This October British DJ and producer, Just Her returns to South Africa for the season opener of one of Cape Town’s favourite party collectives, Sexy Groovy Love. Taking place at the Lichtenstein Castle – a medieval masterpiece perched high on a hillside with endless views of the ocean – Just Her will take the stage as the headliner of one of the most anticipated parties of the season.
Just Her’s trademark melodies and vocals have secured her releases with world-class labels such as Get Physical, Anjunadeep and Global Underground, achieving a wealth of Beatport chart positions, an Essential New Tune on Radio 1 and gigs all over the world.
With a penchant for songwriting, Just Her‘s dancefloor hit “Follow You Down” featuring her own vocals, became one of the biggest selling releases of 2017 on Global Underground and more recently, her latest EP ‘With Faith’ on Spanish label Sincopat further demonstrates her undeniable versatility and talent.
Alongside her music, Just Her also hosts two successful radio shows and founded her own brand, ‘Constant Circles’ – an independent label and popular underground blog which marries music and contemporary art through innovative label parties across the UK and Europe and art exhibitions in Brighton and London.
But Just Her is more than just a DJ and label owner, Claire is a singer, a writer, contemporary art lover, radio show host, businesswoman and all-around underground badass. We were lucky enough to steal a moment ahead of her set at Sexy Groovy Love – The Castle this month and got to ask a few questions. From her hit tracks to her early beginnings in electronic music, Just Her tells us all.
Book your tickets to Sexy Groovy Love – The Castle right here.
MCBN: You often say that ‘the music has always been with you,’ even from early childhood you were eager to play instruments and spent time crafting mixtapes – tell us more about your early inspirations, who or what sound first ignited your flame for creating music.
JH: I was music-obsessed as a kid, which I think was down to my parents exposing me to all kinds of music from an early age, from blues to classical to hip hop. I had a newspaper delivery round and used to spend all the money on vinyl & cassettes, so I had a huge collection by the time I was about 15 (all stored in alphabetical order haha!). It was just a shame that my school didn’t have a great music department so I didn’t get encouraged to go down that road career-wise, and initially went to University to study Sports Science. The music bug always stayed with me though and in 2001 I invested in some vinyl decks and taught myself to properly mix. A year or so later I was playing Fridays & Saturdays in local bars, and bit by bit it grew until I decided to go back to University to study Creative Music Production. It was a bold move to go for a complete career change at that point but I’m so glad I did it, and it just goes to show it’s never too late to go after your goals and dreams.
MCBN: One of your first electronic projects was in a duo called ‘Him_Self_Her’ – best known for the release ‘Gone Too Long’ on Crosstown Rebels in 2012 – how did you and Leon come to work together and what was the most important thing you learned during that creative period (and partnership) of your career?
JH: I was making some music as a solo artist at that point, but I knew Leon pretty well from the local DJ circuit, and we initially decided to throw parties together in our home town of Leicester, as there weren’t many other nights around that were pushing the deep melodic sound we were into. After a couple of parties, Leon asked if he could jump into my studio with me, to help me work on some material. I had already written and recorded the vocal for Gone Too Long, which I had written specifically for vocalist Kieran (who was one of my music students at the college I was teaching at back then). We took the vocal and created the backing track together. It quickly got signed to a label and we knew we needed to become an artist duo, so we created the alias Him_Self_Her; little did we know how huge that track would end up being, and the madness that would follow! I’m not sure there was any specific thing I learned during that time, the whole journey is a learning process and I am still learning every day. I know I’ve probably made many mistakes but I don’t see it that way – everything is a lesson and can be turned into something positive for your growth, so even if I could go back now, there is nothing that I would do differently.
MCBN: Your 2017 solo track “Follow You Down” went on to become a massive club sensation – tell us more about the track itself and the creative process behind it, from your airy vocals to the lyrics and of course, production.
JH: This track is close to my heart for several reasons. I wrote and recorded the vocal a long time before the release when I was going through a fairly difficult time in my life, so lyrically it means a lot to me. At that point, I had only really written vocals for other people to sing and was just starting to experiment with writing for myself, so my confidence in my voice was quite low and it ended up sitting on my hard drive for two years. Over time I began to get more confident with singing, and I eventually went back to this vocal because I knew it had a special quality to it, in both the lyrics and melody. I reworked the backing track and sent it into Global Underground as a submission for their 15th-anniversary release and they absolutely loved it. It did so well on the album that they then gave it a full single release with the addition of the incredible Oliver Schories remix. Funnily enough, in Oliver’s remix, he completely stripped out all the sounds in the breakdown and brought my vocal to the front, totally raw & exposed, so there was no going back at that point haha! And I’ve been a lot more confident with my vocals ever since. There is a follow up vocal track coming soon on Global Underground which I’m hoping will match the success of Follow You Down – details will be announced soon so watch this space.
MCBN: You’ve also established your own brand identity, label and blog called Constant Circles – described as “a unique concept in which music & contemporary visual art are combined.” How was ‘Constant Circles’ born and what has been your proudest and most memorable Constant Circles experience to date?
