Justin Gray, veteran songwriter, producer, and music executive joins Songcraft to share his insight on the music industry. Topics that he weighs in on include dealing with success and where he finds value in his career now.
Working with massive talents like Mariah Carey, Avril Lavigne, Joss Stone, Glen Campbell, and Luis Fonsi, Gray has accrued a wealth of experiences to back his success. Originally from Canada but based in L.A., Gray explains that despite writing songs and producing for fun as a kid, it wasn’t what he intended on pursuing as a career.
“My initial goal as any self-appreciative, young, Canadian boy was to be a professional hockey player,” he says. “I was actually a professional hockey player until I was sort of forced into retirement at 19 years old with chronic shoulder injuries… I actually had been producing and writing songs from the time I was like 10/11 years old, so emotionally it was an easy pivot but going from being a professional athlete to trying to make music for a career can be daunting.”
Always careful to be candid and realistic, Gray admits that “this is not a professional pursuit for the faint of heart.” Even for the guys at the top, he assures. “I don’t care if you’re talking to benny blanco, who’s the biggest in the world, there’s more failures than successes even at his level.”
Although he’s achieved massive success, he realizes that counting the numbers will never be fulfilling (his numbers, by the way, include a total of eight billion streams worldwide). These days, he’s found much more fulfillment in helping the next generation of creatives achieve their dreams.
“If you find something that you believe in and you can help support them and you can be a part of their journey and that success creates success for you, you are going to be just fine,” Gray says.
“I think that there’s too many writers that think, ‘I’m gonna pitch songs to Doja Cat or Dua Lipa.’ But I have news for you, those people work with people that they know, and they trust. Known for a few years, have built relationships with, so that’s a hard thing to do,” he continues. “Now, if you want to use that as a benchmark to try and write songs that could work for artists like that, amazing, you should go and do that. I think that those are great ways to hone your craft as a young up-and-coming aspiring songwriter.
“I just want to be a total truth serum, those are very hard doors to get into. For anybody, it doesn’t matter. Again, I’ve talked about benny blanco. He’s amazing, but believe it or not, there’s times where he’s sending songs to labels, and they don’t like them. Everybody deals with that sort of rejection, but every song you write is going to be an opportunity to get better at what you do.”
In this way, Gray is a huge asset to artists trying to make it in the industry. His willingness to be open to new talent is refreshing and his applicable advice is only further astounding. Creating a free website where songwriters can monetize their music through placements, Gray is now able to help upcoming artists get started while educating them on industry pitfalls in order to set them up for long-term success.
For more on Gray’s career and advice to up-and-comers check out the rest of the episode on Songcraft.