Our Interview with PJ, The Atlantic Records Singer/Songwriter That’s Been Co-Signed By Common, Puff Daddy & Several Others
Inked to Atlantic Recordings, Los Angeles, California, based singer-songwriter, PJ, née Paris Jones, has already logged in countless studio hours working alongside some of the best in the biz: Chris Brown, Wiz Khalifa, R. Kelly, Meek Mill, Ty Dolla $ign, Lupe Fiasco and Hit Boy, to name a few. Thus far PJ has released a pair of more than impressive solo EP’s; March 2015’s Walking Around Pools and the exceptional Rare this past July.
Having also recently wrapped a coveted opening slot on label-mate K. Michelle’s super successful two month ‘Hello Kimberly’ trek, PJ is enjoying her first tastes of success.More recently, rapper Common spotlighted the ultra-talented ingenue on his latest audio gem, “Lovestar,” which also features vocals from Marsha Ambrosius. “Lovestar” is the first single from Common’s upcoming album.
PJ’s own single, “Gangster” released earlier this Summer, along with it’s corresponding video introduced the Greensboro, North Carolina born, Atlanta bred rising star to the world over.We caught up with PJ for an exclusive interview to talk about her music, her humble beginnings and what the future holds for her. Check out the full interview below…
“never settle for anything less than you want” ~PJ
Parlé Mag: When did you first become interested in music?
PJ: I think I’ve been interested in music since I was little. And as far as in my adult life, it kinda started (with) writing first ’cause I went to school in Nashville. I mean, not Nashville but close to Nashville, and I met my managers in L.A. at a convention randomly. And then, it kinda just started from there. And then, I got my publishing deal… and then I just started writing and writing for people. And then, like I guess after (a) year of getting some placements, I kinda got a shot to be an artist. Long story short I think, yeah.
Parlé Mag: Growing up in the Tar Heel State, who do you consider to be your biggest musical influences?
PJ: I’d definitely say Michael Jackson.
Um, all the super dope people. And then, I was really influenced by a lot of Disney soundtracks, too, because that’s what I used to watch all the time, and they always put music in it, which is why I tend to have popular melodies over harder beats.
Parlé Mag: When did your pursuit of music actually become a professional choice?
PJ: In college, I thought I wanted to be solely an artist, and then when I got here, to college, I was like, “Okay, well I want to be a songwriter,” ’cause it was like close to Nashville. I didn’t even know the industry of songwriting existed. I thought everybody sang songs and they were only singing the songs that they wrote. So after I found out about songwriting in college, I was like, “Okay, I want to do that.”
Parlé Mag: Being both a singer and a songwriter, is there a preference between the two or do they pretty much go hand in hand for you?
PJ: Well, I always wanted to be an artist. I think I was just waiting on somebody to approve me and be like, “Oh, okay, you should be an artist,” you know ’cause it wasn’t until I stopped looking for approval that I could actually do it. And then, it was like the music, you know, I had a chip on my shoulders ’cause I felt like I was being overlooked. So, I was like just writing and writing and then I kinda developed my sound. And then, my managers were like, “Okay, we’re gonna try to get a deal.” And then first it was Interscope, and then it was Atlantic. And then, I ended up signing with Atlantic, but it was like a long process, a really long… it was A LONG PROCESS. I feel like it took me two years to do it.
Parlé Mag: From a lyrical standpoint, where do you draw your inspiration(s) from? PJ: My life… everything. Especially everything I’m talking about. Most of the stuff that I do talk about, about being counted out and being an underdog, ’cause that’s what I feel like I am. And, I feel like I’m being put inside a box, and I’m not necessarily getting a chance. Like I’m not getting the shot that I deserve. So that’s what Rare is about ’cause I feel because I am the way that I am, and I don’t necessarily fit the mold of a lot of different artists that’s out, it’s like I’m not getting the chance to show what I can do. So, that’s basically all the frustration of that, and everything is pretty much Rare for me anyway.
Parlé Mag: When it comes to the overall creative process, how do you determine what work(s) are designated for other artist(s) versus what you prefer keeping for yourself?
