Published on November 8th, 2019 | by Dr. Jerry Doby


Singer Songwriter PJ Readies for Another Foray Onto Center Stage

Back Story – Raised in North Carolina and Atlanta, singer-songwriter PJ moved to Los Angeles in 2014. She started her music career behind the scenes as a songwriter, penning “Left Right Left” for Charlie Puth, “I Don’t Know” for Meek Mill, “True Colors” for Wiz Khalifa – among many more songwriting credits. Signed to Atlantic Records, she transitioned to the spotlight by way of the 2015 EP Walking Around Pools followed by 2016’s Rare—which boasted collaborations with G-Eazy and Ty Dolla $ign. The project’s single “Tell Me” [feat. Jevon Doe] racked up over 3.5 million Spotify streams and garnered acclaim from Ones to Watch, HipHopDX, and many others. After a much-needed break, PJ released her 2019 single “One Missed Call” as a reintroduction to her new artistry.

2020 will see PJ drop another full-length project, the title of which is a closely guarded secret but we’re told will encapsulate some of her latest life experiences, touching on her new management situation and lessons learned in her only recently evolved love life! We caught up with PJ ahead just ahead of her album release to discuss her journey and what it’s like to be SEEN as she so succinctly put it during the conversation. Check out the lightly edited version below!

Let’s kick it off by letting people know who’s PJ and how you came to the industry.

PJ: My real name is Paris Jones. I go by PJ. I’m from Greensboro, North Carolina. And I guess since I was young I’ve always gravitated to music. At an early age, I was kind of like super shy and music’s always been a form of expression for me. And I first got started being a songwriter. I was a songwriter first and I’ve written for Chris Brown, Wiz Khalifa, Usher. I started switching gears and I put out my first project called Walking Around Pools and then Rare. And now I’ve been putting out new music this year “My Best Life, and “One Missed Call” and I’m getting ready to put out another project for the first time in three years. So that’s where I am right now. I guess.

Photo Credit: Atlantic Records

How are you feeling about your musical journey?

PJ: I am excited. I’m really excited. I’m so excited because I didn’t even realize how long it’s been. I went through a lot of things. I went through a big breakup, a switch in management and that’s why I went ghost for like two years. So it’s just like poking my head back out again and getting ready to put out this new project with everything that I’ve learned, all of the things that I’ve been through and playing with different sounds. And just to be here in this space, I feel like I’m in a good mental space and it’s like I’m understanding men a little better. So it’s like I’ve got more stuff to talk about. Yeah. Or I don’t understand them at all. So it’s just like more conversations, more stuff to talk about. But the journey itself has been dope. The music, just getting here. But I guess just learning the business and being a woman in this industry and just learning that. That’s been a whole other thing.

I was looking at your Doc Martin interview and you were just like “I’m the queen of come up music.” All my music is about the come up.” So explain to us a little bit more about that and your intestinal fortitude.

PJ: I feel like even though I’m singing, after the things that were on my mind before my first relationship, because I’m a late bloomer first of all. So my thing has always been trying to figure life out, trying to get there, feeling like people don’t understand you and trying to make a space for you when you don’t see yourself in that space. So it’s not even like I’m trying to make come up music. When I first started making the music, I was just expressing how I felt, even from… I can’t think of the name of my first song for whatever reason. But it’s like I felt like no one was checking for me and I felt like it was because I don’t look like everybody else.

I didn’t look like everybody else. And even as a songwriter, it’s just like I’ve had to fight hard as hell just to be in a space. Just to be invited or just to be, you know what I’m saying? And I used to wait for the invitation, but now it’s just like, I occupy the space I’m making happily and I understand that people listen to my vision. I understand a lot of people are going through things. Just like people are being health conscious and careful about what they’re eating, I think that people are being more conscious of what they’re listening to also. And I feel like there’s so much turmoil and there are so many people that are depressed or unhappy or feeling stuck and there’s not a lot of things, outside of gospel music, that they can turn to and to get that motivation, you know? And I feel like rap, for the most part, it has those parts, the motivation. That motivational aspect, especially like the old Kanye and just earlier, earlier times where it’s like yeah you got to go back.

But I feel like there’s this space where that motivation is needed and I just want to be that for people because I’m talking to myself too every time. So it’s just like that motivational inspirational thing is just something that I don’t take lightly and I love doing it.

