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Inspiration is what drives us as humans. We are inspired to react to the world around us; the movements of the earth, the tides all have an impact on the way we interact with our realm. This concept is especially true in the world of music, where inspiration is what drives artists to create their unique sounds.
Joji is no exception. Through his years as an artist, he has found inspiration from the world around him – all contributing distinctively to his identity as a producer and musician. From the sounds of his childhood to the relationships he has today, every aspect of his life has been an influence on the musical innovations that are maintaining his popularity.
George Miller, more commonly known as Joji, is a Japanese-Australian artist who has recently taken his claim to fame as an R&B/Hip-Hop star. He is known for his eccentric tracks which can be characterized as “trip hop and lo-fi that blends elements of trap, folk, electronic, and R&B.” He commonly incorporates a melancholic tone layered with mixing tender melodies and soulful lyrical content. oday he has transformed into one of the most highly renowned artists in his genre. In recent interviews, he has shared personal details about learning and growing as a musician, and which influences continue to have an impact on his development.
Joji has been making music since his early years. He recalls in an interview with YouTuber Pigeons and Planes that as a child, he and his friends would create songs without even recognizing what they were doing. As he continued to develop through his youth, he remained passionate about the art, making tracks and continuing to learn about how to create new sounds that could influence those around him. Those experiences that he had as an adolescent in Japan were the earliest influences Joji had remembered.
Today he reminisces on how the sounds of his childhood influence his low-fi, catchy beat. He commented: “My home town is Japan. There was a lot of water around me when I was young. Me and some kids would go down to the rice fields; we would catch frogs and stuff. And I think I learned to enjoy quiet, peaceful things. I feel like when I make music, I’m trying to recreate that.” Joji’s connection to the natural world and his extensive knowledge of lo-fi hip hop beats has come together in an amalgamation of lush, atmospheric soundwaves.
As previously mentioned, Joji’s sound is unique, stemming from lo-fi roots blended with melancholic melodies. He blends more conventional musical instruments, such as the piano and ukulele, with more unfamiliar sounds, such as rain falling on the earth around him, creating a captivating, understated, and expressive musical compilation. About the ambiance of his music Joji shares,“The instrumental is packed and full… I like to keep the instrumentals very, very, textural, whether it’s water trickling or something; I just want to make sure that the instrumental is packed with sounds that make you feel good or make you feel not static.” At the same time, he likes to keep the tunes organic, avoiding MIDI, and electronic stuff. “I’d rather play an instrument and sample myself – or kick a trash can and make a bass out of that. That’s more fun to me. It’s more organic too.”
This element can be heard through his past tracks. In Tongues, his EP released in 2017, is a prime example of how he utilizes organic sounds. Many of his tracks include heavily industrial noises to create a demonic effect. “I was throwing chains against the ground and I slowed it down super hardcore and pitched it down, and it has this really demonic chain shackle sound,” he says.
Adding whispered vocals to his tracks enhances the impact of his sounds with an almost ASMR-type experience, which can leave the listener tingling and desperately seeking more. He has a way of connecting with his audience deeply through these sounds, and he knows it.
According to Joji, “sounds are very conflicting, you know. I like very soft, pretty melodies, but then I like the really hard-hitting beats and stuff. So, I like to mix the two together and it makes something really weird. I like the sound of nostalgia, you know, like there are certain sounds and melodies that are nostalgic and that’s one of the easiest ways to really pull on the heartstrings of people; so, it’s in a way like manipulation…”.
Listening to Joji’s music, one can hear the passion he injects into every aspect of it. He has a way of crafting this rollercoaster of a song, while simultaneously cradling the listener’s ears in a soft blanket of sound, making them feel safe, but stirred. Joji’s transcendent style is showcased by his desire to create this parallel universe for his listeners to escape to.
Inspired by Life
Beyond the addictive, harmonic beats Joji creates, he includes lyrics that connect with his listeners, many of his songs pulling truths from his own realities.
His first song released, “I Don’t Wanna Waste My Time,” was influenced by a conversation he was having with a friend; a friend who was confiding in his desire to cheat.
“My friend was talking to me,” Joji told Genius “He was about to cheat on his girl and I was like, ‘I don’t know. You can do it if you want. Why are you talking to me?’ And then I thought about that a little more. It’s not about him, but it was inspired by that… Males in general are very impatient. Including myself. That’s the mindset of a lot of males, in any scenario when they’re talking to a girl. They’ll say anything they want to get a nut going.”
Each song produced by Joji has been drawn from a specific moment in his life; memories that were created and developed their own space in his mind. In Tongues was Joji’s way of releasing these memories to enable him to express his ideas in a way that was almost the polar opposite of his comedic career. He used it as a way to transition into a serious artist role. The release of this album inspired him to go on and create in that same way. He shares how in retrospect, the In Tongues EP was a source of relief “It was not only a transition of career, but in my life too,” he says. “Now I feel as if it was a rebirth, and I get to start fresh, and I get to leave this bad stuff behind.”
His upcoming album Nectar also tells the tale of his current state of being, however, it also draws a connection to his earlier years. “I made sure to include many essences from my earlier work while still being able to move forward both artistically and emotionally.”
According to Joji, the album is about the psychological and physical need for escape. At a time when the world is in such uncertainty, with a pandemic unraveling society as we know, his album is meant to connect with his listeners and allow for them to pull out of it what they need. He shares that Nectar is not for himself, but instead for others to pick apart and find their own inspiration within.
