Singer-songwriter PJ is known for penning hits for the likes Wiz Khalifa, Meek Mill, Usher and Chris Brown. Her notable style translated into her own solo career which produced her 2015 five-song debut EP, Walking Around Pools and debut album Rare, the following year. After hitting the road with R&B singer K. Michelle, she suddenly disappeared.
This year, the talented singer is making her return and coming out of solitude with her new song “Smoke,” the follow-up to her previously released tracks “One Missed Call” and “My Best Life.” Opening up about her hiatus and the inspiration behind some of her forthcoming music, she’s sharing with Uproxx some personal diary entries about what led to the creating of each song.
For the first entry, dedicated to “Smoke,” we got the opportunity to speak with her about everything she went through and what fans can expect next.
Why did you take such a long break from music?
It was a couple of things. One being I was just having some business issues with management and trying to get all the directions sorted out, on top of going through a big break-up, which shouldn’t have really. It was some things I had to get in a row and it was a really low point for me to figure it out, but I’m back now. That was pretty much it though.
What was the hardest part of not being able to focus on music?
It was one of those coming of age moments where you realize that people, no matter how many fairytales or Disney movies you watch, the real world doesn’t really work that way. Especially being a female in the music business, you never really know who you can trust, and politics play a third role. So, you’re just dealing with that, and anxiety and not knowing who to trust.
What was your biggest learning lesson during that time?
I feel like I’m still learning. It’s just this business is like, you work with the people you work with, and you hope that they are invested, and they have the best interest for you at heart. It’s very important that you are spearheading and taking initiative, and doing the things that you have to do. Otherwise, you’re going to keep looking and double-checking, and looking back, to see if other people are doing what they need to be doing. As long as you have a level head and two feet on the ground, and you’re still pushing in a direction, and you’re strategizing and planning, you’ll be good.
What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I’ll have to stop getting pushed by other people and being able to have those difficult conversations. Basically putting myself first. I feel like I just need to be more selfish with my emotions, and stop catering to other people.
Was there a specific moment that brought you to that realization?
I had management at the time, and I wasn’t really happy with where I was, but I was really trying to be loyal to them instead of loyal to my career. So it’s like, are you going to willingly sit here unhappily and work with people that you feel aren’t really giving you what you need, because you want to be their friend? Or are you just going to man up and just, you know, this is difficult and it’s very awkward. At the end of the day you’re responsible for where you are in life and nobody else is.
What can people expect from you this go around?
I’m putting my career first, but just navigating this ocean that is dating in LA, which is hilarious and interesting — “Smoke” is like one of those songs. Now that I’ve been in an actual relationship and I’ve learned a lot of things, it’s like now I have other stuff to talk about other than grinding.
What was your inspiration for “Smoke”?
I was in a relationship with this guy and he really inspired “Smoke.” I don’t even want to give him the satisfaction in knowing that he caused it, well, I’m pretty sure he knows that if he hears it. I started playing music for him that I wrote that was inspired by him, which is so corny and I can’t believe I did that, but I’m kind of happy I did because it’s kind of interesting to see how a guy feels. Of course, it blows their head up. Am I even paying attention to how like you’re currently making me feel? I actually use the words I play with as game? Can I talk to n*****? That’s a whole other thing that I’m exploring right now currently that you’ll hear about in this next project like “One Missed Call.” [That] was probably the most relationship song I’ve ever put out and I like living in that space.
You say in a doc that you’re always having a sword in-hand. You get knocked down and you have to climb over a wall… constantly. When was there a time you knocked down a wall that you didn’t know was possible, but did it?
I’m still having that moment right now. Anxiety, I feel like in itself, consistently creates walls for me that has to climb up over. Whether it is the actual wall or a mental wall, I think the biggest thing that people, in general, have to learn is just walking confidently, even if sometimes you’re kind of blind. When I took the hiatus, I was low in finances [and] I didn’t know who to trust. I feel like that’s really what I’m doing right now is that reset button coming back from that hiatus. I’m in my reset and it’s kind of scary but it’s definitely exciting. I’m doing a lot of things for the first time.
You brought up anxiety a couple of times so I just want to know how do you personally deal with anxiety? What are some things that you do? Is it like breathing, yoga, working out? What do you do?
Working out does help me a lot but I’ve been getting into meditation and I feel like that definitely helps like recenter your mind in the morning. I know that everybody’s going to meditation and everything works for different people but I also like to write things out because a lot of it is overload. I wake up in the morning and it always feels like there’s so much going on and there’s so much to do and it’s so easy for me to get overwhelmed but when I write things down like everything that I have to do and I process it. Only when I’m performing in front of people do I not having anxiety. I get nervous as hell before I go on, but when I go on, I don’t have to overthink anything. It’s no overthinking or no second-guessing and that’s my space. So I would say if anything, music is my cure for anxiety because that’s really the only thing that I understand. Everything else gives me panic attacks.
PJ is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.