Music producer, engineer and UD alumni, Justina Bryce aka Likkle Jay joined us in 2013 where she started her engineering experience at the UD Studio. Since then, Justina has held her own studio sessions and worked on projects for artists, film, adverts and sync.
After many years of beat-making, in April 2020 Likkle Jay self-released her debut single, ‘Diamonds’. In addition, her productions have racked up hundreds of thousands of streams via the artists she’s worked with; from the ‘NEXXT STEP – Behind Every Great City’ project in 2018, to more recent and upcoming releases from the likes of Chase Young, Vicky Pasion, Charlie Is Ready and more.
Now, Likkle Jay is taking the next step in her musical journey with the prestigious Music Production Course at Abbey Road Institute. We’re incredibly proud to have played a small part in Justina’s career and excited to see what’s next in the pipeline.
We took the opportunity to chat about all things music and UD…
For anyone new to UD, how would you describe your journey/ time with the organisation?
UD gave me my first real life experience as a recording engineer. UD saw what I wanted to do and helped me train to become an engineer. They gave me my first experience holding real-life studio sessions. I also was able to meet a lot of music peers and industry professionals through their courses and networking events. I would definitely recommend others to get involved with their work!
They played a crucial part in push-starting my career and they’ve been supporting and helping me with more opportunities ever since, the scholarship with the Abbey Road Institute being one of them, which has led me to where I am now. So I am incredibly grateful for the journey I’ve had with UD, it’s been great.
You’ve been working at Talent House, what do you think of the new HQ?
The new HQ looks amazing. I love all the different studio spaces. It’s great!
What’s 2022 been like for you?
2022 has been an amazing year as a whole. So much has happened and allowed me to progress in my career. From starting work at Abbey Road Studios to being an engineer on Chris Brown’s ‘Breezy’ album, which has now been nominated for a Grammy. I’m still overwhelmed. It’s been an incredible year!
Can you tell us more about your role at Abbey Road Studios? When did you begin, what’s the day-to-day like?
I started in July, as a studio runner. As runners, our day-to-day would be looking after all the studios and whatever sessions are going on. We set up for sessions and assist wherever needed.
You were involved in the new Stormzy album recording, tell us more please?
Yes! So Stormzy came to Abbey Road Studios to record strings for a few of his songs on the album. I was an assistant engineer on the session. It was a really cool experience!
What else have you been working on musically?
The last thing I worked on and produced would be my latest project entitled ‘Pon Time Riddim’, which is out now! It’s a riddim tape consisting of 4 different songs by different artists, set to the same backing track. It was fun to make and collaborate with everyone involved.
What does music mean to you?
I think music is a huge part of life in general. It’s a powerful thing. Music is something that brings everyone together. I love how different songs can make you feel.
What does being a producer and engineer mean to you?
It means being able to be creative and bring an idea to life. They are both very important roles and crucial in how the end product of the song or project will sound.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I mostly get inspiration from listening to new music or from an idea presented to me by an artist.
What music are you listening to at the moment?
My overall favourite type of music is R&B. At the moment the artists that have been on my playlist are Blxst, Jazmine Sullivan, Bellah, Jvck James and Jevon to name a few.
Tell us about your debut self-released single ‘Diamonds’, what was your musical process?
I wanted to make an uplifting song with a motivational message. One about being able to be whatever you want to be – similar to Nas ‘I Can’. I especially wanted the message shown in the video to be directed at young black and mixed individuals like ourselves. The musical process started with creating the beat. I got inspiration from a few 90s/2000s R&B and hip-hop tracks, especially ones that were part of movie soundtracks. The nostalgic feel is what I was going for. I then played around on the keyboard and recorded a few chords. The ideas/sounds just flowed from there. I knew KdotMelody and CHARLIE IS READY would be a perfect fit for the track and be able to convey the message as well as they did. I invited them to the studio for a writing session where we bounced lyric ideas off of each other and were able to come up with the song ‘Diamonds’.
Tell us about the music video to ‘Escape’.
The storyline in the ‘Escape‘ music video came about from the idea of having a police chase. Zlyd (director) heard the track and got inspiration from the theme of ‘escaping’ in the lyrics. We decided to also incorporate the issue of racial profiling into the police chase but in a very light-hearted and comedic way. And a good R&B video just wouldn’t be complete without some amazing dancers and a love interest.
What’s next for Likkle Jay?
I’m looking forward to studying and learning more about music production. And just creating more music and hopefully releasing new tracks in the near future.
Do you have any advice for young artists looking to release their first single?
It’s good to plan your release and make sure you have everything ready. There’s loads of information on the internet about marketing and releasing music. Be confident in your music and put it out there.
Plans for 2023?
I’m definitely looking to collaborate more and work with new artists and musicians. I want to put out more music and also help engineer and produce for others too.
Any advice to offer potential students?
Stay focused on where you want to go in your career and the things you want to achieve. Learn what you need to learn to get there and also be patient. It’ll happen!
Words: Klara Niklewicz
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An earlier version of this article appeared in 2021.