Music is the ultimate catalyst for self-expression. As a lyricist and songwriter, I value above all creating art that is fundamentally “me”; unapologetic, honest, and easy to connect to. Writing music has always given me the ability to convey emotion and opinion in a constructive and rewarding way, but it comes with its own unique challenges.

Any musician will probably tell you there are points where you need to force yourself to grow as a writer. ‘Life in Static’ dropped almost a year ago, so as I find myself chewing through more new material, lyrics, and concepts with the rest of the band, there are a lot of unexpected realities that start to shine through, not the least of which is letting go of ideas that are redundant.

I’ll clarify here; there’s nothing wrong with having an identifiable niche or concept in your music, but too often I find myself listening to a new release from a band I love and walking away feeling I’ve taken nothing new from it. I don’t want to be that artist, and I don’t ever want to release “just another Larusso album”. As individuals, we evolve, experience, adapt, and change and I want my music to be an unwavering reflection of this.

Yet another such “reality” has been learning to balance artistic liberty with business. As Larusso moves deeper into the murky waters of the music industry, I understand more than ever the pressure that artists are facing to conform to mainstream standards. The band recently hooked up with a great music licensing firm called Music Dealers and it’s made me think about writing from a new angle.

As far as licensing is concerned, to make a career out of it you need to keep in mind what music supervisors and agents are wanting in their trailers, commercials, movies, etc. This seemed daunting at first, almost as if this is the point where you write radio friendly garbage or bust, but it became a welcome challenge. My question shifted from how to reconcile creative freedom with mainstream success, to “how can I make something perfect for a mainstream placement, that’s still uniquely Larusso?”

The answer was our newest track, ‘Declaration’ (we’re stoked as Hell to show you all soon, by the way). We were recently hired to write a song for a sports documentary, stylized similarly to Aerosmith/Run DMC’s “Walk This Way” collaboration, and working on it changed me from the inside out as a musician. Lyrically, I had to focus on thematic restrictions and concepts that I never had before, and behind the kit I was playing to riffs and basslines unlike anything we’ve done before. It got me out of my box quite a bit, and ultimately reinforced the idea that I don’t have to sacrifice the essence of my art to adapt.

TL;DR: Never lose sight of who you are as a writer or artist, but don’t get stuck either. Don’t think that you have to “sell out” to take new steps; embrace the change and challenge yourself to write something you love that’s nothing like anything you’ve done before.

Cheers,

Justin

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