Artist Spotlight: mustbejohn

Somewhere in the relatively quiet town of Hertfordshire resides an extremely talented, young and emerging prodigy called mustbejohn. No doubt busy penning the lyrics for his next project, the youngstar constantly seeks to hone and develop his unique sound that is fast becoming instantly recognisable up and down the UK. Having garnered a huge amount of attention over the last couple of years, especially since unleashing his smash hit “Jenny’s House” back in 2019, the southerner has become increasingly confident thanks to a series of high-quality releases including last years acclaimed six-track EP I’m In If You Are. A record best described as ‘genre-bending’, mustbejohn effortlessly floats his way across a plethora of different genres ranging from downtempo UK hip-hop vibes to faster paced drum and bass influenced soundtracks, all whilst lining up features from some of the most respected emerging artists in the game right now including Joe James, Feux and Loie.

Hot on the heels of 2021’s success, the Hertfordshire-based youngstar continues to make a name for himself, most recently through his brand new single “Romance In Great Britain“. Vividly painting the picture of British street-life, mustbejohn successfully combines elements of Brit Pop with his trademark laidback production methods — making for a nostalgic hit, primed and ready for the long summer days and early evenings. Boasting a sold out headline show at The Waiting Room earlier this year, MBJ now gears up for his next headliner at Colours in Hoxton in May and ahead of this, we managed to catch up with the rising talent to see how things have been so far…

Layout: Emma Williams

Hey mustbejohn how are you doing? And what have you been getting up to recently?

I’ve been good thanks mate and to be honest, as predictable as it sounds, I’ve just been working on new music. Experimenting with new sounds, meeting new people, filming videos. Yeah, we’ve been working hard this year so far.

How did you first get into music and when did you realise you wanted to do it as a career?

I’ve always been a fan of music from an early age and just remember the way it made me feel. So I guess I just kept chasing that feeling, which lead me to make my own. Then, after a couple years of trial and major error I found my sound, with “Jenny’s House”.

When you were growing up, who or what influenced you the most? Both musically and non-music related?

I think growing up it goes without saying that you start getting influenced by all the new people you’re encountering. The more I was stepping into musical spaces, the more I was meeting people from all walks of life. Which meant when I was finally ready and comfortable with my sound, everything felt right. Now I’ll make a song and be like, that section never would of been made if I hadn’t been shown whatever UK rap artist back in 2014 by my mate in the park and if I hadn’t let that girl show me her favourite indie band, the chorus would of never sounded like this. If that makes sense?

Your lyrics always come across as sincere and meaningful. What in particular do you seek to achieve with your lyrics for both yourself and listeners?

Thank you, I take that as a big compliment. A lot of the time it’s as simple as trying to get my thoughts out in the way that feels best. Whether it’s something I’ve been through, someone I know or things I’m seeing in my surroundings. So as I’m going through life, the listeners are coming with me in a sense, because most of it gets put into the music. The fact I’m able to just say what I want, be me and have people relate is definitely rewarding. So if it’s a deeper tune, filthy dance anthem or whatever, the people can know that’s exactly how I felt and what I felt like making.

You recently played your first ever headline gig at The Waiting Room, congrats! We saw some videos and it looked sick. How did it feel and what were the main highlights from the night?

Ah, that was definitely a moment. First headline sold out, couldn’t have asked for anything more. Hearing people sing back lyrics I had written in my room, months or years prior was just a mad feeling. A lot of those tunes were written when I was dreaming of doing something like that, so it meant a lot. It felt like a big party to be honest, everyone who turned up just came with proper genuine energy. Highlights have to be getting my name chanted, meeting the supporters, doing shots with them and hearing what the music means to them! But life can humble you quick time, when you’re getting ID’d to get back into your own gig haha, lads didn’t let me hear the end of that for a couple weeks. 2022 more shows, music and research into beard oils or something, ha.

We’ve seen you are playing at Colours in Hoxton later this year too! How are you feeling and is there anything you’ll do differently? 

