In today’s music industry, just being a performer may not take you a far as it use to. Being a jack of all trades is a greater indicator of the possibility of long term success. This is why NYC’s Just Cletus is on the verge of mastering the music business. The experienced singer-songwriter, producer, and artist manager has worked with some of the biggest names in music including Stevie Wonder, Celine Dione, Boi-1Da, and the New York Philharmonic.
Besides writing and producing for other artists, Cletus is also an accomplished singer and performer in his own right. His sincere love of all types music can be felt in his own catalog of songs that blend R&B, soul, hip hop, rock, and pop with a classical influence. Now he wants to use his experience to nurture new talent through his music/video production and management company, Colorblind Enterprises.
Fresh off touring the West Coast, Cletus agreed to share his opinion on today’s pop music, how he’s managed to cross genres so effectively, and several other musical topics with DZI: The Voice. Ladies & Gentleman, Just Cletus.
Yohance Kyles: When did you first discover your voice as an artist?
Just Cletus: I first discovered that I could sing when I was a little kid. I would put on private talent shows for my family.
YK: You’re a songwriter, performer, producer, and manager. Do you have a particular preference or leaning to one area you enjoy doing more?
JC: When I really started focusing on my music seriously, I had to do everything. I had no budget so I became used to doing everything — writing, producing, arranging, backgrounds, video storyboarding, production, etc, etc. I never found one to be more important than the other; they all must be perfect. So no, I like to do everything . No preference except to be the best I can be.
A lot of people just want to hear something that makes them feel good and helps them to escape, so I do a sort of ‘world pop soul’ music.
YK: You’ve describe your sound as “pop with old fashion lyrics” and “feel good music”. Do you think that a lot of pop music today is lacking depth and emotion?
JC: Yes, I like to call my music “feel good music”. There is some great music out there, but we may have gotten away from great love songs. Lyrically, many songs — especially dance music — have lost their feel. People write about anything these days, and that’s ok, but I don’t want to lose touch with some of that old soul. A lot of people just want to hear something that makes them feel good and helps them to escape, so I do a sort of ‘world pop soul’ music.
YK: Do you think that’s just the state of mainstream music today or will the industry eventually move back towards providing fun music but with stronger lyrical content?
JC: I think everything goes in cycles — the type of music being played in the clubs today was being played in the early 90’s and it was called underground, then house, then techno, then rave, etc. If the right mixture of sounds is created, it will really actually change the sound of music. People want to hear good music, but they want to hear a better message as well.
YK: What was the inspiration for you to write your new single “Left Side Right”?
JC: “Left Side Right ” actually started out as a joke. A friend of mine was talking about dancing one day and said, “Man Cletus… I wish I could dance like you, but I wasn’t blessed like that. When it comes to dancing I was given two left legs. I can’t go to the right”. That’s where the idea came from…I would create a dance song, “Left Side Right”. The song is a lot of fun. We’re producing the music video in August so look out for it!
YK: You’ve also written songs of other artists. When you write a song for someone else are you telling the story from your own perspective or do you try and tap into the other artist’s persona?
JC: When writing for others, I like to spend a little time around the individual to feel out their style, see how they move and sing, and to hear what they talk about. I like to make their songs more personal and consistent with who they are — their lives, their feelings.
YK: A lot of producers only work with one sound of music, but you’ve produced songs in several genres. How have you been able to successfully crossover into different musical styles?JC: The crossover to me, when writing music and lyrics, is all about a feel. I love using different styles and ‘feels’ of music, combining those sounds, or just testing my own skills out by writing types of music or lyrics that I’m not used to. I’ve done it that way for so long, it’s become second nature to me and in some ways hard to describe. I know it when I hear it. You tell me the style and what elements you’re looking for and I can create it, no matter what it is — even classical and opera. Your talent is limited by your own creativity.
YK: Your company Colorblind Enterprises focuses on developing talented individuals in the music industry. What do you look for in an artist or producer when trying to determine if they are someone you would like to join Colorblind?
JC: Colorblind Enterprises is exactly as its name suggests – a place where musicians meet to create music that sees no color. When working with others we first look for that quality. We look for individuals who are serious, whose desire runs deep. A person must be open to change, and must come with no ego or pride. Those qualities only hold you back. We develop and tap into an artist’s voice, appearance, and attitude.
YK: You’ve spent the summer performing at numerous music festivals. How was that experience?
JC: This summer has been amazing. I’ve had the honor of performing at some great music festivals. So many people come out to those festivals…it’s a humbling experience. I learned so much being up on those stages and singing along with some of the most talented artists. It was a truly amazing experience.
YK: You’ve worked with some really big names in the music industry like Stevie Wonder, Celine Dione, and Wynton Marsalis. What was it like collaborating with such musical legends?
JC: I have been very blessed to be someone who has no name, but has had the experience of working with and alongside some very talented artists. I did some backgrounds for Stevie Wonder for about 2 months –unbelievable! I’ve gotten to have some great artists sing some of my songs… all a blessing. I just try to suck in as much as I can when I’m among folks like this. It all contributes to growth.
I love music sooo much — all styles — I’m shaped by it all. Simply put…Music inspires me.
YK: What musicans have inspired you as an artist?
JC : What artist inspires me? Any artist who has a pure passion for music. I love music sooo much — all styles — I’m shaped by it all. Simply put…Music inspires me.
YK: What’s next for Cletus and Colorblind Enterprises?
JC: What’s to come this year with me and Colorblind Enterprises? Hopefully we will be known and respected for being a company that artists want to be a part of and with whom they want to collaborate. As for me, I just want to share my passion for music.
For more info about Just Cletus and Colorblind Enterprises click it.
For a free download of the new single “Left Side Right” click it.
To connect with Cletus follow him on twitter @JustCletus
Check out the music videos for “Love Expressions” & “First Words”: