Artist Interview – Justin Llamas
Justin Llamas is a multi-talented entertainer having credits in music, TV, podcasts, and more. In this exclusive Traklife interview, we got to ask Justin about his new single, his favorite projects, and much more!
How did you get your start in music?
My start is a little different than most! My entire childhood I had expected my life to be centered on comics. I thought that I would be the next big comic book artist, creating my own stories for the entire world to see. Things changed in high school when I met these two really talented singers, new kids at my school. They were SO good. I didn’t know real singers existed in real life and not only on TV. That’s what sparked my interest in music. That it was even possible. It wasn’t until years later in college that I fell in love with performing. I auditioned for a show, booked a part, and never looked back.
Comics are still definitely a part of my life, though.
Before releasing original music, you posted covers on YouTube. What have you learned about yourself as an artist since focusing on your original music, rather than covers?
Singing and performing covers is great—it really is. But you don’t realize how much you miss out on self-reflection because you are busy emulating someone else. Putting my own words on paper and making myself vulnerable to strangers was nerve-racking, but a completely life changing experience. Music is therapy. Making your own music is straight medicine. And being able to relate my experiences with my listeners is the ultimate healing experience. Even when I sing covers now, I make sure to put myself into every song. You have to be you on stage, or even in that vocal booth. Don’t cheat yourself that experience.
Where do you typically find inspiration for your music?
Inspiration literally flocks to me. I only write from real life experiences, and I make sure I am constantly living my life to the fullest. You can’t write from life if you’re not living, am I right?
Any hardship, life-changing moment, hard-hitting quote from someone important to me… I write it down. To me, making music is another form of journaling. I want to capture every moment of my life in song so that I never forget it, and so that I can tell my story.
What was the writing process like for your latest single, "Friends Don't Come Round"?
“Friends Don’t Come Round” came from a real place of loneliness. My life had shifted drastically. I had moved a good distance from most of my friends. My work life had changed. My life was up in the air. And on top of that, I was going through a real tough time in my personal life… I really needed a friend. And I remember looking at my phone, wondering who I could talk to about it, and the list was so low…
So I started with the chorus. Choruses are usually a breeze for me. I’m pretty good at making a power-punching melody that hits on the right words. The message was simple enough—I don’t see my friends as much as I used to. Then I went on to question “why?” The verses dive right into my wondering of why I felt I had no friends at the time. Did I chase them away? Was it something I did or said? And the bridge was especially fun to write. I expanded on the questioning, but also explored what I typically do in real life when I’m sad—I pretend everything is okay.
I created a piano and vocal demo from home. I brought it to my amazing producer Lenny Ruckus (Lenny Douglas), and had my other amazing producer Brian Altman play electric guitar over it. I am absolutely in love with the final product.
What is a venue or city you one day hope to perform in?
I may be crazy, but if I never wrote this down I would be doing a disservice to myself. Two of my biggest dreams are performing at the Superbowl, and performing at Coachella. I’m not sure at what capacity I’ll be at those venues, but I’m promising myself that I’ll do it. One day…I’ll be there.
Your work in the entertainment industry expands past music, having done voiceover work and been features in commercials. What have been some of your favorite non-music projects?
I’ve been acting professionally for over 10 years. There are so many projects that I’ve done, but one of my favorites was getting to voice a character in a sci-fi podcast titled I/O by Phantom Customer. It’s written by Alee Karim and edited by Agnes Szelag. It’s really creative, and I’m a sucker for good stories.
Another one I’ll never forget is the commercial I did for San Jose State. It was my first time being a lead in a major project. I distinctly remember showing up the first day and being told to join the other extras. I said very confidently, “I am not an extra.” It was seriously a life changing moment haha.
You recently announced that your music is available to be played on AMI Jukeboxes. How does it feel to know that your music is available to be played in hundreds of jukeboxes across the country?
It’s honestly such a good feeling. This is a big step in my music career, and it didn’t happen overnight. This is only the beginning! Btw, everyone go to your local bar and play “Friends Don’t Come Round” on the AMI Jukeboxes!
What is your ultimate goal as an artist?
I want to influence culture. I want to create meaningful art that changes people on a global scale. And ultimately, I want to give back. I want to be able to help others create art. I think as artists, it’s our duty to leave something behind, just as those before did for us.