TJ Stafford is a thought-provoking, highly intelligent songwriter with a knack for crafting anthemic, genre-bending music that hits you at your core. Be sure to check out his debut album, “All My Bad Habits Have Prepared Me for This,” out June 30th, 2017.
In this interview spotlight, we chat with TJ about the newest project, influences, challenges and much more.
Full Q&A along with links and the video for Crazy below.
Where are you from and what style of music do you create? (In your own words, not necessarily in marketing terms or by popular genre classifications.)
I was born in a small town in Kansas but moved to Southern California when I was 10, so most of my ‘growing up’ happened in SoCal. As far as music style, it honestly depends on the song. I spent a good portion of my musical life catering to whatever genre I thought I was a part of or wanted to be a part of, and it felt claustrophobic. This album is the first where I catered the sound and production to what I thought would best express the song. It lead to some schizophrenic moments but made the songs exactly what I thought they should be. The lyrical and thematic content was already extremely honest, and I wanted the sounds to match that. Actually, now that I think about it, my upbringing probably played a big part in that. I’m from Kansas. And I’m from Southern California. On paper those two places imply different diametrically opposite things…but I’ve managed to make it work…i think?
What led you down this path of music and what motivates you to stay the course?
Music was a part of my life from a very early age. It was never actually my goal for music to be a career until after college. I stumbled upon some gigs, realized I could make money doing it, and the experience felt like home. From that point on I had to. There just wasn’t, nor will there be, another option.
My motivation has often changed, depending on circumstances. The one constant obviously being that I don’t see another option for my life. The lack of a plan B is extremely motivating, especially when plan A isn’t going anywhere. Those are the moments when the most progress is made, and really it just stems from a mix of desperation and pride. Because as great and beautiful making music for a living is, there have been times where it’s been miserable.
Now my primary motivation is gratefulness, knowing that these moments of success are not guaranteed. I’m thankful for every ounce of it. That thankfulness motivates me to work my ass off everyday, especially those days when I’m not feeling artistically ‘inspired’.
How is your new release different than previous ones? Did you set out to accomplish anything specific?
It’s the first release that I controlled from top to bottom. Previous releases have been in the context of a band, which can be great but inevitably leads to compromises along the way. This release is the first that was mine top to bottom, which is exactly what I set out to accomplish.
Do you face challenges as an indie musician in a digital age? How has technology helped you (assuming it helps)?
Of course! The biggest challenge is always figuring out how to monetize what we’ve created outside of previously traditional channels. How much energy and resources do we commit to physical copies being that everyone will most likely just stream the music? How do we market ourselves to stand out in world that is saturated with marketing? Does the personal exposure of touring outweigh the exposure of staying in studio and taking that time to create and release more music?
I never actually have answers to these questions. The digital age is amazing and horrifying, like any sea change in any industry: great and terrible. At the end of the day, it’s still about making good music.
Where can we connect with you online and discover more music?
Anything else before we sign off?
Thank you! New music is ubiquitous nowadays, so thank you for taking the time to explore mine. It’s sincerely appreciated.