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Justin van Leeuwen on his music

 Justin van Leeuwen on his music

A conversation with Justin van Leeuwen

Johannesburg North-based musician Justin van Leeuwen dabbles into a mix of genres to produce his sound. His sound is found in RnB, Funk, Neo-Soul and Hip-Hop with Keizor beats. We spoke to him about his process of writing and his musical gift.

Read our conversation below.
Let’s talk about your process of writing. What gets you in the mood? Any songs? How do you know when a song you wrote is complete?

My process of writing always begins with a feeling or vibe. Sometimes it is euphoric, other times it is sentimental and nostalgic.

The feeling always comes first and from what I feel, my creative punk is born. It kicks into me and propels me to write down the main idea in my diary. In doing so, it allows me to disconnect from the outside energy and vibrations which pose a risk of disturbance. Once the idea is passed from mind to session, I listen to it over and over again until I hear the message I am sending through sound. If it is not a message I wish to send to whoever is listening, it is the vibe I want them to feel. I narrow this down to a unit; a word, one colour which must connect to every sound and element.

This connection between everything created to the session is important because it is a detail of the story I am portraying. Thereafter, I polish my sound and add funkiness and uniqueness to it. This is not a quick 30 minutes process; it can take a lifetime.

I’m forever in the mood to be creative although, I experience the occasional creative block. When I struggle to create, I take a step back from the studio for a day or two to focus on my energy by learning new techniques. I believe that art is forever changing and although, I’ve never considered myself a sheep who follows the “norm” or “trends” of an industry. Therefore, I meditate, read, watch anime and reflect on what’s consuming my energy. I wouldn’t even limit songs to get me in the mood either but, if I were to name a few off the tip of my tongue, it would definitely feature South by Galimatias.

What inspires you?

My biggest inspiratioin in life is that the skill and talent I have been gifted with. I believe that this gift is my tool to impact a soul that is struggling in a parallel or polar opposite manner my soul has. In other words, what I put out into the world inspires me.

One of my favourite lessons that my mother has ever taught me was: I have a voice through my art and ironically most humans listen to music, but only some hear it. And that inspired me to release State of Mind ep. I was in a very dark space creating that EP and I wanted to share with the world that we are never alone in the world and that fighting a battle is a lot easier with an army than trying to conquer your demons alone.

Who do you write songs for and why? 

I gift for those who are ready to listen and evolve to be a better human being and soul with my music. It is for them.

Writing and producing is a personal method to release any energy within me in an enlightening and joyful manner to whoever discovers my music. It is for those who embark on my journey with me while I fulfill my purpose in life. It is for those who are a part of what I love and what I do because I love it.

I couldn’t see myself being happy without making music. Therefore, it is for me too.

Your sound is ______?

My sound is a by-product of funk, 90’s hip hop, hard hitting acoustic drums, crazy modulated synths, distorted popping bass, groovy hi-hats, rides, crashes, R&B mixed with soul. All of this gives you an amazing vibe of neo-soul and alternative R&B, especially my upcoming body of work titled Forbidden Fruits.

When was the moment you realized that music is your gift to the world?

The first time I actually took this talent seriously was when I played Alone to my mom for the first time and dried the tears from her face. During this moment, I looked into her eyes. That’s when she whispered to me while giving me the biggest hug she’s ever given me. She told me: you are not ALONE. You never will be and you need to share this with the world. Make the world feel better and have fun doing it!

Fast forward 4 months I released my first single Alone and I haven’t looked back since and I won’t until the world is feeling better.

Tell us about the music you’re releasing at the end of the month. Why have you chosen to express your feelings about this relationship through music? Is music your outlet?

The music I am releasing at the end of the month is called Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts is about finding something I thought was lost to me, something that builds momentum daily. It also about wanting to cut off everything or everyone who stopped contributing to my understanding and belief in who I am and what my purpose in the universe is. It is the realization there is a connection between living and fighting for what you want from this world.

I am currently working on my debut album titled Forbidden Fruits which is a story about meeting a person who you thought was your dream partner , talking everyday, vibing, connecting, enjoying each others presence and energy to the point where you end up falling for this person so hard it knocks your breath away.

This all happens while realising all the beautiful things you love and value about this person. This leads to you overlooking the red flags. Additionally, the L word becomes Lust.

Everything that was, everything you loved was a light in a smoke filled tunnel which you fight for and you desire that early connection to shine through the smoke, which never happens and now you’ve lost sight of direction and decide its best to leave and ride away and be done with this person in every sense and focus on you and the unknown that comes next.

Listen to his music here:

Tshedza Mashamba