TJ was born in the Midwest to Texas parents, raised in Southern California, and has traveled the world a few times over. His music is a true outgrowth of the diversity and complexity of those roots.
Called a "full blown roots rock machine" by the LA Weekly, he has recently been signed to Extreme Music, featured on the Grammy.com ReImagined series, in the world-wide trailer for the Sony Playstation release of The Last Of Us, and in the trailer for HBO's True Blood Season 7.
The following is taken from an interview with Always Therro magazine:
Tell us how you got started?
As a musician? My mom forced a guitar in my hand when I was five, put me in lessons, and allowed my dad & sis to torture me with sounds of playful merriment while I was locked in a room practicing.In the current manifestation? I had known all the guys in this band for years through music circles in L.A. We decided to get together for a benefit concert in 2007. Apparently we thought we could raise a lot of money by hacking our way through some bluegrass. Shockingly, it worked. I think we raised dozens and dozens of dollars.
What's the first thing you would say to someone when they ask you to describe yourself as an artist?
Besides 'broke'? Grateful. Actually 'awed' may be a better way to describe it. I say that not out of false humility, believe me. I legitimately think the music is awesome. What awes me is the process of music creation in and of itself. I've been doing it for years and I'm still amazed at the process. It's miraculous, I believe in the truest sense of the word. You start with nothing, essentially sound waves that aren't 'waving', and you take an instrument- whether it be vocal cords, wood and steel, taught nylon, etc., - and manipulate air until it makes a sound. It came from nowhere. Then somehow you put words in orders they've never been put in before to fit the sounds that have never existed before. Seriously, it's a freakin' miracle. Sure, we practice a lot and read a lot and hone whatever skills we have, but that I believe, at its essence, is not about becoming better musical tacticians, but better conduits through which the miracle can take place. Thus, I'm always awed.How long have you been in the industry?Years. Time is very relative in this industry though, especially with the constant flux of the so called industry. I've been in it for years, but there are days where it feels like I just got off the bus from ass-crack nowhere and am essentially an infant in this world, ignorant to the ways of this new paradigm. Of course, there are also days where it feels like I'm a seasoned vet, sitting on the porch in a rocking chair dispensing the wisdom of a musical Yoda. Essentially, I fluctuate between those two extremes hourly. Thus my occasional, spontaneous maniacal laughing fits.
What inspires your music?
Truthfully, bad decisions. I'd like to say a deep poetic insight into the layers of human emotion and worldly interaction, but really it's making bad decisions, then torturing myself by sitting in solitude and thinking about said bad decisions. I am deeply fascinated by the constant struggle in life. That struggle is ubiquitous and undiscriminating. It's fascinating to see every person, in every walk of life, social class, economic situation, etc., struggle, and fight, and then eventually overcome that struggle....or not. There's immense beauty in that. And paradox.
Tell us how you overcome obstacles?
Aside from my extensive parkour training, a lot of time alone. A lot of prayer. A lot of contemplating my navel. I took a day long Meyer's Briggs assessment a couple years ago and tested off the charts introverted. Like, less than 1% of the population kind of introvert. Thus, I spend a lot of time contemplating stuff. Of course, that in and of itself doesn't lead to overcoming obstacles. It took me a long time to be able to assess obstacles from a somewhat objective standpoint, even though those obstacles may be deeply personal. When I was able to learn how to do that I was/am better able to assess the obstacles, realize that they don't define me, then let go. I've learned that a lot of what people call 'overcoming' is really just letting go.
Where are you from?
I was born in a small town in Kansas and lived there until I was 11. My dad was in the oil business and they like to keep people on their Red Wing booted toes, so we got transferred to Southern California. Outside of a brief, not so pleasant stint in South Texas, an even more brief, very pleasant stint in Hawaii after college, I've been in SoCal ever since. I still like to claim Kansas roots, mostly when talking to a beautiful Midwestern girl, but really, I'm from L.A. That's where all my growing up has happened. It's home.
What artists in the industry inspire you the most today?
Right now, it's a lot of electronic artists. I just discovered the Glitch Hop genre the other day. First of all, the name of the genre is awesome. You know Smooth Jazz is gonna suck before you ever hear Smooth Jazz, just based on the name. Glitch Hop though? Who knows? Sounds like the musical version of Tron.
Why is that?
They're creating sounds that have never been heard in the history of the world. That's impressive. Just the auditory sensation in and of itself is an awesome experience. The exploratory nature of it is a refreshing reminder, even in a world of acoustic instruments, to not settle for how it's always been done.
What makes you different from other artists today?
A lot of things. Distinct birthmarks. The mole on my left pectoral. Musically I would like to say it’s a disregard for delineations in music. My band consists of classically trained musicians that play acoustic instruments. That being the case, we can put on a legit rock & roll experience, easily segue into hip-hop, bluegrass, pop, or all of the above without seeming schizophrenic. I'm actually very proud of that. It may be our collective delusion and lack of self awareness, but we actually think we can play anything. Heck, look for us on BeatPort.com in the Glitch Hop section soon.
What do you want your future fans to know about you?
I’m so, so thankful...in the present...and the future. I’m grateful that you are fans (are going to be fans? were fans?) The correct terminology in time travel gets very confusing. Anyway, seriously though. I’m extremely, extremely grateful. Like I said, it's all a miracle, I'm just stoked to be a part of it.