Having originally planned to work towards a career away from the music industry, fate evidently had other ideas for New York pop/hip-hop artist Julius.
Influenced by an array of artists ranging from pop stars to up and coming R&B performers, his unique ability to blend both pop and hip-hop led to him catching the attention of an individual who later become his manager, and the rest, as they say his history.
Now, with an EP due out early next year and plans to tour extensively slowly coming together, Julius kindly agreed to this interview to chat ambitions, social media and "Imagine."
PW: How would you describe yourself and your music in five words?
Julius: Five words I would use to describe myself and music would be: versatile, genuine, passionate, relatable, and bold.
PW: What makes you different from all the other artists out there today?
J: Other than the fact that my music and style are unique to anything that anyone is doing right now, I know that there is no duplicate of me out there. I keep a focus on originality while also maintaining the ability to adapt. I don’t try to be anything I’m not. I’m a 20 year old who writes about his 20 year old life, and my music is a reflection of my own personal experiences and who I am.
PW: Who would you say are your top three musical influences and how have they impacted what you do?
J: My top three musical influences are Tupac, Michael Jackson, and Kendrick Lamar; all three for different reasons. First, Tupac was able to intertwine both education and entertainment. His music gave him the ability to spread a message and teach people, which I believe to be the most important thing an artist can do. Second, Michael Jackson is the “King of Pop.” His music is filled with a myriad of emotions, which can be felt by listening to his tracks. I think I heard he just sold 30 million copies for ‘Thriller.’ Clearly he had the ability to relate and maintain entertainment value all on his plate. I hope I can emulate that. Third, Kendrick Lamar is, to me, the greatest artist of my generation. Not only is he a brilliant lyricist with impeccable flow, he doesn’t care what people think unlike so many artists in this industry. Kendrick makes music for himself and his message. He maintains relevance with incredible style. I see why many people are able to respect that. He is a true artist. He paid attention to Pac.
PW: I believe you took a leave of absence from University to work on your music. What was your major and what career were you looking to go into prior to discovering your love of music?
J: I was attending Fordham University in the Bronx as an English major on a Pre-Law track. I loved school and know how important it is, but right now music is what I am supposed to do. I’ve always known that music was my calling, even in high school. I would stay up every night after doing my homework just to write “songs” and rhymes. I think my problem was I was scared to leave everything I had worked so hard for in school behind to pursue a dream that most would call impossible. But you can’t be afraid to do something just because it’s not easy. I believe in myself, and I believe in what I’m doing. As long as I continue to work hard and be the best me I can be, everything will fall into place.
PW: Tell me about your latest track "Save Me". Is there a story behind it?
J: Before “Save Me” I was used to writing rap songs. I had always liked singing but never considered myself to be a singer. When I drive alone, I’ll usually throw on an instrumental - a beat without vocals - just to freestyle for fun. I remember I had about a two-hour drive from Fordham in the Bronx to Pennsylvania where my parents’ live, so I would put on an instrumental and just started singing. At the time, I was going through a lot in my life, and could tell the way I was acting was affecting my girlfriend. In all honesty, I just sang about how I was feeling. It’s not necessarily your typical love song; behind the catchy tune is a heartfelt apology to my girl letting her know how much she means to me.
PW: How important is it to be honest and truthful with your music and what inspires your song writing?
J: The most important aspect of my art is honesty. I want my music to be a representation of who I am. I want my listeners to be able to connect with me on a personal level. I’m really no different in emotion than most people my age, and I know that a lot of us are going through the same things. Life is crazy, and we’re not in it alone. My hope is people will find solace in my music by relating their own personal experiences with mine.
PW: If you could have written any song, by any artist, living or dead, which would it be and why?
J: “Imagine” by John Lennon. Not only is it one of the most iconic songs of all time, but also the message it portrays has been able to maintain its beauty. Lennon combined intellect with entertainment while staying true to what he believed in.
PW: You've got an EP, One, due out early next year. What can you tell me about it?
J: I’ve never worked so hard on anything in my life. I wrote over 50 songs for this project, and narrowed it down to my best. My EP One is a collection of 5 songs that I put my heart into. I listen to almost everything, so I think my style reflects all types of music. There are songs on this EP for everyone. Whether it’s a ballad, club banger, or something you can just cruise in the whip to - if you like music, I got you.
PW: There's a collaboration with rapper Riff Raff on it - how did that come about?
J: I wrote the song “Bankroll,” which I originally didn’t believe needed a feature. But, after I laid it down in the studio, and listened through a few times I immediately knew it was missing one thing, Riff. I told my manager Sam to see what he could do, and the rest is history.
PW: Who would you most like to duet/collaborate with and why?
J: If I could collaborate with anyone right now, it would be Adele. I don’t think this answer needs much of an explanation as to why, other than the fact that everything that she does is magic.
PW: You're also set to bring out a video cover of "Love Yourself" by Justin Bieber. Why that song?
J: It’s a great song. Bieber killed it, and the message Ed Sheeran writes about can relate to almost anyone. I mean who doesn’t know someone who is just a little bit too into themselves?
PW: How big of an impact has social media had on helping you reach an audience? I've noticed you're particularly popular on Soundcloud.
J: Social media has revolutionized the music industry. Instead of walking down the street passing out CD’s like in the past, we’re now able to digitally distribute music, making it more accessible to a larger audience. I’ve been fortunate to have such supportive listeners who help spread my music. I’m so grateful for all of you, truly. This is for us.
PW: What are your tour and performance plans?
J: I have tons of plans, however right now I’m solely focused on making my EP perfect and releasing the best product I can. After that, it’ll be time to pack my bags and hit the road. I’m hoping to be able to meet some of my fans that have been following me from the start.
PW: Finally then, aside from the release of your EP, what else does 2016 have in store for you?
J: 2016 is going to be very busy for me. I have a few music videos coming out that I’m really excited for. I’ll be releasing some new singles. I’ve got some cool collaborations going on, and, above all, I expect it to be a year of tremendous growth. I just need to maintain a thorough work ethic and a dedication to learning. Continuing to grow as an artist and individual should be a product of maintaining those aspects of my focus.