Justin Meyer was kind enough to talk to me, 1,527 miles away, while giving me a free mini-concert on a piano in a Berklee College of Music practice room. “It’s the College of Music, that’s what my pants say, not the School of Music.”
Q: What’s your name and what are you known for?
I am Justin Meyer. Apparently I’m known for my music. At least that’s what I’d like to think.
Q: Where are you originally from and where do you live currently?
I am originally from Golden, Colorado and I currently live in Boston, Massachusetts.
I am attending college at the Berklee College of Music. I’m a voice principle and my intended major is music production and music engineering.
Q: Both of your EPs, Afterthought and Dreams respectively, were released in 2019. How did you make the decision that they were both ready and up to your standards to be released?
My first EP, Afterthought, was released in April and the first song was Superstitions which was written in November. The first few months were a bit looser you could say because I was just trying to figure out how to make songs, I didn’t really have a goal of making an EP at first. I guess I decided it was up to my standards because I didn’t have a standard yet, so it was seeing if I could do it or not. Looking back, there’s a lot that could be fixed but at the time I was figuring out what I was able to do. I was planning to release the EP in March but there was a technical error. “Superstitions” was released as a single in early January, and “Mountain” was released as a single in March.
My second EP, Dreams, was an idea I had right after Afterthought was released. It was an unrelated event, but that’s just to give some context. Dreams was released in September.
I was working on other stuff, so I thought I had an idea of what I wanted Dreams to be, but over the process, those ideas changed. During the summer, I worked on it out of not having other things to do, and I finished mixing and mastering it when I got to Berklee during orientation week. It was up to my standards because I could tell there was an improvement in quality from Afterthought and I didn’t set expectations on how far I wanted it to reach.
Q: What are your favorite songs off of each EP? Why are these songs significant to you?
I think I have two on each.
For Afterthought, “Ghosts” and “Superstitions”. “Ghosts” has a lot of deeper meaning to me and I am proud of how I produced it and arranged it. “Superstitions” is another favorite because it was the first song I had ever made that I wanted to release. It was the first song I finished and that I felt good about actually putting out there, you could say.
For Dreams, my two favorites are “Life Is Beautiful” and “Wanderers”. I am a fan of “Life Is Beautiful” because out of all of my songs it’s the song that took the longest to make, but I’m very proud of how it turned out in terms of lyrics and production.
Both “Life Is Beautiful” and “Wanderers” represent me as a musician very well.
The intro to “Life Is Beautiful” was made one day and I didn’t think anything of it. It was a very random song and I wanted to write a song called “Life Is Beautiful”, but it came out of nowhere.
I wanted it to live up to what I thought it would be, so I worked on other stuff during that time which is why it took so long. “Wanderers” is my other favorite because of the meaning behind it and where “Life Is Beautiful” is more complex in production, “Wanderers” is more simplistic and I believe I achieved the same listenability, you could say, in both.
In terms of meaning and production, both songs are the best display of my skills.
Q: How would you describe your music style in your own words?
When people ask me what genre I am, I say alternative pop. I think the music I make is definitely pop, but I draw from… more and more I’m drawing from folk music. I like it to be mainstream sounding but with a twist, because I’m a fan of stuff that’s super weird yet has the same listenability as pop music.
Q: When did you realize that you wanted to start producing your own music? Was there an event that inspired this?
Well, I have memories of doing stuff like basic music production like in my early teens, but it definitely wasn’t formally making songs. I guess it was just figuring out how stuff worked.
Then, when I was a Junior in high school…anyone who knows me knows I’m a fan of Lorde and I was reading an article or watching something about how she and Jack Antonoff had produced a whole album predominantly by themselves. It had never occurred to me that there were artists who produced their own stuff, and I was never thinking about it as a career I’d be interested in.
