In Tempe, Arizona, pop artist Just Tommy is back on BuzzMusic with another textured single, “Playing for Likes.” Always writing with heart and striving to add layered meaning with his songs, Just Tommy will stop at nothing until his audience is inspired and motivated through his music. Produced by Grammy Award-winning producer/engineer Chuck Alkazian at Pearl Sound Studios, his latest single “Playing for Likes” brings in perfection from all ends. Just Tommy mentioned that the track is loosely based on social media, and why we share the things we do with basically everyone in the world. Just Tommy brings an upbeat light rock instrumental while giving us a feel-good pop atmosphere with his positivity.
Beginning with Just Tommy’s lush electric guitar playing, “Playing for Likes” moves into an exciting pop sound with pulsing synths, solid drum patterns, and Just Tommy’s warm and broad-ranged vocals. As he begins singing lyrics of memories that feel incredibly distant, we can’t help but relate to every word he’s written. Slowly growing in volume and building to the anticipated downbeat at the hook, Just Tommy displays such pure talent and sincere imagery through each sound and lyric, as he also mentioned that the hook surrounds perception and that there’s much more than what meets the eye. From the uplifting instrumentals to Just Tommy’s authentic portrayal of imagery, “Playing for Likes” lets you hold on to reality. Be sure to listen to "Playing for Likes" here.
Hey Just Tommy, welcome back to BuzzMusic! It’s great to hear another textured and meaningful track from you again, with your latest release “Playing for Likes”. Could you share what made you write a song surrounding social media and reality?
Hey BuzzMusic! Thank you so much for having me back! "Playing for Likes" sort-of happened organically from a conversation with friends...and by that, I mean it happened by accident. I'd written the instrumental and was working through the main vocal melody for the first Chorus. The song was originally a story about someone who has their head in the clouds, and is looking down at reality, wondering how they got there. I suppose it could still be viewed from that lens if you wanted to. I find new meaning in it every time I listen to it. That's one of the reasons it's so special to me. The idea came to me back in the old days before the pandemic. I was hanging out with a group of people, and one of my friends absolutely lost his mind over a post that showed up in his feed. That sparked a long, conversation about the motivations behind why we post the things we do on social media. It was also the moment I knew what the song wanted to be about, or rather, that was when my ADHD brain took over and the concept took shape. I wanted to explore how someone might rationalize things in their head as they scroll through their feed. What might they see? How might they feel?
With your single “Playing for Likes”, not only does Just Tommy sing lead vocals, but you also did all the instrumentals as well. Could you share what your creative process was like when laying down each individual track, and working with Chuck Alkazian?
For sure! It's boring though. The creative process on "Playing for Likes" was pretty typical for me...Step 1: Start simple - I started out by writing the first verse and chorus on the guitar, and then recorded it in Logic. Step 2: Add chaos - I added 6 additional guitar parts using different guitars, including the 7 string I built. I even found a spot to use my Whammy pedal. I work it discretely into my songs as an homage to my favorite guitar player. After that, I added drums. I knew I wanted a steady kick and big toms in the verses. So I worked through that and the rest of the drum sounds. Next, I laid down the piano...I'm not a very good piano player. I took the piano melody, inverted the chords, then used that to create the synth and pad. Then it was time for some bass. I'd initially created a bass track using Serum, but we later decided the song demanded a real bass guitar instead. Fun fact: This is my first song with a live bass on it. Chuck was instrumental in helping with that part. Then came the task of figuring out vocal melodies. Step 3: Panic - It takes me forever to create my vocal melodies because I end up with 4-5 different variations and 4 out of 6 times, I end up using the first one I wrote down. Well as luck would have it, I used the second one because the first one sounded too familiar. I still can't put my finger on it. After panicking for a bit, my favorite part was next: Tracking vocals! I developed a vocal layering process that I've used on nearly every one of my songs. It consists of a main vocal, a vocal double, sometimes a double double, vocal at +1 octave, vocal at -1 octave, high harmony, low harmony, a bit of magic, and poof! A genuine JUST TOMMY vocal...After about 100 takes, some comping, and a healthy dose of editing. Step 4: Finish the song. I got the song into a decent demo shape, but it was still missing that extra something. I was stuck. I talked with my team at Unleashed Music about it and they were able to connect me with Chuck (I call him "the magician"), and Pearl Sound Studios. For me, getting to work with Chuck Alkazian is like when you open a chocolate bar and there's a golden ticket inside, and you get so excited you just can't even. That's what it's like. It's been a very surreal experience for me. He did some additional programming on the track as well as producing and mixing it. He absolutely knocked it out of the park. I don't want to give his secrets away, but what I'll say is this...when the guy holding the Grammy says "hey, how about this idea?"...If you enjoy "Playing for Likes", his advice worked.
Taking a look at Just Tommy’s discography, we’ve noticed that your sound can range from feel-good pop to thunderous rock. Could you speak on what led you to this broad path, and what musical inspirations might have helped you along the way?
When I write, I let the song take me where it wants to go. I sound like a hippie as I say it outloud, but that's ok. I used to play guitar in a band and people would sometimes say our songs sounded the same, which wasn't the goal. I like making music that allows me to cross genres or is in a totally different genre than I start the song in. One of the new songs I'm working on now started out as a country-style ballad on my acoustic guitar and evolved from there. It sounds totally different now with the 7 string going through my AXE-FX. I think being genre-flexible also helps keep me from getting stagnant as a songwriter. I listen to a lot of different music, a lot of which has inspired me along the way. I'm a huge Twenty One Pilots fan. I admire Tyler Joseph for accomplishing what he has so far. He seems very genuine and humble. Rage Against the Machine - Tom Morelo has positively influenced my guitar playing. He's on my top 5 list of people I'd like to talk with for an afternoon if I could. Foo-Fighters (duh), Deftones, Linkin Park, Incubus, Metallica, Dave Matthews Band, Oliver Tree, Robert DeLong, Post Malone, Outkast, Eminem, Macklemore. All of them are inspirations for me.
Now that Just Tommy has released a trailblazing EP and your single “Playing for Likes”, is there anything you’d like to share with our readers regarding what we should know about Just Tommy, and what you stand for as an artist?
Yep! I'm about to start production on the video for "Playing for Likes". I'm working on new material that will end up joining "Playing for Likes" on an EP later this year, so stay TUNED!!! Live shows are slowly starting to show up the radar, which I'm excited about.. I'm in the process of simplifying my live show to reduce set-up and teardown times. What does JUST TOMMY stand for as an artist? My mission is simple: Motivate and inspire through action and art. It's what drives me to create. That, and I really love playing live shows.