Video Feature & Web-Exclusive Interview


Musician: J3 (Justin-Lee Schultz, Jamie-Leigh Schultz & Jaden Baker)

Video: “Junebug




When an 11-year-old Justin-Lee Schultz releases a single that grabs the attention of Quincy Jones, who immediately DMs him on Instagram—he must be doing something extraordinary. Now, four years later, 15-year-old Justin on guitar and keys joins forces with 16-year-old Jaden Baker on bass, trombone and auxiliary keys and 18-year-old sister Jamie-Leigh Schultz on drums for the driving funk-edged “Junebug” that he penned for J3’s new album Opus 1. It is a thrilling collection of eleven tracks that shine a spotlight on the trio’s far-reaching influences from pop, jazz, R&B, hip hop, rock, gospel and beyond. In addition to stunning originals, there are memorable tributes to jazz legend Chick Corea, the king of pop Michael Jackson and jazz-fusion keyboardist Jeff Lorber.

J3 is Justin-Lee Schultz, Jaden Baker, Jamie-Leigh Schultz

Close your eyes and be captivated in the music that makes you forget these are teens creating synergistic magic. It is their connection off and on the bandstand that makes it possible. “Both Justin and Jaden are incredible musicians but even better human beings!” confides Jamie. Justin chimes in, “Jaden is an amazing musician and is also that one friend who is super chill. He is the dude you could talk to about anything. Jamie is one of a kind. She’s a phenomenal musician that can adapt to any situation musically and in real life. She’s such a good big sister and is always there for me.”

In 2020, Justin’s solo recording debut on Shanachie, Gruv Kid, landed at #1 on iTunes Jazz and featured stellar guests Bob James, Pieces of a Dream, Gerald Albright, Jonathan Butler and others notable musicians.

The first time the electrifying teenage trio played together was in 2020 at the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) convention in Anaheim, California, where an instant friendship was kindled.

J3 combines phenomenal musicianship, the discipline of seasoned professionals, a youthful curiosity to delve into a wide range of genres and the motivation to explore music beyond boundaries. They impress at first listen. Their chemistry is palpable. J3’s possibilities seem limitless.

We talked with J3 about how their journey can inspire others to follow their own path and how their approach to music can empower listeners to search inside to find passion for life, celebrate joy and spread positivity.

Jamie-Leigh Schultz, Justin-Lee Schultz, Jaden Baker



J3 (Justin-Lee Schultz, Jamie-Leigh Schultz & Jaden Baker) Interview

with M Music & Musicians magazine publisher, Merlin David


What did you learn about yourself after recording the album Opus 1.
Justin: In my musical career so far, I’m still trying to find my sound, while composing, playing, arranging and producing. I’m relatively new to writing music. I am exploring where I can go, musically, with this album—while trying to blend in more genres.
Jaden: The majority of my career, I’ve been gigging with adults—and now I’m learning self-control and discipline around people my age. We knew when it was time to work, but we also had fun.
Jamie: Usually, I’m recording by myself. This is my first time recording with other people in the studio. Working with these two guys was fun, but they also challenged me. I loved that—even when Jaden told me what to play and what not to play. (Laughs)
Jaden: It’s the producer in me!
Justin: We also kicked each other out of the booth. Because we are perfectionists, we took a long time on certain things.
Jaden: Especially Justin! He would take 30 takes on one bass lick. I love it, though, because I’m the same way.
Justin: Actually, sometimes I took 60 takes! (Laughs)
Jamie: This album pushed my drumming a bit more. Some songs, I had trouble filling in spots. It really helped me develop my drumming skills in the studio.
Justin: Jamie is used to playing super-structured. But on a song like “Justice,” we wanted her to be freer because there are so many moving pieces. And she killed it!
Jamie: That’s the song I wanted to do 60 takes on (laughs), but Jaden kicked me out of the booth!
Jaden: That’s because she got the job done and didn’t realize it. So I got her out of the booth to let her listen to what she did. And we moved on. I definitely like the way it turned out.
Justin: Sometimes, it’s hard to find people our age who are disciplined in the studio but who also know a good balance of having fun. I’m a very goofy person. I like joking around, but when it comes time to get things done, I am very disciplined. It was so cool to work with these two musicians on this album. It’s the chemistry that we have that others can feel when they hear us.

