PJ North: “Make the music you want to make”

I would start a movement to end social commentary about things people know nothing about. I constantly see people making comments on social media and even in person just talking complete nonsense about something they know even less than me about haha. I just think people who aren’t happy, aren’t happy because they choose to […]

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I would start a movement to end social commentary about things people know nothing about. I constantly see people making comments on social media and even in person just talking complete nonsense about something they know even less than me about haha. I just think people who aren’t happy, aren’t happy because they choose to complain or be negative about everything, changing your own mindset goes a long way.

As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing PJ North.

Developing himself as a sort of double-threat in the country and drag racing markets. A Columbus, Ohio native, North began both careers at the age of 10, splitting his time between a 1/8th-mile track and a stage. Though he started off in hip-hop, North’s small-town upbringing was an inspirational mainstay and those inherent country influences continued to insert themselves into his craft. The diversity in his experiences has shaped North into the artist he is today, offering a classic country narrative infused with the rhythmic and lyrical aspects of pop and hip-hop — all set to the hum of a guitar.

Fans first got a taste of North’s sound with the release of his aptly titled EP Part-Time Cowboy, which released in 2016. Shortly after the release, North moved to Nashville and began collaborating with Music City’s most prominent emerging talent and performing around town at notable weekly showcases like Whiskey Jam and Bus Call. In 2017, he released sophomore EP If This Is It… which further showcased North’s unique style of country and evolution as an artist. He also took his act on the road, traveling the country in pursuit of both his passions.

North recently released his latest EP You Wouldn’t Get It, featuring popular singles “Afraid of the Dark” and Lites On.” The project features co-writes with up-and-comers Ryan Robinette, Davis Branch (Ray Fulcher) and Frank Legeay (Adam Doleac).

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio called Gahanna. My mom was my pre-school music teacher and my father was in a band back in the day so I had a little help in the creative arts category. I started dancing at a studio around age 8, where my sister studied dance and was a teacher there, so I naturally wanted to be a performer at a young age. I started getting into the artist thing in middle school — I would do talent shows and I would perform stuff for my friends, it was just sort of me needing to be entertaining and be the center of attention. When I was 10 I started drag racing, in a home built junior dragster that my father built me, so between racing and dance and other sports I was a pretty active kid. I was very lucky to be afforded a lot of opportunities and I am so thankful for that and how it helped mold me as the person I am today.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I would say my first concert, which was Brooks and Dunn. I was around 5 or 6 and I remember wearing jeans, cowboy boots, a leather vest, and a cowboy hat..I was ready to be on stage right then! I loved the show, it was everything I loved as a kid when I would ride around in cars with my parents and the radio would play my favorite songs. I truly believe at that moment it set my life in motion to be the singer/songwriter I am today.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I was trying out for one of those TV singing shows, and the initial stuff is basically a giant cattle call, thousands of people in a giant ballroom waiting to be called into a line, that leads to another line, that leads to a smaller line, then you go into a room and perform for 1 minute. Well while we were in the ballroom, I befriended a couple singing together that had ukeleles. They started playing a song that I said sounded similar to Justin Beiber’s “Baby” and I said hey let’s make a real splash here. I stood up on a chair, picked a girl out from across the room and just started singing. At the moment it seemed odd but everyone in the room paused and I kept going and at that point, we had captured most of the room. Right at the beginning of the chorus I did my best Hulk Hogan impression and put my hand to ear and everyone in the room joined in singing “Baby, Baby, Baby, ohhhhhh” It was pretty surreal at that point. I didn’t make it all the way on the show but I made past the first few rounds which was a neat experience, but that was pretty interesting to me.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Always have a backup plan for mechanical failures. I was playing a lot of shows at venues in Columbus and I would have to sell tickets. One of the first few ones I was playing during college, I had a terrible slot, it was still light outside and we were playing “The Basement ‘’ which is the dimmest lit place in Columbus. During the 3rd or 4th song of my set, my computer which I DJ’d off of and played tracks through just up and quit. Shuts off completely. I had no backup instrumentation at that point so that was the end of the set. All my friends were supportive and it ended up leading me to being more organized and prepared so a positive came out of that.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

