Justyn “ROYAL” Armstrong is an American rapper, producer, and songwriter from Los Angeles, CA. After past success in groups such as Laze & Royal (Warner Bros.) and My Crazy Girlfriend (Capitol Records), Royal began his solo career under his own record label Anarchy House Music. Having produced for artists such as Tyga, Game, Bruno Mars, Ke$ha, and more Royal explains, “I always saw myself eventually doing my music as a solo artist, on my own terms, and own rules.” His latest album, “Damage Control“ is the most personal music he’s created thus far.
We’ve been following Justyn a.k.a. Royal’s career for years now, it’s been incredible to see all the production, writing, rapping, and performing he’s done over the years. He’s even blessed some of the Slay team’s own productions with writing and vocals (listen to “Been Through The Fire“).
We sat down with Justyn to chat about his production and writing process and share some tips for up and coming producers!
How do you approach song-writing and producing when in a session?
I try to never force anything from the music production to writing process. Music is all about feeling to me, so if I don’t have the chorus idea or rough track idea within 20-30 minutes I will just move onto something else. I’ve learned over many years that my best material is made when I don’t overthink the process.
What’s the first thing you do when you open a session?
The first thing I will always do is make sure all my go-to plugins are loaded on my aux tracks. I also make sure that all the music is locked on grid.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
I will usually go for a drive or chase inspiration and new experiences. Naturally, I go through phases that sometimes last months where I cannot come up with anything I feel strongly about. I will go out and try to meet new people, hear new stories, and experience life to find new things to write about.
What are some tools that you use?
My setup is very simple. I pretty much do everything in the box. I have been working Protools since I was 12 and that will probably never change. Other than that it’s the Waves Plug-ins, FL Studio, Ableton, multiple VSTS, and a great mic.
Do you have any tips for upcoming producers and engineers?
My biggest advice to an upcoming producer would be to listen to your gut and find your niche. There are extremely successful producers who cannot read a lick of music but are extremely great at music arrangements and drum programming (like myself) and vice versa. Finding what your strengths are and enhancing them is very important.
What are your most used plugins or current favorite plugins?
I use pretty much everything in the WAVES BUNDLE here and there depending on the type of song.
What are some of your favorite VSTs?
My favorite VSTs at the moment are Serum and Massive.
What’s the best tip you could give about recording vocals?
A good mic, great preamp, and proper compression will take you a long way.
Do you prefer to engineer your own sessions when you are producing?
I usually engineer all my own sessions.
What was one defining moment in your career?
My defining moment would definitely be opening for B.O.B and Jason Derulo while on tour with my band My Crazy Girlfriend. It was my first time doing baseball stadiums so it was definitely epic!
What’s your favorite song that you mixed, written, and/or produced?
It would still have to be “Switch Lanes” by Tyga and Game which I co-produced with my boy Nice [1500 or Nothin]. The song still plays any time I’m out and still gives me the same feeling as it did years ago.
How do you know when a song is done?
I don’t. Haha
What’s your process for finalizing songs/demos?
I’ll listen in the car, laptop, headphones, cheap headphones, and more. If it sounds good across the board, I’ll know it’s ready to go out.
How do you stay focused and productive?
I’m very task oriented. My whole life revolves around my To-Do list and goal lists. My mind is constantly racing at all hours, so I need to stick to a schedule, deadlines, etc. to make sure I complete what’s most important.
Where do you get inspiration?
I find inspiration in a lot of oldies and from listening to a lot of interesting audio books. Hearing other people’s perspectives on things has always fascinated me.
Who are some of your biggest influences and why?
My mother who passed away would definitely be my biggest inspiration. She was the strongest person I’ve ever known and definitely the reason I am the man I am today. Musically and business-wise, it would Jay-Z
What are you listening to right now?
I am heavy on the new 6lack album!
How do you feel about the current state of music?
I do not personally like a lot of the new hip hop but will always respect another artist getting out there and doing their thing.
Tell us about a time when you needed to change your production style to accommodate an artist.
The most challenging thing I have run into would probably be scoring music for a TV show or movie. You have to make music to perfectly fit the visuals and emotion of the specific scene.
What do you do for fun when you aren’t working on music?
I usually just spend every hour I’m not working with my son or with close friends at home. I don’t do the whole club thing anymore.
What’s a crazy experience you’ve had in the industry or a writing session?
Meeting Quincy Jones. Hands down!
Is there any artist you want to work with that you haven’t had an opportunity to yet?
I would love to work with The Weeknd. I think he is an extremely rare and amazing talent.
Some of Royal’s credits include:
- “Bruno Mars – All She Knows”
- “Taeyeon – I”
- “YG – This Year (Co-Produced with Antonio Jackson)”
- “Eva feat. Gucci Mane – Not My Daddy”
- “Tyga feat. The Game – Switch Lanes”