What brought you to music period? I know that you started as a songwriter, but what made you start penning joints?

PJ: I feel like I am an introvert in a way, I struggle with anxiety and I don’t know if I overanalyze, I know I overthink a lot of things, but music is just one of those things where I don’t have that problem. And it’s like, even just dealing, like I was saying, even like talking to men, I can’t talk to men for the life of me. I cannot, it’s so dumb. I can’t express like a well-bodied adult. I don’t have it, don’t have the capabilities.

It’s a lot of things I don’t understand just with human interaction because I’m always so in my head about like, am I saying the right thing, or whatever. So I’ve just always been super shy kind of to myself. And it’s just music. It’s just something that I’ve always just gravitated to. In high school, I would come home and I would just write music. So it wasn’t I was going out to parties or going out on dates or any of that. I was literally in my room making music. So I guess it’s kind of just always been like that.

But now you’re venturing back to center stage as the focus and so there’s this huge trust thing that you have to have with your audience. Do you consider that at all? Is that a big deal for you?

PJ: Listen, I’ve had so many panic attacks before going on stage. I don’t know why. I think I’m just a nervous person in general. I’m just a nervous person. But for some reason, it was like once I’m on stage, and I’m performing, I don’t have to think about anything. And I guess I believe so much in my story and the story that I tell and it’s just like, I don’t know how. I don’t know how it does resonate. Struggle and heartbreak, and being lost is something that we share as humans. Everybody knows what that feels like. So it’s almost like they’re connecting to me, but even more so they’re connecting to that emotion that is just so familiar.

And I guess I just trust more so in the story that I’m telling and it just speaks for itself. Especially “My Best Life”, I feel like people, everybody’s just trying to do their best. And I’m trying to give you credit for doing that because a lot of times people… The thing is, I’m trying to get people credit for where they are in life. And I feel like I’ve been one of those people where you can be super unhappy and not even notice like how far you’ve come. And so my thing is when people listen to this new project I’m putting out, I want it to be like, oh yeah, I am surviving. I am pushing. I want them to take credit in that. And congratulate themselves for even making it that far.

Yeah, it’s got to be okay to congratulate yourself. That’s a big statement right there. A lot of people don’t take the time to congratulate themselves on making it. So, yeah, that was a good way to put that. I like it.

So speaking of making it, Dr. Martin’s just kicked off their first-ever music and film series and you opened up the gate with that.  What does it mean to you to have outside resources like that? Like Hey, this is one to watch?

PJ: It feels amazing because I’m thankful for every opportunity that I get and it’s just that I’m coming from a place, part of when I disappeared for two years… Part of the reason why I was just so upset and kind of depressed was I felt like nobody was seeing me. I felt like I was putting out the best music I possibly could and I was just going unnoticed.

So it’s just every time I can get something where it’s like, oh somebody does see me, I’m super grateful because I remember two years ago I was just like, man, nobody knows I exist. So it’s just like to see, even this interview too, just for people to take the time out and give me a chance to be seen and to be heard is just wonderful. I wish I had a better word than wonderful.

I’m glad that you would take the time to talk to us because I know that you’re busy. You just came off an incredible A3C performance and I know that was crazy.

PJ: Yeah, it was super dope. Because you know A3C is notoriously known as a hip hop festival. So it’s just been dope to see them trying to add something other than rappers even though I love rap music too. But that’s the thing. I hope other festivals will do the same. I feel like there are a lot of festivals out there. There’s so many. There’s a lot of rappers. And…

There’s a lot of rappers.

PJ: There’s a lot of rappers, but there’s not a lot of spaces for a lot of artists like myself who don’t rap. And maybe, you know what I’m saying is there’s not a lot of outlets for us right now. Especially for black women, I feel like a little bit. So I feel like it’s dope for A3C to take that leap and start opening it up. And I hope to see other festivals do the same in the future.

Photo Credit: Atlantic Records

Have you noticed that there is a movement towards more inclusion of, I call them pure musicians?

PJ: Yeah, I think the thing is in a way it’s like we’re kind of working together. I just feel like black women as a whole, we kind of get alienated and left out of a lot of conversations. But I feel like across the board from like from Issa, you know, it’s kind of like, to me like, you know how Issa was like, because I’m, she had her Awkward Black Girl show on YouTube and it was like even to see her on a major platform like this, you know, we’ve always had certain boxes, you know what I’m saying? We’ve always had the black girls next door, the black tomboy, the sexy black girl, the cool black girl, you know what I’m saying? And there are these other types in between that, you know what I’m saying?