During quarantine, I was very lucky to get the chance to write with my friends and new people, and then I had some great songs I was able to go in and record a full EP worth of songs. I am super excited about how it’s gone rolling out so far, “Turn It Up Some” was such a fun start and a great single for me to kick off the summer with, and now with “Saturdays Are For the Boys’’ I am just so pumped that my sound is really coming into its own lane. I’ve always strived to be different and I think these songs really showcase all my styles really well and are definitely on-brand for me. I feel very lucky to have met Frank Legeay and Michael Mechling, who I write with but they also Produce my songs, and it feels like they just get what I am going for. I also had the chance to continue writing for other artists and I am excited for them to release music, including Chris Ruediger who I think is the next big thing in Nashville, I am blessed to get to work with him and his team.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

I have been influenced by so many people who don’t look like me, didn’t grow up like me, don’t share the same things as me, and without that I wouldn’t be the writer I am today. So many people don’t understand how much everyone around them and everything they see affects them as artists. If I never heard Jay Z, I wouldn’t be chasing this dream like I am today. If I never heard Michael Jackson, I for sure wouldn’t be the artist I am today. Had I never seen Leanne Rimes sing “One Way Ticket” I would have never tried to sing and find my voice. Diversity is such an important piece of art because of the perspectives in which things are made, without diversity we would have a lot of boring art I am sure of that. Overall I believe it’s important to have diversity to continue to broaden people’s perspectives and people’s ability to see things differently and not be so nearsighted.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Make the music you want to make — don’t try to emulate what you hear on the radio for the sake of trying to be popular, make the music you want to make, if people believe what you’re singing they are more likely to connect with what you’re singing.

2. Don’t buy the $2000 KORG, you don’t know how to use it and you can’t play it — I wasted money on a KORG keyboard because someone liked the production of a song I did for a talent showcase and I thought I needed to up my game. Huge mistake.

3. Learn to promote yourself — I am not always great about talking about my music because I wanted to believe I was the best and if someone thought I wasn’t then maybe they were right. I had to learn very early on, your music isn’t for everyone and that’s ok too, some people just hate it to hate it.

4. Move out of Columbus — I should have gone away for college, I believe I would have had to sink or swim a lot sooner in life and it would have helped me down the road.

5. Learn how to play music — I should have picked up a guitar way sooner in life, could have saved myself time and money haha

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Hate to beat a dead horse but make the music you want to make and surround yourself with people who love it too. It took me a long time to be around people who love making music and the creative process around it all as much as I do. It took me to move to Nashville honestly.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would start a movement to end social commentary about things people know nothing about. I constantly see people making comments on social media and even in person just talking complete nonsense about something they know even less than me about haha. I just think people who aren’t happy, aren’t happy because they choose to complain or be negative about everything, changing your own mindset goes a long way.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Outside of my wife who I wouldn’t be here without, I have to say Nick Olaya. Nick was the bass player in a cover band I played in, we became best friends and he helped me start making the music I wanted to make. He’s been there every step of the way the last 8 years even when I moved to Nashville and he moved to Boston, we talk every day and he constantly gives insight and support and I owe him so much for all he’s done for me.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

In the words of the great Cody Rhodes “spend it now, make more later”. Money isn’t the end all be all, but it takes money to make money and you have to spend it wisely to make the best product you can. I have taken this maybe too literal at times but that’s half the fun, isn’t it??

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Jay Z, without a question. When I was starting in music I wanted to be just like him, super brash lyrics but also some so over the top you really had to think about what he was saying. He created an empire and he’s worked with artists most of us only dream about. Not to mention I bet he has great taste in lunch food!

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find me at, Instagram is ThePJNorth, Twitter is OfficialPJNorth, YouTube is ThePJNorth, and Facebook is ThePJNorth, can’t forget TikTok ThePJNorth

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