UK talent Justene has made a comeback with her sophomore EP 2 AM, the London based singer/songwriter has been described by critics as a breath of fresh air due to her unique and contemporary approach to r&b.
Guestlist had a chat with the songstress about her new EP, pizza robberies, being independent and she gives us further insight into her innermost thoughts on 2 AM.
Hi how you doing, you good?
Justene: Yeah I'm good my brother’s wedding was yesterday and I’ve just come back from that.
Oh, really and where was this?
This was in Gloucester, was a really nice ceremony, a lot of family members came.
So for any soon to be fan's out there, describe your music in three words or more?
Justene: Cool, personal and relatable.
So tell me something about yourself that no one really knows?
Justene: I’d say I’m quite shy, I don’t think a lot of people know I’m shy, I think they think I’m antisocial, cos that’s how it comes across, but that’s only because I’m quite shy.
Have you always been shy?
Justene: Yeah, since I was a child really, but it was only through music and being involved in like after-school activities and stuff like that just pulled me out of my comfort zone. But when I’m not doing those kinda things I’m really quite laid back, unless I'm with my circle of friends.
So you are a bit of an introvert.
Justene: Yeah definitely, but I think I’m an outgoing introvert, I think people confuse it with me being anti because I like to sing and stuff. I think they assume I’m an extrovert but I’m not really.
Let’s take it back to your roots. You were born in Leicester, right?
Justene: Yes. Good old Leicester
What area did you grow up in?
Justene: It was called Braunstone, yeah not the best area, but definitely had a very strong community vibe, so yeah it wasn’t very affluent or anything, it was a council estate, but you make the best of whatever situation you’re in really. There was a strong sense of community in that area though.
And growing up there did you face any challenges?
Justene: Well growing up, I guess we didn’t really know that we were facing these challenges, because my mum shielded us from a lot of stuff, like she always tried her best to make sure we acted and looked a certain way, so we could have the best outcome and capabilities in life, and to make sure we got into the best schools. So I don’t think growing up in that area set us back or anything. If anything I think it made me more determined to make a change and go back there and help the community more.
So you said you came from a family of six, you must have some mad stories to tell?
Justene: Yeah there’s too many. I’m in the middle so I got an elder sister, then I’ve got four brothers, so I’m literally in the middle. I think there was one occasion that I recall were me and my brother’s ordered a pizza and we ordered it for a flat 2 doors down, and because no one was living there. I think they climbed the fence and went to the back or something along those lines, long story short we got a free pizza. We ate really well that night. But my mother didn’t know so we just ate it in my brother’s room. There were some hard times growing up. It’s one of the funny stories that we have, that we just joke about now.
What moment did you realize music was your calling?
Justene: I’ve always wanted to do music, but I’ve been a person that’s always been grounded, sometimes too grounded or too realistic, and I’ve always felt that I needed a backup plan, even though that’s not necessarily the best thing. So yeah when I was younger I was always involved in music, choirs, orchestras, pop groups at school singing Spice Girls in the playground.
So definitely, yeah I’ve always wanted to take music seriously as a career. But also just knowing that sometimes the best, or the most talented people don’t always make it. So it was trying to get that balance. And I think my mom always instilled in me that education was needed, just to make sure you’ve got something even if you do make it, it’s just good to be educated as well. Just to be a well-rounded person really.
What made you up and leave to the glitz and glamour of London?
Justene: Oh I’ve always wanted to move here. I think it was mainly when I went to uni In Leicester, we had a lot of students come down from London and I made a lot of friends in my church that were from London. So when they moved back I wanted to go to uni in London, but I didn’t get to go to any, so in the end, I stayed in Leicester.
But then afterwards I was like mate I need to move. I just wanna take singing seriously, definitely something I needed to do. But it just took so long I felt like it was taking me a long time to get there. I think everything works in good timing. It was two years ago eventually, I just said, I’m just not applying for more jobs in Leicester. This is it.I was unemployed for like five months. For me it was a big step not working, cos I’m very independent, and I like to provide for myself. But I knew I had to make sacrifices, so I came to London for an interview, took the job and then moved down, so yeah that how I got here now.
How is London different from Leicester?
Justene: Well, first of all, you guys always have something going on, like it’s literally all hours, whilst in Leicester, everything stops at seven o’clock, everything is literally closed, you can’t even get home, the buses are every hour after a certain time. Don't get me wrong, Leicester will always be my home like I’m coming back for Christmas. But London definitely has more opportunities to get to know more interesting people, to get involved in more things. So yeah that’s one of the reasons.
So Christmas must be an interesting time for you with your big family?
Justene: Yeah plus a lot of them have got children now as well, so it’s even bigger, so now I don’t do presents for my siblings I just do em’ for the little kids. Because it gets too expensive. But yeah, I love it.
Tell us about your recent EP 2 AM?
Justene: My thoughts and feelings went into all the songs on the EP, I think we communicate better when it’s written down. I don’t think I’m the best speaker, and I’m not really good at expressing myself or expressing my feelings, writing has been a great help and I think 2 AM is very personal. Yeah it was very scary actually, because people that know me, know I don’t really talk like that in person, so I think for them listening to my songs it was just like wow, it was like looking at me in a different way, it was very nerve-wracking, because that’s not one of my strong points, but yeah I definitely feel more confident expressing myself these days. That’s why I keep a diary.
