Songwriting – Interview with Singer/Songwriter Justin Luis

May 23, 2023

Interviewer: Carina, HYW intern

We all have a “beginning,” a catalyst that inspired us to create our art. Would you mind sharing with me how you got into songwriting?

I’ve enjoyed writing (in any form) as a medium of expression for as long as I can remember! It started off as mostly poetry and short stories, and as much as the writing — I very much delighted in the act of storytelling. Elocution, theatre, and eventually film made space for all of that—but songwriting, in particular, was, for most of my life, something I just did for me (or for people I’d write things for/about). I likened it to writing someone a letter, which I also like to do. Only recently, after moving to Nashville, did I begin to pursue music (and songwriting) as my main creative pursuit. And I think the reason for that is more so a disjointed ‘falling-into-place’ of a variety of things [e.g. moving to America, ending up in Music City, finding a community of songwriters, and the global pandemic to name a few], rather than a specific catalyst that jolted me into it!

Your music incorporates laxed beats—personally, I found myself reminded of the ocean—with your jazzy, soothing voice. How did you find your music style? 

I’d say I’m still in the process of finding my music style! My first record [Stolen] was definitely a big experiment, which is why it ended up as kind of a big hodgepodge of genres I grew up listening to [folk/jazz/rnb/pop/singer-songwriter/musical theatre]. I definitely do find myself settling into a more specific ‘sound’ with my next few releases, which I’m very excited for. So, I guess my answer to ‘how someone finds it’ would be just that! To go ahead and try a bunch of things! I think a lot of artists make the mistake of defining themselves too early on in their journeys, usually for the sake of branding, which I find detrimental to the creative process. It’s a pain to see, especially from people with so much talent. I think we’d all benefit from allowing ourselves to be surprised by the process more often!

While exploring your music, I found my favorite songs: “Space In Time” and “No Match For You.” Could you explain your creative process for one of these songs? And what is your creation/inspiration process in general?

Thank you so much! I really appreciate you listening.

And it delights me to find you asking about those two songs in particular because they are a pair. Each of the songs in the 8-track record is connected to another, and “Space In Time” is a response to “No Match For You” in the story being told.

I tried typing out, as simply as I could, how all of it ties together—but I think this interview I did about the whole thing sums it up more clearly!

Your turn! What is your favorite song that you have written? Could you explain why?

I don’t know if I can truly answer this one! Instead of a favorite, I tend to see my art (songs/poems/monologues/etc) as “which one I feel most connected to at the moment.” And whichever one it is, changes. Sometimes daily, based on what I could be feeling, going through, planning for, looking back on, etc. Currently, the song I feel most connected to is called ‘Too Much To Say” and it is unreleased (for now). But it will be out sometime this year! So stay tuned!

I see that, while you are Nashville-based now, you were originally from the Philippines. Do you think your heritage affects your music and its style? If so, how?

Oh most definitely! In a variety of ways, though a big one would definitely be the different perspectives provided by being bilingual, and fluent in not just both those languages (English and Filipino) but in the amalgamation of those two languages (oftentimes referred to as ‘Taglish”; “Tagalog” + “English” at the same time).

Languages are the lenses through which we experience life. And I’ve found that a lot of my writing comes from the perspective of attempting to articulate the spaces within those three lenses of mine that are usually lost in translation. Those are fascinating to me. And the more I look at them, the more I stumble upon new ideas and things I haven’t seen/been paying attention to.

What is the impact you want to make with your music? What are your future goals in the industry?

My pursuit of music is a personal one. It is first and foremost a medium of expression. It is a way for me to make sense of my experience of the world (sometimes from the experience of others, too). So, I think the impact I want to make with music is no different than the impact I would like to make as an individual: an honest and positive one that leads with and finds strength in compassionate vulnerability.

My future goals in the industry are somewhat non-existent. I am going to continue pursuing music as I do my life, and the people who will be drawn to my expression will be drawn to it. I cherish those connections with my whole heart. The industry can respond accordingly!


Justin LuisJustin Luis is a singer/songwriter currently based in Nashville, TN whose fondness for words (and singing them!) has taken over his life!!! *please send help*


Featured image by cottonbro studio on Pexels