Yes, I’m proper excited for the next headline at Colours Hoxton, going to go off. Always got some nerves somewhere in the system but I guess that just means I care. Aiming to make each show better, just in terms of tracklist, playing new tunes and the overall performance from me. Always more to learn. I’m definitely going to make more of a conscious effort to take in the scenes, because once the night happens it’s done. So that’s a subtle reminder to the people to grab their tickets, go have a look at the last show and slide through, you won’t regret it.

In terms of releases, you finished off last year with a captivating EP called I’m In If You Are containing a range of genre-bending tracks from the softer tones of “Feels Like” to the faster tempo “Little Bit”. Where do you place yourself in terms of genre?

In terms of genre, I don’t think I’ll ever stop trying new things. Some might work, some might not but that’s part of the process in my eyes. As long as it all still sounds like me and the stories are coming from a genuine place, I think everything will be sweet.

What genres do you mainly listen to in your spare time? Are there any artists at the moment you draw inspiration from that might not be expected?

I listen to a lot of music, from artists in all kinds of scenes. I’d say a lot of UK Rap definitely, dance, indie, jazz, garage, the list goes on. I’ll have a band like ‘Peter Cat Recording Co’ on one minute and the next will be an old school ‘Streets’ track and that might followed up by the latest viral sensation. So pretty much anything goes, if I feel the vibe from the tune it’s getting spun.

If you had to pick a favorite song from the EP, which would it be and why?

“Raining Colours” means a lot to me because I felt like for a while I had to follow up with another ‘big’ track. That track kind of taught me that if you keep doing what feels right, with the best intentions then something will come your way. Having said that, “Little Bit” definitely holds a special place just because I love the tune.

You clock a series of high quality features from Joe James, Loie and Feux on the EP. How did these come about? And do you enjoy working with other artists?

They all came about naturally which was important to me and I’m a big fan of all the work they make. It was a pleasure to get them on the EP and the first time having features for me, which was cool. It’s nice to give the listeners something a bit different. I feel like they all switched it up a bit from their usual styles on the tracks too, which made it that bit more special for everyone to hear. If you’re reading this make sure to go give them all a listen.

Who would you most like to collaborate with over the next year or two, is there anyone you’ve got your eye on for later down the line?

I would say there is a few for sure. Would love to get in the studio with Mike Skinner and work on something some day, he’s a big inspiration to a lot of the sounds I’m making. Jay Prince is definitely another artist I’m a fan of and would like to make music with. There’s a heap more, but I’ll say those two are what I’m thinking today.

Your latest single “Romance in Great Britain” is a really nice listen. The lyrics describe a relationship between a boy and a girl who seem to want different things. What are the lyrics based on? Is there a story behind the track you can share with us, if it’s not too personal?

The track is just based on countless relationship’s I’ve seen end with a similar fate. A lot of the tracks I had heard about romance always glorified one end of the story, endless happiness or complete misery. So I just thought it would be nice to make something that hopefully people can relate to and also have a dance too.

What was the creative process behind the track?

So I made “Romance in Great Britain” in summer 2021. I’ve worked a lot with a producer called ‘Highager’ from Denmark on this next EP I’ve got coming out. Got some exciting bits in the pipeline but this ones the first one to land!

Can you tell us more about this forthcoming EP and what to expect?!

Alongside making the music, putting it out has to be one of my favourite parts of the game. With each new project I feel like the content is becoming slightly more grown as I’m getting a bit older, but the honesty is still there in the lyrics. There’s a range of genres from dance to slightly more indie/alternative, definitely something for everyone. Can’t wait to get the new tracks out for summer.

Let’s speak some stuff into existence. Where will we be seeing you this year? And do you have any aspirations you want to be achieving over the next few years?

This year you can see me at my headline show at Colours Hoxton in May! Hopefully I’ll get some bookings in cities I haven’t touched down in yet. Just catch me trying to spread the word as much as possible. It’s hard to think to deep into the future. So I’m just trying to put the work in now, to help shape it. If you see me on a bunch of festival line up’s in a couple years to come, travelling too different countries to do music bits with my mates, then just know I’m happy as Larry. If I’m living off music then surely everything else has to be a bonus?

Six songs mustbejohn has on rotation right now:

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