So yeah I used to be shy to talk about my own personal experiences. I always thought about what others would think didn't want people to think I was all mushy or emotional. But it’s its all about trying to be more authentic to what kind of person I am.
Was 2 AM inspired by a lot of your personal experiences?
Justene: Yeah definitely whereas before I was writing a bit more abstract, so I couldn’t always relate to what I was singing and I think that affected how the song was performed, I think people like it when you connect with your music because then your audience connects with it too.With 2 AM they’re definitely all aspects of myself in different settings kinda things.
'Chemistry' is one theme at 2 AM and is very much how I am at the beginning of a new relationship, but all the songs are like my thoughts it’s not me saying it to the guy, or me saying out loud, it’s just what I’m thinking but obviously he doesn't know cos I’m not saying.
'Walls' is another recurrent theme as well because I’m quite guarded if I don’t really know you I hide and that's another thing I sing about in 2 AM. Sometimes you put on a brave face or I put on a brave face. I think a lot people think i'm quite humorous at times, which is another side to me that some people don't see. 2 AM is a way of letting listeners know that there different aspects and sides to me. One of the lyrics goes like this "are you thinking of me", you’ve kind of had an argument, and now it’s late at night, and you didn’t wanna be the first one to reach out, and this is just speaking from really the stubbornness of a relationship, and being up late hours of the night hence the name 2 AM.
That’s a nice message, the concept is really quite sweet, hearing your voice you sound really relatable on the record.
Justene: Oh, thank you
So from catching some pretty big names, such as SBTV and Ronnie Scott, what’s really been the highlight for you so far?
Justene: My highlight so far? How many can I have? Creating 2 AM was definitely a highlight of mine, but I feel like i'm always gonna be striving for new highlights, so I don’t wanna be stuck on one, but for now the EP 2 AM is definitely a highlight for me, just in terms of not being part of a label, I’m doing it all independently, I’ve funded it myself, the concept everything, and you know what I mean it came together, I feel like it’s very me, and even the photos I took I was having to play different roles, and wear different hats, so being like the crazy director, on what I wanted it to be like.
So what do you think you bring that’s special?
Justene: I’d definitely say the whole relatable aspect, and yeah I think like certain artists sometimes just sing the song or they get it written for them or whatever, but I feel it’s coming from me, and whenever I’ve let people listen to it, they’re like that’s really relatable and they get it, so sometimes you have to be fearless to be you.
What’s the worst thing you have a reputation for?
Justene: What’s the worst thing. Sometimes I laugh at inappropriate things, sometimes it can get me in trouble and people tell me off which comes across as insensitive. I think people think I’m a cold sometimes or a bit insensitive. When I’m not, I just don't know how to deal with a certain type of situation. Like I’m not the best person to come to if you’re crying, that’s not me, literally, I can’t do tears.
Yeah I know, that’s awkward I don’t really know how to comfort people either.
Justene: What do you want me to do. I ask people do you want me to hug you, no no, I’m not naturally an affectionate person. But yeah I’m working on it. I mean I can cook for you, I can be a good listener. So that’s something I’m working on.
So if you had to collaborate with any artist who would it be?
Justene: Ok wonderful so I’d definitely love to collab with Michael Jackson. I love Miguel, I’d love to sing with him.Obviously Beyoncé, they don't call her Queen B for no reason. Drake, Jazmine Sullivan I’d love to write with Bryson Tiller as well. I really want to work with musicians that some people find weird, Gary Barlow. I think he’s a good writer. And also Chris Martin from Coldplay.
If you could play anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Justene: I definitely would like to play at the Madison Square gardens that would be amazing. Even at the O2 to be honest. I would love to make it in my own country. I know people sometimes want to make it bigger somewhere else. You know what I mean they’ll probably make it bigger in America.
Whereas I want to be big in my home country as well, so that would be amazing if I could sell out the O2 arena. But I also love the the small intimate shows. So yeah I’m not really too fussed where, even the Hammersmith Apollo, that size. I think there’s more opportunity to interact with the crowd when it’s a little bit smaller.
If you weren’t doing music, what else do you think you’d be doing?
Justene: I studied business and management at uni, so I’d definitely be doing that.
What ideas changed your life?
Justene: Definitely moving to London changed my life. The biggest decision of my life was being a Christian, becoming a Christian, the idea of God, and the idea of someone creating you. That would probably be the biggest thing that changed my life.
Have you always been Christian?
Justene: I became Christian at 12, so I was quite young, so being a Christian at 12 is completely different from being a Christian at 30 or 29. So I think the challenges you face are different as you grow up, so you always have to reconnect all the time, because at 12 you’re not really going through anything, you know what I mean.
So what's next for you? Can fans be expecting any upcoming releases?
Justene: Well I’m currently in touch with another producer to do another EP, that hopefully will be out next year also.
You can find the songstress on Facebook