So it’s like, so for Issa to have, I mean for Insecure to have this black girl where it’s like she’s a little this, she’s a little that. She’s kind of quirky, you know what I’m saying? It’s like you really didn’t see that before now. There’d be certain types. So in that, and the same thing I feel like is happening with music. There are other stories being told and there are other black girls where it’s like, oh well what is she? It’s a big thing about this world and this industry is always big about labeling. But I think it’s letting the individual speak for themselves. Because the average person after like…I don’t know. I just feel like it’s easy to be like, Oh, this person is that.

But even then, you have to stick to that. To stick to those and live within that confinement is like, you know, that’s tough. But it’s like to see people like Lizzo and see people like Sza and to see people like Ari. And then to also see Summer, it’s like they’re all different. I feel like these are the types of women that, like, they might be familiar to you, they might remind you of somebody in your everyday life, kind of. But they’re also different, where they’re kind of like this, kind of like that. You can’t really just be like, Oh this is her and she belongs in this box. So you got all these women, all these different types of women that are living outside of these confinements. And I feel like with the inclusion, but it’s just like, I just feel there are all these extra colors involved that have always been there, but for some reason it’s just like, Oh, now you can see them.

If you had to pick somebody that you feel like was a real path cutter, a way maker, to someone like yourself, who would that be?

PJ: I feel like Missy for sure. Just because I feel like… For Missy, because my whole thing is I feel like it’s very hard to blaze a trail, to cut out one that fits you, when you feel like there’s nobody like you before, you know? And I just feel like Missy, she cut down all… Because it’s like you got to put it into perspective to me to be in that time period, late nineties early two thousands, and to come out and to be who she was unapologetically in a time where nobody looked like her. In that time period when it’s like you have Destiny’s Child and Toni Braxton. And then you have her who is this quirky, different style, different vibe, different mood, different whatever.

And I feel like that even more so speaks to how truly talented she was. But I would feel like that, I feel like she’s one of them. And then I like Mary J Blige too, just because I feel like she’s so dope. And you know of course Lauryn Hill. But I just feel like she has that energy. I just love how she mixes R&B with hip hop. And the same thing for Lauryn.

Yeah, I agree. I’d like to see her get into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That would be some dope stuff right there.

PJ: But they just gave it to Whitney. Whitney is just now getting in. Isn’t that crazy? That’s crazy.

Discuss for us your survival plan when your original deal ran its course. How did you deal with the naysayers?

PJ: I hope nobody was saying I knew you wouldn’t make it. I just feel like there’s a humbleness that comes from working hard. And then I just feel like, this journey has a lot of levels to it and not even so much like music. And I think even when you bring that up, I just have to remember that because I have these times where I’ll be feeling kind of down about where I am. I want to be further away, further in my career. But then I got to remember, it wasn’t that long ago that I was at the bottom. And I just feel like it’s just resilience. I just feel like I’ve come from a line of that. My family is like that. My mom is like that. My dad is like that. My sister is like that. It’s just like if shit goes bad or things happen, we’re always going to figure a way out of it in some way. Or at least hang in there so you can climb out.

I like that. Is there anything that you wanted to cover that I may have neglected?

PJ: I mean I’m an open book. I’m getting ready to put out this project. I have a name for it. It’s a secret. I’m just literally just trying to figure out what I want to talk about. I feel like being, I don’t really know if I’m a millennial or not. I think I am. I don’t know what the timestamps is. But one of the things is like, I’m trying to understand this. Come up music is still what I love to do and it’s the main focus. But what happened was I fell in love and then I fell out of it. Now I have so many other things to talk about, but I guess I’m just trying to figure out how to balance music, love life, business and all that and put it all in this one amazing project. So that’s what I’m working on right now.

PJ is a story of intestinal fortitude, overcoming objections from without and within to make her mark in a business which can overwhelm and wreak havok on your life. If we take nothing else away from her story, it should be that as long as you keep moving you’ll get somewhere and hopefully, it will be in line with your dreams!

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Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, Media and SEO Consultant, Journalist, Ph.D. and retired combat vet. 2023 recipient of The President's Lifetime Achievement Award. Partner at THM Media Group. Member of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, the United States Press Agency and ForbesBLK.

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