JH: It was always a long term goal of mine to run my own music business, and a record label was obviously the ideal starting point, but I always wanted it to be a little bit more than that. I’m a huge fan of contemporary visual art and am fascinated by its relationship with electronic music – the overlap between the two disciplines, as well as their reliance on each other. So with each piece of music, we also release a piece of bespoke contemporary art, which serves as a visual conceptualisation of the music, and so far we’ve held exhibitions at galleries in London and Brighton, where we showcase the art & music together. I think curating the London exhibition has been my proudest moment so far – the artwork was all so special and it was held in an incredible gallery space called Factory Fifteen.
We had live performances from me, Saytek and Blind Motive, which was all live-streamed on Bloop Radio and it all just came together into something unique. If you head to our Facebook @constantcircles you can watch back the live stream from the event with the beautiful artwork in the background. The brand is growing steadily and we now have a successful clothing store, plus a blog and radio show pushing the latest underground music from electronica to techno. I’m saying ‘we’, but I run the whole thing completely by myself, from the A&R to the release schedule to the accounts to the blog posts. You could say it’s my ‘baby’ haha. I still have plans to develop it into a wider brand
incorporating lifestyle, spirituality and education, I just need to find the time! You can check out the label & blog at www.constantcircles.com.
MCBN: Alongside Constant Circles, you also host two successful radio shows which are self-syndicated to several platforms worldwide, including the popular stations Frisky Radio & Proton – tell our readers more about your shows: when are on and what can listeners expect to hear when the tune in?
JH: Well one of these is actually my Constant Circles radio show, which goes out monthly over eight online radio stations across the globe, and then onto all the usual streaming platforms. It’s an outlet to showcase all the forthcoming music from the label as well as tracks that I’m promoting through the blog or playing in my sets, and I have a guest mix on each show from one of my label artists, which so far have included Jozef K, Nandu, Ryan Murgatroyd, Bruce Loko, Saytek, Rancido, Martin Roth, Giorgia Angiuli and lots more. I pride myself on the eclectic sound policy in this show and play everything from deep electronica to classic house and breaks, to pumping techno. You can check out all our previous shows in the ‘Radio’ section of our website. My second show is H E L I X, which also goes out monthly but is exclusive to the amazing Frisky Radio platform. This one is much deeper and is more of a journey. It’s about crate-digging and playing the more experimental sounds that I might not get to play out on the dance floor. You can listen on-demand at https://www.friskyradio.com/show/helix/
MCBN: You’re a proud advocate for the LGBTQ community back in the UK – do you feel individuals of the LGBTQ community and women face a tougher climb up the proverbial ladder in the music industry? If so what would your advice be for budding LGBTQ artists in the electronic music scene?
JH: I’ve found the electronic music scene to be extremely welcoming of the LGBTQ community – well, in fact, it should be, as it was created by this community in the first place if you go back to the roots of house music. The underground scene has, and always will be, about freedom of expression and a safe space for marginalised communities to be themselves. It is about people of any race, age, background or sexual orientation coming together and being united by music. It’s a beautiful thing and one of the reasons I love electronic music so much! Being a female artist, on the other hand, has created more difficulties, simply because the industry is so male-dominated and there is definitely a subconscious bias towards males as producers & DJs. I still experience quite a bit of accidental sexism (for example, “wow you are a girl, and you are actually a really good DJ!”) and I know I still have to work hard not to be overlooked for opportunities compared to some males. The tide is definitely shifting with this, and gradually we have more female artists breaking through and acting as role models for young females to be inspired by. But we still have a long way to go before we have true gender equality in the industry.
MCBN: This October you’ll be in Cape Town headlining Sexy Groovy Love’s season opener at the Lichtenstein Castle. This is not your first time in South Africa – how was your previous stay in the country and what are you looking forward to most on your return?
JH: Because I have played so many times in South Africa now, I have genuinely fallen in love with the country, and it has begun to feel like a second home to me. The gigs and the crowds are always so on point, I love the culture and the food, and I have made so many amazing friends there. The last time I visited was the most incredible trip so far, as I brought my wife with me and we spent a few days in Kruger National Park, and then did some sightseeing in Cape Town too, including Table Mountain. It was the first time I got to fully explore and experience South Africa and it was one of the best trips of my life. I also played two amazing shows – firstly at Truth in Johannesburg and then at Sexy Groovy Love in Cape Town. The Cascade Country Manor for Sexy Groovy Love was just insane, with a waterfall just behind the DJ booth and the most beautiful sunset, I can’t wait to see what the Castle location is like this year. I guess you could say that my last trip will be a difficult one to beat, but I’m sure South Africa will deliver.
MCBN: For ravers attending your set at Sexy Groovy Love this October, describe what can they look forward to in just four words.
JH: Hands. In. The. Air.
Listen to Just Her’s trademark melodies, mixes and more on Soundcloud.