Putting the Nation on the musical map

Justin 'Jus Bus' Nation talks motivation, inspiration and the pain and gain of a musical life in a micro-society

      

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Photo by Anderson Andrew

If the name 'Jus Bus' is not instantly recognisable as the moniker of an avant-garde music producer and songwriter, then watch this space. The self-taught talent, now hard at work on his debut album, is causing bigger waves than a category five hurricane. At the age of 30, he's already worked with a multitude of greats from Jamaican reggae stars Jah Cure and Tanya Stephens to US heavy-hitters Snoop Dogg and Bobby Brown. Here the publicity-shy Texan-born, Antiguan-raised artist chats exclusively to Luxury Locations The Magazine.

What did you want to be as a child?
"I had no clue. I was never one of those children that stood up in class and said 'I wanna be a fireman or a dentist'. "I went through all sorts of ways to express myself, including break-dancing, before I got to where I am now. But let me tell you the day I figured out I could make music I knew exactly what I wanted to do."

What music did you grow up listening to?
“As a child I was listening to Stevie Nicks, Journey, Styxx, Red Ryder, Ambrosia, Jackson Browne, Quarterflash, Pat Benatar, Rosemary Butler, Linda Ronstadt, Michael Jackson, Santana, The Eagles, Madonna etc. And lots of classic rock stuff; that might be why I lean towards that genre when singing because I was listening to it on a subconscious level as an infant through my mother who loved music.

“I am also heavily influenced by Nina Simone who is one of my all time favourite artists, and a lot of classic reggae, hip-hop and rap material. Good music is good music. I dabbled in all genres growing up.”

How did you get into music?
"I always loved music. I'm friends with a producer from St Kitts by the name of Jevon, aka Smiff, and he showed me how to make a beat one day with the software he used at the time. After that it was a wrap.

"I kept fiddling and pushing and clicking until I got the hang of it, day by day, night by night, hours on top of endless hours of constant practice. Over a number of years of pretty much living a gypsy life, in and out of different studios and creative establishments, with the encouragement of a few friends, I taught myself piano, graphic design, photography and song writing.

"I am now singing and have been working on my own material for the last three years with the help of Torsten Stenzel (Antiguan-based veteran composer and producer) who helped me find my voice as an artist."

What are you working on right now?
“At the moment I'm working on several projects. I'm finishing up some work with 'Them Island Boyz' which includes some Antiguan artists - LogiQ Pryce, Drastic and Tha Shya. I'm also working on a few singles for Jah Cure’s new project as well.“I recently dropped an instrumental mix tape called ‘Popcorn & Water: Instrumental Visions’ which features unreleased production work I have done on an exclusively instrumental level. Apart from that I've been finishing up my debut album project with Torsten Stenzel which will feature me more vocally.”

What inspires you?
"Everything. Life’s ups and downs, highs and lows, nature, people, culture and my surroundings. Just life in general."

How would you describe Antigua’s music scene in three adjectives?
"Seasonal, frustrating and segregated. And, on the flipside, creative, fun and diverse. Two perspectives, six adjectives."

Any advice for young musicians just starting out?
"Yeh. Put your seatbelt on; this race is not for the swift but for those who can endure. It's a long journey filled with disappointment but it’s also filled with lots of great opportunity if you work hard. "Patience, persistence, dedication, hard work, understanding and empathy can all help to make you not only a better person but ultimately a better artist and musician."

How can we ensure young up-and-coming artists get the attention and resources they deserve?
"By supporting them, spreading the word and encouraging them to be great. It’s also up to the artists to not settle for mediocrity in their work and put in the hours so that when they showcase their work it’s undeniable and can make an impact on people and inspire them. "If people can connect with it then it will spread on its own. It’s a process, things don’t happen overnight and you just have to keep going at it and believing in whatever it is you strive to be."

What are the pros and cons to producing music on a small island?
"There is so much beauty within this island’s people and culture that can be useful when trying to be creative and inspire yourself. Sometimes my friends and I take hikes up into the hills or to a beach just to jam out with acoustic instruments and tap into our surroundings that way. "Some of the cons are, you’re isolated to the 108 square miles and your opportunities are slim unless you network outside the country, online and build solid relationships over time. "I also feel like the government doesn't really support artists on a large level. The industry here is still pretty boxed up into one genre of music, at one time of the year. But year-round there are loads of young musicians, writers and creative types actively working at all sorts of genres of music, poetry and art.

"I think that if we help to support this type of creative behaviour, musically and artistically, our culture in the music and arts sector can evolve greatly. A lot of people get discouraged because from a young age they are being told that they can’t succeed at their dream because it’s not the normal doctor or dentist stereotypical job that their parents see fit for sustainable income. "If the government and more people took it seriously and equally took risks and chances then an infrastructure could be made for year-round arts and music on a more realistic economic level for people - instead of this fairytale, 'movie star' illusion that’s being fed to young kids through TV and internet."

How has social media changed the dynamics for musicians?
"Social media allows the independent artist who has no budget to broadcast and stream their music to the world at the touch of a button, free of cost, which is a great tool if used the right way.

"The downside is that you can easily get distracted in the many different mediums available, not to mention all the content shared on the internet. You can get lost for hours just looking at stupid memes and YouYube videos.
"The fact there are so many social media and instant messaging applications results in you having to constantly be on your Smartphones and electronic devices which results in you becoming addicted through habit and you don't even realise how it affects your ability to self-reflect, feel emotions and have a healthy attention span.

"It can also affect the younger generation’s perspective on what's really important as an artist or musician. So many different illusions are being created for them on wealth, fame, grandeur that they get attached to that idea, so instead of becoming great individuals who can inspire each other to be better human beings, they mimic what they see on TV, on the internet and social media, which affects their development on a very negative level. "My advice – don’t be a zombie, get out, experience life and strive for better."

Out of all your creative outlets (graphic design, photography, songwriting and producing music), which could you least live without?
“Well I can’t live without being creative so to take any of that away limits me and I don’t wanna limit myself. I always try to challenge myself musically and creatively and I don’t settle for mediocrity. This can be achievable from a small island such as ours or any other island for that matter if you work hard, no matter your circumstances or financial status.

“I want whatever I do to truly affect people on a positive level. In a nutshell, all I wanna do is inspire people globally with my art and music.”

What did you get nominated for a Grammy for?
“Well it was Snoop Lion who got nominated for best reggae album [for ‘Reincarnated’]. By default everybody involved in the project was a part of that nomination which was pretty exciting because I produced a record on the album with Supa Dups and Diplo. The record featured Collie Buddz and the song had a video that got over three million views in less than four months.

“We didn’t win which didn’t bother me ‘cause my objectives aren’t to win awards but to inspire the masses globally through my crafts. That said, I am grateful to be a part of a Grammy-nominated album.”

What is the last book you read?
“The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.

If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money?
“I don’t gamble or play so no chance of me winning that. But let’s say I found a winning Lotto ticket and won that much money, I would keep two million of it to help start a foundation for myself and give the rest to charities here on island and in other areas of the world.”

What question do you most dislike being asked during interviews?
“Ha. Didn’t have one until you asked that.”

What’s your biggest regret and proudest achievement?
"I don't have any regrets; life is a journey and I believe everything happens for a reason. As for my proudest achievement, I would have to say just being alive and being able to express my creativity in so many ways now, considering my odds growing up."

by Gemma Handy