WPGM Interviews: Juls – African Heritage, Building Relationships And ‘Happy Place’

British Ghanaian producer Juls is not only known for his role in the rise of Afrobeats star Mr Eazi, having produced major hits for the Nigerian artist such as “Hollup”, “Bankulize” and “Skin tight”, he has also produced music for some of your favourite artists including GoldLink, Lauryn Hill, Tyler the Creator, Wande Coal, Masego, Burna Boy and more.

On top of producing, Juls is a DJ playing at some of the world’s major festivals including SWSW, Encore Festival, The Ends Festival, Lauryn Hill’s Diaspora Calling tour and now his very own ‘A Night With Juls’, as well as an artist and songwriter in his own right, with roughly a million monthly listeners on Spotify alone.

When we speak to him in the middle of the current lockdown, Juls is keeping his head down and working in the studio. “It’s getting to the point where I want to be able to see people but for now I’m focusing on creating”, he says about how he is getting through the isolation.

Last month, Juls released a progressive playlist called Happy Place featuring five tracks, and collaborations with the likes of Jaz Karis, Jah Cure, King Promise and Mugeez. “The plan was to work on an album, literally travel to different places, get some experience and build relationships with artists I have been in contact with”.

Unfortunately, due to the current climate, Juls has had to put plans for an album on hold, but keeping his fans in mind, he still wanted to share something with the world, hence the Happy Place playlist. “It’s a concept that my manager came up with. The playlist is five songs and we may add another playlist within the course of the year”.

Our conversation quickly switches gears into the strong influences across his music, and his heritage is something Juls will always include in his music, pointedly adding that “with regards to heritage, that is something I stick to regardless. It’s always going to be that way”.

His Influences include his Ghanaian roots and experiences from other countries or cultures. “I’m a big fan of Reggae and Dancehall music. I have a connection with the Caribbean culture through my God Mother as well. All of those influences will forever be in my music”.

Juls also highlights that working with major artists will not compromise these influences in his music. “When I make a record with a major artist you will definitely hear African elements in the music, whether it is Highlife, or some sort of percussion pattern that I have created. I literally try to blend as many sounds that I am influenced by on a regular basis”.

Happy Place features artists from South Africa, Nigeria, Jamaica and Ghana, and it is exciting to see which new sounds Juls will be including in his music in the future.

It’s all about timing and learning“, he tells us. “I don’t think it’s just about tapping into a sound. You need to do your research and experience these cultures first. I also need to genuinely enjoy the music and not tap into it only just because it’s hot. If I can affiliate myself and resonate with it then by all means”.

When it comes to genres within Africa and the Caribbean, they are all interconnected, with Juls expanding, “African music in general, all the instruments are the same it’s just we play them differently. A guitar played by a Congolese person will be played different by a Ghanaian person. Blending our music is a true celebration of all our cultures”.

It’s an extraordinary time for us all during quarantine, and a lot of the records on his new Happy Place project were created during the quarantine period, so Juls has been working with people remotely. The producer and musician shares how he has been managing to adapt and avoid hindrance to his creative process.

It’s always better to have sessions with the artist and build creatively so you can bounce off each other. These days what I have been doing is making use of FaceTime to discuss the sounds we are creating. It’s just always better being in each other’s physical presence so you can create a vibe and also build a relationship”.

Juls also adds how building relationships is important to him, especially in order to make progress. Ideally, he would like to build relationships beforehand.

In February, Juls traveled to South Africa to experience the culture first hand, and he became a fan of Amapiano, a style of house music that emerged in South Africa in mid 2010s. He describes how South Africans embrace their lifestyle.

They make the most out of their surroundings and they really try and make do. They express a lot of their pain through dance and music. That’s where the name ‘Soweto Blues’ derives from. In life you have to make the most out of your surroundings and build from that. That’s the message in ‘Soweto Blues’”.

Juls also highlights another message in “Soweto Blues”, one of his biggest singles this year. “If you listen to ‘Soweto Blues’, at first you’ll think it’s about a relationship but it’s about a Love-Hate relationship you have with a place you are connected to”.

Juls has been successful in strategically attracting his audience, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that the support has grown from locations such as Johannesburg, due to the kind of music that Juls has been releasing. As of late, the United States have also become amongst Juls’ top listeners.

I built a strong network in New York because I have a small fan base there. I like to go there and continue to build on the relationships I have there”.

In addition, Juls is also receiving a lot of love from London, Stockholm, Toronto, Paris, Amsterdam, and Australia, to mention a few. As for why interest from these regions, he offers a possible explanation, “When I’m blending my music you can hear some sort of Latin, some sort of Afro or dancehall vibe and I guess that’s why it has sparked interest in these locations”.

However one thing Juls will not do, is focus solely on numbers and follower stats, “The internet is cool but sometimes it’s not accurate. People are always thinking about followers or numbers. I used to think about that a lot, I still do sometimes but really and truly it is about your fans and that’s what I try to focus on. So I can cater to that”.

For right now, Juls is dedicated to focusing on producing more work. “Right now literally all we can do is put out music and engage with our audience. Vibes to enjoy while we are all at home”.

As for what the future holds beyond the lockdown, there are many goals and achievements that Juls is working towards.

In time, the dream is to have my own label where I build talent, but for now I want to build on my brand to work with more prolific artists. Trying to aim a lot higher. The way I see it, I would like to be the black Calvin Harris for example. DJ known all over the world, producing all these records with all of these amazing artists”.

While Juls has worked with many prolific artists, some of which we listed above, he has many more he looks forward to collaborating with. “My dream collaboration would have to be Busta Rhymes. That’s one of my favourite rappers of all time. That would be amazing”, he confesses.

What about his immediate future, well Juls hasn’t revealed any clues on what to expect, only adding, “Wait and see… Hopefully we can do some small events in the near future and we can be creative with it. For now, I’m just focused on creating more music”.

On the music end, we thankfully didn’t have to wait too long! Since the release of Happy Place, Juls has followed up quickly with a 2-track collaboration with Sango titled Fufu & Grits on Soulection, and most recently, his brand new single featuring Randy Valentine titled “Wata”.

For more new music and future gigs post-lockdown, Keep tabs on Juls on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Words by Claudia Namu

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