PJ: Well, I feel like when I’m writing for other people, when I’m doing rap hooks, it’s kinda like playing dress up for me… ’cause it’s like the songs that I’ve had a hand in, like “Bitches N Marijuana” [Chris Brown & Tyga] or the song I have on Kevin Gates’ album [Islah] “Excuse Me,” it’s like this super aggressive and I really don’t know where it comes from to be honest, ’cause my music is not like that. So, it’s like when I’m writing for rappers it’s kinda like switching, “Okay, you’re not PJ. Now you have to act like a rapper.” Like I have to pretend like I’m a male rapper, that I got stacks and we’re in the club, and what do I want to say. And then, when writing Rare I could just be PJ.
Parlé Mag: Of your vast discography, do you have any one particular favorite track that sticks out in your mind?
PJ: I feel like “Not For Long” was one for me just because I got to work with two people that I looked up to, B.o.B and Trey Songz. Then, it was the biggest song that I’ve had, and I actually heard it on the radio multiple times. The first song I heard from me was Meek Mill [“I Don’t Know”], it was his first single before he went (to jail). I remember the first time I heard it was like eleven thirty at night, and I was like, “Yo, this is crazy!” And, I was smiling from ear to ear. Of course I was by myself when I heard it, so I just had to call my manager and tell him that I heard it. It was crazy.
Parlé Mag: Tell me about your lead single, “Gangster”…
PJ: “Gangster,” I was working with D’Mile – he’s amazing! And I don’t know, it was like that guitar riff was so crazy to me, and so I think I was frustrated about something that happened earlier and I feel like I’m just a good guy, I don’t cut people off, I don’t really call people out when they do stuff that they should be called out on, and I’m just always the one being the bigger person. So, that day “Gangster” just came out. That’s just how I feel in that day to day life.
Watch the PJ “Gangster” video below:
Parlé Mag: Now that your ultra busy with your very own solo career, do you or will you still find the time to write for other artists?
PJ: Try to do both because the writing for me, to be a new artist, the writing is gonna pay the bills. So at this point in my life, I’m probably not gonna be able to stop writing because it’s gonna help me be able to do what I need to do. And, it’s helped me meet people. So if anything, I hope being an artist opens up more opportunities ’cause I feel there’s a lot of things I could do, like musically and stylistic-wise that I can write, but I don’t really have an avenue to show it ’cause most of the things I’m writing are in Hip Hop. So what Rare allows me to do is gonna show people other things that I’m capable of ’cause they really haven’t heard a lot of things outside of the rap stuff that I do.
Parlé Mag: Longevity, what will sustain you in music?
PJ: I think just the story. I feel like I make a soundtrack for the come up, and I feel like there’s so many people that’s trying to figure out how to chase their dreams, or that are in the process of chasing their dreams, so they connect with that. And then being a singer, you don’t really get to touch on nothing either. So, I think I just speak on what the regular people are going through outside of love ’cause, of course, there’s always gonna be a love song, but there’s so many other parts of life… being lost, feeling your way around, what you gonna do next. And then, I wanna be a great performer, an amazing performer. I’m still working on it. I gotta get my cardio up so I can stop breathing heavy and all that stuff. And then once I get that under control, to me just being the underdog, having something people can connect to and being a good performer.
Parlé Mag: Lastly, are you happy with the current state of R&B music? PJ: I think I am happy. I mean, I feel the state of R&B is fine, if you just know where to look. I think the state of R&B is only a problem with access. That’s because all the main channels are flooded. It’s not like the people have control over what gets on the radio. I know they’ll be, “Call in and request,” but I don’t know the last time I heard somebody that I never heard before on the radio, the newer people or even in general. So, it’s like the channels are kinda flooded, but the good thing is Spotify and the different streaming services you can find people you like. But everybody knows the radio isn’t really what it is. If you want to know who’s really moving, you can just see who’s at the festivals. There’s like a whole world outside of the radio. I’m not gonna say there isn’t a problem, but even like BET if they’re not playing that much music, but I don’t think it’s their fault. The problem is not with R&B, it’s with the industry. I feel like it’s like we just got a whole different form of media, which is the stream thing. Every time something like that happens, it just takes a minute for the rest of the world to catch up. But with streaming being so big, I think the state of R&B is definitely gonna improve because now you’re just gonna see what people flock to and people aren’t gonna be able to choose it for you.