Interview: Rising Star JUJ Talks Debut EP, Collab With Vic Mensa, + More
Some things are so blasphemous that you want to shout about it from the rooftops and knock on doors to tell strangers about it. For us, the blasphemy lies in JUJ not being huge yet. It’s destined to happen — the “was Philly, now Angeles” singer-songwriter is far too talented not to — it’s just a matter of when. We don’t want to wait, though. We want you all to know it right here, right now.
JUJ has the kind of voice that could stand on its own against the likes of Daya and Alessia, the songwriting skills that could land her opportunities penning lyrics for those same artists, the musicianship to fuel her towards endlessly well-received releases, and the work ethic to allow it all to happen whenever she wants it to as long as we’re all listening.
Way back in May, JUJ released her debut EP, JUJ, It’s U, featuring seven repeat-worthy examples of just what JUJ is capable of — a lot. Every single song veers slightly from its predecessor so she shares a range of talent that spans her East Coast and theatrical roots to her new Los Angeles life of genre-bending color. It’s sort of hard to box JUJ into one genre because she dabbles mainly in smooth R&B, but it’s given the pop treatment and laced with edge. JUJ, put simply, is merely a vocal powerhouse.
From the wall of sound that explodes unexpectedly on the dark, impassioned “Barricades” to the quick quirk and hip-hop pumping “K.O.A.” to the piano-based balladry of “Risk It All,” the thread that ties it all together is JUJ’s voice. Btw, if you’re not convinced yet, take a listen to her recent acoustic version of “Mood.” Her voice is exactly the same unaccompanied as it is flanked by sound — that’s damn impressive.
JUJ, It’s U opens with “Mood,” one of the standout tracks on the EP and arguably the best introduction to JUJ we could possibly get. It’s such a full, refined song. There are no pockets of quiet that catch your ear or instances in which you realize anything is lacking… because nothing is. It’s all there: it’s swollen with foggy clouds of synth and given an ounce of vivacity with resounding piano notes. As always, JUJ’s voice is steady and emotional, soft sometimes as it slips beneath robust percussive smacks. “Mood” is so good, in fact, that Vic Mensa hopped on the track to offer his own vulnerable verse, transforming it even further into an anthem of honesty and empowerment.
Be like Vic — see what he saw. Hear JUJ and know she’s something special. Know that she’s got a fire inside her. Watch as she lets it burn. She’s destined for greatness and we can’t wait to see what’s next.
Read on below for our exclusive interview with JUJ!
The Music Mermaid: First, can you tell The Music Mermaid a little about yourself and your music?
JUJ: I'm a 19 year old singer-songwriter from the East Coast coming from a Brazilian background.
TMM: You’re from Philly but you relocated to LA to pursue music. What are the music scenes like in both locations and how have they influenced your work at all?
JUJ: Back home on the East Coast, I did more and worked harder on my music personally, and was working in theatre professionally, then [moved to LA when I] decided I wanted to full-force pursue my career as a singer-songwriter and put my acting abilities and love for theatre on hold.
TMM: You dropped your debut release, JUJ, It’s U, a few months ago. What was the production process like for the record?
JUJ: I worked with the same producer for the EP who really understood my vibe and vision for what I wanted sonically. Growing up in choir, I definitely wanted to incorporate big choir background vocals and stick to my roots and production-wise have an East Coast sounding vibe similar to Jon Bellion.
TMM: What’s the one thing you want listeners to take away from JUJ, It’s U?
JUJ: Self-reflection and empowerment. This EP can be empowering in many different ways and I hope each listener feels empowered in some way through my songs.
TMM: Vic Mensa hopped on your track “Mood,” a killer collab. How’d that come about? What was it like working with Vic?
JUJ: Thank you! It was awesome working with Vic! His story of moving away from home at such a young age like me to pursue music was so fitting and complimentary to the original song.
TMM: Are there any other dream collaborations you’d want to pursue?
JUJ: Lady Gaga. Ultimate dream collaboration, biggest inspiration.
TMM: You’re pretty new to the scene but it’s already clear that you can stand tall with the likes of Demi, Alessia, Daya, and more. What was your journey towards discovering you were a vocal powerhouse like?
JUJ: Thank you so much!! That means so much to me. I do want to stand out as a vocalist, not just another recording artist. I grew up doing theatre so someone like Lady Gaga is a huge influence to me because I did keep some of the theatrical elements from my roots in my sound.
TMM: Who are three musicians you think the world needs to hear ASAP?
JUJ: Jordan Rakei, Loyle Carner, and Barney Artist! I'm super into the London music scene right now and I just came back from my first time being in Europe for a writing trip and I loved it.
TMM: What’s been your most memorable music moment so far?
JUJ: My most memorable music moment so far would have to be the stories people have shared with me via DM or whatever about how "Mood" has impacted them. I wasn't expecting how many people were going to relate to “Mood” and how deeply they were going to relate to it. I was verklempt seeing kids have a change of heart to pursue their true passion through my song.
The Music Mermaid: Finally, what’s next for JUJ?
JUJ: New music :)
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Photo by Jon Macapodi