I bought Logic Pro X, which is a digital audio workstation, I believe Finneas has used it for Billie Eilish’s stuff and Greg Kurstin has used it for an Adele album and Beck’s stuff. It actually comes with a demo song, which is Beck’s “Colors”. I started figuring that out and making stuff but they weren’t really songs. Over time, I started thinking about going to college for it. I looked up the best schools for music production and Berklee was number 1, so I kinda applied on a whim. Then Berklee accepted me, and now I’m here.
Q: What do you find inspires most of your music?
I think for me, the content can really be inspired by anything. It’s mostly inspired by experiences that are important to me for one reason or another. I find that a lot of songs I write reveal what the meaning is while I write them, I don’t often sit down with the meaning or the experience already decided on. I’ll figure it out as I figure out the rest of the song, like the chords and the melody.
In terms of artists who influence me, I’m very influenced melodically and lyrically by Lorde, Maggie Rogers, The Japanese House, and Joni Mitchell. In terms of producers, I’m influenced by Jack Antonoff, Ricky Reed, Greg Kurstin, and Finneas O’Connell. Finneas made an album that won him Album of the Year and Producer of the Year at this year’s Grammy’s in a bedroom, and that’s what I’d love to do. Like, Jack Antonoff has made his own studio just in his apartment, which is really cool. I feel more creative when I’m just hanging out instead of in a setting where it feels like I need to make something.
RANKINGS – Cool or Uncool?
MAGGIE ROGERS: I think she’s very cool. I really like her music style and I also think we have potentially similar stories since she went to college for music production and I am currently doing that.
PIANO SOLOS: I think they can be cool in the right context. I certainly cannot do piano solos but I’ve heard some pretty good ones.
DRUM MACHINES: Very cool. Drum production is my hobby I do when I’m, ya know, feeling like its time to chill. Yes.
BUCKET HATS: I think they can be cool. You have to pull them off. I know some people who can pull off a bucket hat, but if you’re not one of them stay away… or not. Live your life.
SNOWSTORMS: Despite my Colorado upbringing, I am a fan of the summertime. Snowstorms do kinda put me off. But there’s definitely a romanticism to the first snow of the year.
Q: What is your routine to get you into the right headspace to create?
Honestly, I really do not have one. It just kind of happens when it happens. There are times where I will not have any innovative, fun thoughts for days at a time, but I will say that I definitely can’t try to get into the right headspace because that always results in it not actually happening.
Q: The best meal you’ve ever had?
Let’s see… This is not ever, but lately, I’ve found myself addicted to orange chicken over white rice. Throw some broccoli and carrots in that and have some peach mango bubble tea, and you’ll have a good night.
Q: Any guilty pleasure songs?
I mean, I listen to myself. I feel like that’s a thing that people say, “You listen to yourself? Stop.” But I analyze it the whole time and enjoy it.
Q: In your opinion, what was the best era for music?
Well, I believe the ’70s is the best era for music. I think it was the time when popular music had the most storytelling. I’ve always felt drawn to the era in general and recently fell down a deep Joni Mitchell hole and listened to all the albums. She became prominent in the ’70s. I really love that era.
Q: When can we expect new music? Any exclusives?
I am in the process of writing an album. I guess all I can say about how it sounds is it’s… I definitely took more folk inspiration because I like the storytelling aspect while keeping it more modern, cause I’m a modern guy. Live musicianship is 100% gonna happen which is something I’ve never had before because I was in a bedroom. Now that I’m at Berklee, I have access to live musicians because everyone here is one.
I think my sound has matured a lot. A good percent of the songs were written on the piano first and I’ve never done that before. All of my stuff that is already released was written before Berklee, so all of this new stuff has been influenced by all that happens once you leave your hometown and the life that you’ve grown so accustomed to, which I think you’re familiar with. I’m excited about it.
Q: Do you have any advice for those who may be nervous about getting into making their own music?
I say just start. Just do it because you’ll never know how it will turn out unless you try, and as long as you’re enjoying the process of making the art that will be rewarding enough.
Q: Any parting words?
Thank you so much for the interview, I’m looking forward to getting my new stuff out there!
Cover Photo: Justin Meyer