DIANE: Hi PJ! It was so nice meeting and shooting you last week. It was even more special seeing you perform at The Troubadour during the start of your set. Were you nervous at all? Do you have any pre-show rituals before a performance?
PJ: I always get super nervous, like right before I go on. I'll take a shot for my nerves. I don’t know – my nerves are pretty ridiculous.
Congratulations on the release of your album, RARE [released in July]. How did you think of starting the album with the storytelling narrative in “Something Special”?
I really wanted RARE to tell some type of story. And when Killamari finished the art, it gave me so much inspiration. At first it was this really elaborate fairy tale, but to actually do it, there would've been too many skits. So maybe I'll make it into my own fairytale later. And then Kid Cudi’s Man on The Moon: I just feel like it had the most epic skits, the same way I feel about Kanye West's Dark Twisted Fantasy.
The chorus on “Something Special” is very candid: I heard a lot of bullshit / I’ve gotten my fair share / I’m living with a dream I / I got no time to care. What was the inspiration for this track in particular? Does the message of the song pertain to any experiences you’ve had working in the music industry?
People just continually pissing me off, haha. I'm just tired of people not treating me like I'm priority, like I'm not worth their time, you know? It's a very annoying thing, but that song, it's just like I don't care anymore. I'm not gonna let that bother me anymore. I don't want to be distracted by other peoples’ BS either.
In an article for the LATimes.com, you stated, “It took me 26 years to be comfortable in the skin I’m in. I really wish I knew I was this cool the way that I was.” This really resonates with me as someone who never thought she’d start her own magazine, and who, like you, used to consider myself as pretty shy. Do you have advice you’d give others who need a little bit of a push to go outside of his or her boundaries to achieve self-confidence?
I honestly feel like I'm the one that needs confidence boost, haha. But I feel like there's a misconception in the world, that you have to be the loudest person in the room for people to take a chance on you. The music Industry has their own ideals for what makes somebody a star (which is ridiculous – as if you can tell by just looking at a person what their potential is). But you should get your confidence from your work. When I listened to my music, right before we wrapped, I just felt like I had done something dope. And I stand behind it fully. And to see people connect with it, the way I do, lets me know that I'm right.
“This Is What It Looks Like” is by far one of my favorite tracks off of RARE (as well as “Tell Me” with Jevon Doe). What was the writing process like when you wrote this song?
It was a message to people that I felt were assholes, and that didn't understand me. It was a message to myself more so. It was like my own personal pep talk. And it just poured out of me. I can't even explain it. Keenan made the track, I remember he played it for me in the car, can't remember where we were going. And every word just came out. It was crazy, other than “Tell Me,” it's probably one of the fastest songs I've written.
What has been one of the best reactions you’ve received thus far from fans?
I made two people cry when I was on tour with K Michelle. I met this little girl, who told me she wanted to be just like me. It was a crazy feeling, and it was a feeling that is like the best one. I think the best reactions are when I can just see that my honesty translates. That it hits them. Like when I sing “Nickel and Dimes” and I sing the second verse about single moms and people come up to me after the show, and they're like, “I love this song". Or even just the fact that I'm singing for 30 people that have no idea who I am, to hear them sing, “This Is What It Looks Like" [in the audience] – it's crazy.
You are about to go on the ‘Free The Real!’ North American Tour with Bibi Bourelly! What are you most looking forward to while on tour? Do you keep a journal or do any personal writing in-between cities? Is your dog Zombie going to be joining you on tour as well?
Man, I'm looking forward to meeting and making more fans and seeing some of them that I just met. And just, like, memories. Kicking it with Bibi and Wondergurl. It's going to be my first time in Canada, so I'm too hyped. I actually can't write in a journal, because I get carsick, but if I get an idea, I’ll sing it on my voice memo. I wish I could take my Zombie, but it’s not the place for him right now.
Where do you feel most SUSPEND-ed?
When I'm actually totally engaged in my song. And when I'm on stage, it always seems like it goes by so fast. I feel like when I'm off stage, I'm a nervous wreck. I stress myself out about so many things, and when I'm on stage there's this calmness. It's like walking into this bubble, and it's really like the safest place for me. I don't worry about people mistreating me, or judging me, or whatever. It's just peace, and I'm happy. Performing is my favorite thing to do.
Photography & Interview by Diane Abapo
Styling by Hannah Song
Follow PJ on Instagram at @justpeej and on Snapchat at pajamajones