musician and songwriter, but if I was a kid today I think I would have come up as a bedroom EDM producer. I eventually made my way into the genre because I think my personal musical passions are most aligned with what it offers.
You are now not only a producer, songwriter, and DJ … but also an artist on Enhanced Music. How did a guy in L.A. connect with one of the UK’s coolest dance labels?
Back to songwriting. I was working in Amsterdam writing lyrics and melodies for DJs when I had written and produced a record that made it's way to Tritonal. That was our first collab together called "Hung Up" which I think has over 33 million streams now. It was my writing that opened those doors for me.
You are now establishing yourself as a live act in addition to be a whiz in the studio. How are you finding the experience of performing to a live audience?
This is the part I feel like I'm falling in love with all over. I toured the country for years in bands, but the experience of DJing and coming into my own as a solo performer is incredible. Tritonal has given me amazing opportunities that have put me in front of a lot of people really quickly. As a producer and writer, sometimes it's hard to make the connection between what you're doing in the studio to the people who enjoy the music live. I had always heard artists talk about how those two experiences are symbiotic. They develop and grow each other. Now I'm in the studio creating music based off of my experience of people in clubs and venues. It becomes a more holistic experience. Not to mention being in a packed club with hundreds of people going nuts is a cool feeling. Really cool.
Shameless Plug: Tell us about your new release and other projects you are working on.
I just released a new record I'm excited about called Void. I've also got my EP coming out very soon and a lot more music after that! It's gonna be a fun year!