– Juozas, you have your songwriting career up and running, how did it all start?
– I started playing guitar at the age of 14, and right from the beginning I had this idea of writing songs. So, I started learning the craft from playing covers at parties. For a couple of years me and some friends had a pop/rock band, then I discovered Jazz. I studied music for seven years at a conservatory and at the Lithuanian Music And Theatre Academy. After that I studied in Denmark for one year. I released two instrumental albums with my Band Insearch, but realized I missed having vocals on my songs.
When you play with established artists, which I’ve been doing quite a lot, you eventually come across the opportunity to pitch a song. That happened to me in 2015. I wrote a song for a Lithuanian artist, Vaidas Baumila, which is called “Ant mašinos stogo” (“on top of the car”). It became really popular, and I got a lot of attention from other artists and musicians. It felt like stepping into the spotlight. It gave me the momentum I needed to get going with my career.
– What are your earliest memories in connection with music??
– There is a photo of me and my dad, where he’s helping me play the harmonica. I am about one and a half years of age. At five I started choir lessons, and when I was seven I entered a famous Lithuanian boys choir/music school “Ąžuoliukas”. Those are a few key moments. It’s hard to pick a single. I did listen a lot to music as I grew up, and I guess you can say that my older sisters had something to do with that. They were big fans of Backstreet Boys, Nsync and other boyband groups. I came to like Hanson a lot.
– I know you have a daughter, what kind of music are you introducing her to?
– Yes, she’s turning four soon! Well, I’m afraid she doesn’t get to hear a lot of Backstreet Boys. My musical preferences has shifted slightly. Troye Sivan is good! I also enjoy listening to John Mayer, Beck, Coldplay, Radiohead.
– So, this will become her earliest musical memories, and of course, the songs you are writing yourself. Tell me about them. What kind of music is it?
– I write a lot about self-trust, lack of confidence, love and relationships. On my own debut album I sing about childhood, social media comments, nature and about not giving up.
Musically I focus on harmony and musical form. Getting the right mood is critical, and so is the build up and maintenance of energy, where form is important. Obviously, arrangement and music production will have to work as well.
– What is life like in Lithuania, for a songwriter like yourself.
– I’m doing good. Lithuania is a small country, so If you want to earn a living on writing music you have to start connecting with the rest of the world. Which is quite possible today, and thank you for contributing to it! Thus far I have been balancing between gigs, teaching and songwriting.
Life in Vilnius, our capital, is pleasant. The place is growing, people are moving here to study and Lithuanians move back and fourth, all over the world, and bring home new ideas and knowledge. I think there are lots of reasons to be optimistic.
– How present are the memories of Soviet times? Do they affect your life? Your parents grew up in USSR. Do you think those times still influence society in a way that has bearing on your own life?
– Right. I think the communist era still has a lot of bad influence on society. The way people think, the level of self confidence, the way most people put a limit to what they consider possible, what they can dream about, and how to reach those goals. I think my generation is more open, more free than people ten years older. There’s a difference. The shadow is fading, and I believe my daughters generation will be more courageous.
– And, what do you yourself want to accomplish?
– I want to create, to write songs as much as I can. To really be able to live off it and support my family is my first ambition. I’ve done well in Lithuania but would love to collaborate more internationally. I wonder what it feels like to have written a song that is played all over the world. That is something I would very much like to experience.
– And you did write a couple of very nice tunes at the camp(!) In a year or so, when I discover them on some chart, I will not be surprised. Tell me something about your experiences from the past week.
– It was very exciting to meet all these people, to see how they work, share ideas and learn new stuff. One of the things I enjoyed the most was the thrill of listening to new tracks added remotely. Wow, this one takes the song in a new direction. It really inspired me to do my very best. It was great. I enjoyed it so much I had difficulties leaving my studio in time for rehearsals, gigs and recordings. It was a great week.