Collaborating with Others
To inspire his creative fluids, Joji also identified the benefits of collaborating with other artists. Working together allows them to piggyback off one another, thus creating new opportunities to try new textures, experiment with a new genre, or to simply connect.
In 2018 on his EP BALLADS 1, Joji collaborated with Clams Casino, New Jersey producer; he was one of the first to pull Joji out of his comfort zone, and together they created “Can’t Get Over You.” This upbeat track follows Joji as he explores love at first sight and falls victim to its foolish consequences. Unlike his usual beats, he says “It’s kind of cute, poppy. I never expected myself to do that… It’s kind of like how I was telling you [on set earlier] about how I trust the photographer, and I trust the stylist. They’ve gotten there on their own. I absolutely trust them.” He allowed himself to rely on the expertise of his peers to bring out a new side of him.
On a later track, “No More Parties in LA,” Joji collaborated with Shlohmo and D33J to capture the essence of feeling overwhelmed while congregating in major hubs such as New York City and Los Angeles. He successfully pulled from his collaborator’s guitar-driven production to create a bizarre tune that outlines the internal anxiety related to the one desire to withdraw.
In a more inexplicable track, “R.I.P.,” featured on BALLADS 1, Joji introduced a new theme unknown to his audience. Collaborating with American rapper and singer Trippie Redd Joji and Trippie Red sing about the sacrifices they would make for someone they love, revealing their willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice – to die – for that love. This new, morbid theme is another stretch out of the comfort zone for Joji, aided by his theories on collaboration and trust within that sphere.
His new album Nectar, scheduled to release September 25, 2020, introduces a new collaboration with Diplo, American DJ, songwriter, and record producer. Their new single “Daylight,” released August 7th, 2020, is a more poppy piece that mimics that of a summer hit song. Diplo lays down a smooth, dulcet backdrop that cradles Joji’s voice in a way that is sonorous, but in a way that differs greatly from Joji’s typical soundscape, exchanging it for a dance-type feel.
Nectar will also introduce new collaborations for Joji, including tracks with Lil Yachty, Rei Brown, Benee, and Yves Tumor.
Inspired by Visuals
Although Joji may be categorized as a singer, it is imperative not to overlook his ability to create alternative universes with his visual interpretations of his songs. In truth, the artist has disclosed that he does not actually like singing, but instead, draws inspiration from what he can create visually alongside his tracks.
Joji is notorious for using elements of sound for inspiration in his music, but he also draws much inspiration from the visual world that surrounds him. The way he portrays himself in his music videos shows that he tends to lead toward simple, pure things. For example, in “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK”, he can be seen “dying” in a bus station with a white tux on, showing that he is not at fault for his love choosing someone else, he just “can’t compete”. Another prime example of Joji favoring the simple parts of life would be in the music video for “Daylight”, as he and his coworker are clad in earth tones, whilst every other participant is clad in neon tracksuits with plastic faces. Playing off of the visuals of the lights in his videos, Joji is able to elicit a deep response from the viewer as well. This is featured prominently in “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK”, where most of the visuals are dark with a purple hue. These visuals are starkly contrasted with the bright, clean, white images of him in the bus station and on the light platform at the end of the video.
Most importantly, Joji is influenced by the therapeutic effect his music has on himself. Suffering from a neurological disorder that causes stress-induced seizures, Joji uses his music to cope with the negative impact his health issues have had on his daily life. The beats that he creates are avenues for Joji to tell his story, with many of his tunes ending with a brighter soundscape, representing his determination to focus on an opportunistic future.
“Despite all the hospital visits and insurance issues – literally while I’m in the studio, I’m yelling at the insurance company, or trying to get an appointment with the one really good doctor,” he recalls, “I would work on the music as a distraction, so it actually helped.”
Even with the ongoing challenges of a medical condition, Joji recognizes life is short. Although music may be a distraction, it is one that allows him to pursue his passion and share with his audience the personal experiences he endures. As a private person, keeping most personal aspects out of the public eye, the music that Joji creates allows his listeners to build a deeper connection with him. In fact, it is this that also creates inspiration for Joji – Connecting with his audience and creating that escape.
Playing at a sold-out show in London on his first solo tour, Joji admitted to feeling nervous ahead of the show. Then, he saw the line of fans outside the venue, all who had shown up to support him on his new endeavor. As he witnessed the fans “jumping up and down to songs that are kind of slow,” he was hit with disbelief. “It’s a vibe. I don’t think that happens that much, so it’s cool to see that juxtaposition.” The overall phenomenon that he pulled from the experience was a sense of ‘sad party mode,’ a sense that the fans coming to see him play were attending his shows as a way of personal escapism. “These kids have a lot of angst,” he says. “Every kid has a lot of angst. We live in a f***** up world, but scream those lyrics out. I can see that it’s therapy for the kids.”
An Uncertain Future
Influence changes as our lives transform. We cannot guarantee our future, but we can adapt as obstacles come our way. For Joji, his hope is that he will continue to grow and inspire. Music has a way of reaching people that spoken words cannot. Joji has found an excellent mix of comfort and edge within his music which drives his popularity. However, it is about more than that to him, it’s just about the joy of creation.
“It doesn’t matter how, I just want to continue expanding,” he says. “I just like creating stuff, it doesn’t matter what the medium is.” He continues, “I just want to keep continuing to grow as a human… I just don’t want to be stuck. That’s all.”