10 Questions with TMJ

This month we have a very special message for our 10 Questions Series as we were able to catch up with Sound Empire recording artist TMJ. If you don’t know him yet, you better get familiar. He just released his new single “Ugly”, featuring the very talented Cecilia Grace (if you don’t remember, they were also part of our 10 Questions Series). Not only are we happy to announce this single, but we are excited to join him in the fight against bullying. Read on to get the scoop…

1. Tell us about your musical background, how you got into songwriting, and any current projects you have now.

I got into music after my father put on a gospel rap album around 1992. I told him I could do that but I never even attempted to write a song at that point. I just thought the songs were wack, the beats were wack and if that impressed him, surely I could do better than what I had heard. After that I started writing songs about how I felt. Mainly just to prove to my father I could do it. Before I knew it, it became a hobby and later a big part of me. Ugly was one of the songs I created during my child hood writing days. So when I started working on this New Age album, given the state of bullying I decided to rewrite the song and put it on this up coming album that will be released in the fall.

2. What influences you as a songwriter?

Life experiences influence me, I like real life music! Love, pain, struggles, student loans (laughs), your car broke down, happiness, success! The pursuit of happiness! I hear a lot of songs where rappers  are talking about buying out the bar and expensive watches and chains and that’s cool but I mean how many of us ever woke up in a Bugatti? Might have woke up on a strangers porch from partying too hard though.

3. What do you think about the current state of the music industry? Do you think it’s more difficult to build a career in music today than say 20 years ago?

Well that’s a tough one because it’s both difficult and easier at the same time. It’s difficult because we live in a “on to the next thing era”. I still have a tape deck in my truck, one of those tape/CD player things that was high tech years ago! I put in Mary J’s real love tape and because I couldn’t skip forward so easily; I just let it play. I was able to enjoy the whole album as if it were back in the day again. People hardly buy whole albums anymore, let alone listen to the whole album. We buy ninety nine cent singles and some just rip your songs straight from the internet. That mixed with the fact record labels hardly invest in building artist for the long haul and you have the wild west in the industry! However it’s easier because it’s the wild west (laughs). If an artist can do the ground work to build core fans by utilizing social media, they can reach fans from all over the world, with out ever leaving their city! However I still think grass root fan building still works. Taylor Swift is the best at it. She’s never too big to crash a fans sleep over.

4. Who are some of your favorite artists right now?

I’m always old school. My favorite artists are Tupac, DMX, and Eminem because they weren’t that big on bragging to us about what we the fans helped them pay for. It’s a lot of raw emotion in their songs. I like that, however if I had to pick I would say J Cole at the moment.

5. If you haven’t already, are you open to working with another songwriter or a team of songwriters?

Oh I love working with writers, but not in a “ guy write my rap verses kinda way; you won’t call me out Meek Mills style (laughs). I like working with writers that can push me so as of late, I haven’t been working with other rappers. The album I’m about to release only have features from singers and one spoken word feature. I’m doing all of the heavy lifting on this album.

6. How important are outside opinions of your working songs?

It depends! My emotional songs like the song Liquid Windows from my mix tape, I don’t care who says what. I keep it raw, honest and truthful. If it’s a fun song, or a feel good song; I welcome opinions. Because those songs are for the public. I’m trying to capture what the public is feeling, but on my emotional songs, I’m trying to put you in the mood of how I was feeling when I wrote that particular song.

7. Do you think it would be beneficial to have an unbiased team of songwriters in the studio with you while you record music?

Always! Like I said I like to be pushed. You can’t get better when yes men telling you that you’re hot! I’d rather have people around who are going to tell the truth for the love of the music and for the sake of the song.

8. What’s the most unique location you’ve ever written a song?

I guess I can say, from my bed only because some will find it strange. I will randomly wake up all times of the night and write down lyrics I said in my dreams. Besides that…my favorite thing to do when I was younger was to jump on a bus and end up where I end up! Get out and write. I kinda miss those days. I was a smoker back then so I use to love to escape the city, which was at three hundred plus murders a year at that time in the nineties. I would go to some far away park and just write.

9. Congrats on the new single Ugly! What was the inspiration behind it?

My childhood was inspiration. I grew up like Everybody Hates Chris. My older brother was so handsome and slick the females would say, then there was me -  big nose, big ears, short, skinny, and nerdy! I got teased so much growing up because of my nose! One time they were handing out those disguise glasses at my friends birthday party and they say “all Ty needs is the glasses his nose already big”! That’s my favorite one. Funny now, hurt back then though. All the girls I had crushes on were laughing at me. Later I started to see everybody got joked though, one of the original lines I wrote as a child was ” You get joked for being fat, joked for being skinny, joked for big breast, joked for not having any!“ People will joke you for fifteen minutes and yet it will stay with you a lifetime! So I wrote this song to empower people. So words don’t hurt, because the only thing that matters is what you think and what you become. I want kids to know. "you young now, but things change when your older, and that’s how I got this chip on my shoulder!”.

10. What is the #NotUgly campaign? How can people get involved?

I have a theory that is we all are art and God’s the artist, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I want people to behold their beauty. Realize you are a piece of art and some will appreciate you and some won’t. The only opinion that matters is yours! So I’m asking people to share that art with me and the world by uploading a selfie to our Sound Empire Entertainment Facebook page, my TMJ Facebook artist page, or my Instagram and Twitter profiles @ Break_out_star_tmj.

Bullying is a big problem in our country that should not be taken lightly. It’s refreshing to know that there are artists like TMJ out there that are willing to take a strong position. Make sure you check out the video and help him spread this important message!

Stephen Antonelli

SongBuilder Studios, 709 Frederick Road, Catonsville, MD, 21228, United States