TMG is pleased to present another introspective artist interview, this time with J-Llyfe, the 25 year old singer, songwriter, MC, and musician from Birmingham, Alabama! Justin Thomas, better known by his stage acronym J-Llyfe, is a former stand out athlete and cancer survivor that performs with the intent to educate, captivate and inspire change!
Justin Thomas (JT) better known by his stage acronym J-Llyfe, is an African-American singer, MC and songwriter from Birmingham, Al. J-Llyfe’s pioneer into the music industry spurn from his poetry roots as his high school’s class poet. A former stand out athlete and cancer survivor J-Llyfe needed an outlet to escape his pain and music became that remedy. Living Life Young For Ever he coined an alias and began to produced mass forms of art to the public. He started out in 2009 as a back up singer for a local group in the Birmingham area before moving to NYC in the summer of 2013. Upon reaching here, he knew that he would have to start over in the larger market and make a name. J-Llyfe is an artist with an unique stage presence to be able to smoothly switch mid-set between singing and rapping. He performs with the intent to educate, captivate and inspire change. At only the age of 25 years old, he has lived in the North Carolina and Alabama. His songs are concept based that focus on his upbringing and life experiences from early hardships. Influences of Ceelo, Drake, Outkast, Maxwell and James Brown all help shape the montage of sounds that one would hear from a J-Llyfe set. His music expresses inspirations and laments on perseverance. Since 2014, J-Llyfe has performed at several notable NYC Venues including: The Shrine, Silvana, Pianos, The Knitting Factory, Fat Baby and many more.
Let’s check out some of his music below!
“Egos & Attitudes”
“Venus Fly Trap”
*NOW HERE’S OUR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH J-LLYFE*
1. What’s your bands name? Where did the name come from?
I go by the name of J-Llyfe which is an acronym from my poetry roots! It stands for Justin Living Life Young For Ever. The band members consist of Amasa Bruce on drums, Clint Greenlee on bass, Peter DelGrosso on keys/auxillary and John Bimbiras on guitar. This show in particular I enlisted some new beautiful and talented friends (Jillian Ivy and ChyChy Okereke) to assist with vocals!
2. The Yellow Collar Collective is all about the daily grind musicians go through to perfect their craft, what has been your biggest struggle and accomplishment as a musician?
I think the initial struggle was finding musicians that understood me and the direction/boundaries I wanted to push musically! I would also say that it was how far out of my comfort zone that I could venture. Singing and rapping simultaneously forced me to develop a work out regiment that increased my stamina for proper breath support! My biggest accomplishment would be the progress that I’ve made since relocating to NYC from Alabama. I wasn’t quite sure if I’d be received but each year has gotten better. The first year I was offered a recording contract with an Indie label but I turned it down due to creative differences but I have even more high hopes for the future.
3. What other instruments can you and your fellow band members play?
I grew up playing piano but as I got older and when I began to seriously perform, I tended to focus more on the vocal aspect. The whole band is talented and nearly everybody is a two trick pony and more.
4. Why’d you start making music and why specifically did you choose your genre?
I begin to make music as a coping mechanism back in 2007. As a former football player and state ranked wrestler, my athletic career was cut short due to being diagnosed with B-Cell Lymphoma Cancer. Growing up I hid my talents because I was afraid of being judge for being an athlete and singer! My experience with cancer aided me in finding myself and using the gift that God gave me to touch lives. I am currently 8 years remission and holding to my promise to never hide my gift again. Music created peace and allowed me to greater understand my story and share it in an artistic way. I don’t care to classify to a genre, I just enjoy making music. I will say, however, soul music and blues became a focal point of my sound! I enjoying taking oldie goldies and remixing them with hip hop!
5. Do you have any memorable musical experiences that have shaped who you guys are?
One night leaving the rehearsal studio I ran into Carlton J. Smith, a world renowned blues singer/entertainer. We had a great conversation and just sharing stories and he ended up attending my first performance. The fact somebody who had been in the games for years and cared enough to show up to an unknown project was just amazing.
6. Have you ever released any albums or are working on any now? Any special projects?
I haven’t realized an album just yet. I am currently working on an EP that I hope to finish and finalized this year. In the meantime, people can find me via soundcloud.com/j-llyfe.
7. Do you collaborate with other artists? Inside and outside your genre?
I’ve tried to become more open to collaboration but some times I tend to stray because some people can become unreliable or unavailable. The genre doesn’t matter to me specially when people are so talented! I’m very eclectic and I draw influences from all around!
8. What venues and events have you performed at in the past five years? Which has been your favorite?
I’ve performed a few places over the last few years from NYC to North Carolina to Atlanta to Alabama. My favorite would be the Shrine located in Harlem due to history and the atmospheric of the place.
9. How do you acquire shows and promote yourself? Do you have any recommendations for other artists?
I acquire shows through ground and leg work. I’m curious/nosey by nature and always searching and asking this and that person how they booked certain places. I promote myself through social media: Instagram, Facebook, GroupMe and Twitter. I found that emailing is also very professional and shows seriousness and dedication.
10. Do you have any mottos?
Live Life Young For Ever! Not in the sense of being immature and irresponsible but more so similar to a kid who enjoys life. Some people as they grow older they forget to enjoy life and have fun! I never want to be that person because I almost lost my life and that experience alone taught me the importance of family, friends and cherishing the little things!
11. What artists inspire you?
Jamie Foxx would be one of my biggest inspirations because he didn’t take no for an answer when the industry doubted his artistry! My others would be the likes of Ray Charles, James Brown, Lauren Hill, Ceelo Green, Andre 3000 and Drake.
12. What’s next for your band?
The sky is the limit! My goal is to book bigger venues after each shows and continuing to grow the brand.
13. What do you do when you’re not listening to or making music?
I’m an actor also, so there is never really a silence in my life. Everything I stand for and support leads back to the arts!
14. What’s your favorite song right now?
I would say Jealous by Nick Jonas or You by Kendrick Lamar.
Huge thank you to J-Llyfe for taking his time to do this interview for all of us!
Make sure to check out this stream of J-Llyfe recently performing at Piano’s!
Check out more of J-Llyfe through the links below!