Which song are you glad squeaked by and made it onto this album?
Justin: Track #11—“Michael Jackson Medley.” At first, we recorded the MJ medley, and we were on the fence about whether it should go on the album. Then we did more production on it. I’m happy that track made it onto this album.
Jaden: I’m glad that we snuck in two Michael Jackson songs. “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” was on the medley, but also by itself. They are two completely different approaches to the same song.
Justin: There are four MJ songs in that medley and also some Easter eggs of MJ songs inside the other songs. If you’re a Michael Jackson fan, you’re going to have fun.
Jamie: The MJ Medley and “Vibe Cleanse”—because it’s the only song that has lyrics and it’s very different from all the other songs. It’s one of my favorite songs on this album.
Justin: Brandon Rose sang on that song—he did some rapping on it.

J3 combines phenomenal musicianship, the discipline of seasoned professionals, a youthful curiosity to delve into a wide range of genres and the motivation to explore music beyond boundaries. They impress at first listen. Their chemistry is palpable. J3’s possibilities seem limitless.

Justin, did you write “Vibe Cleanse” with your Dad?
Justin: Yes! A quick, cool story: There was a challenge called “Vibe Cleanse of the Pandemic.” Brandon Rose invited Jamie and Jaden to do the challenge. That video is on Instagram. I kept the first verse and changed the whole beat, the chord progressions and sped it up a little. I worked with my Dad [Julius Schultz] on that track.

Where did you meet?
Jaden: We played Gruv Gear’s Gruv Live concert at January 2020 NAMM in Anaheim, CA. Justin and Jamie had a set and they featured me. It was technically the first-ever J3 concert.

You all seem incredibly young. When did you start playing music?
Justin: I’m 15, Jaden is 16, and Jamie is 18. I started when I was 5 years old.
Jaden: 2 years old.
Jamie: 5 years old.

That is impressive! Who originally inspired you to compose songs?
Justin: My Dad is a jazz guitarist. He inspired me to play keyboards and is a big inspiration for my writing—which is a relatively new thing. I only wrote my first songs when I was 10 or 11—for my first album on Shanachie, Gruv Kid. I’m still finding the right style for me. Stevie Wonder is such a good composer, songwriter and lyricist, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and so many others.
Jaden: My first instrument was drums, at 2, but when I picked up the bass, I was 5 years old. My Dad, Chris Baker, is a classical pianist—he influenced me to start writing and producing. I watched him produce music and score films. He told me all my pieces were cinematic and had stories. It inspired me to keep going. Music runs through my family. But I have to give a huge shout-out to bass legend Derek Hodge. [You can hear Derek on Common’s “Be”] He was a major influence for my piece “Justice.”

Justin-Lee Schultz, Jamie-Leigh Schultz, Jaden Baker

What songwriting tip can you offer?
Justin: I don’t have a songwriting process—things fall in my lap and come out when I play. But you have to have someone who is brutally honest in your corner—someone you trust musically. For me, that’s my Dad and Jamie. They’re my quality control. It’s important for me to have an open mind, and I’m open to advice and new ideas.

Tell us a time when someone was brutally honest with you?
Justin: I wrote “Junebug” two years ago. I had the verse melody but the intro was pretty wack! Jamie said “This sucks, bro!” So I changed it to a Stevie Wonder “Higher Ground” vibe—and a Fred Hammond vibe. The melodies came together and I wrote the chorus. It helped me to have someone in my corner who was honest—who I trusted. Listening to what someone you trust has to say is so important. Music is a listening game, especially when you’re trying to practice and work on things—and incorporate sounds into your own music. Listening is vital.

Justin, what composition tip can you offer?
Jaden: After working in music and producing artists, I realized there is no process to songwriting. It’s like apples falling from a tree, like Justin said. The apples are ideas and they fall in your lap. I was working on a song for someone, playing around on my Nord Stage 3 with a Heart patch—and I had some effects going on. I started playing this loop and formed it into a song. I left that session and built a new one, threw in some drums and now—I’ve got another song for my own album that I’m getting ready to release.
Justin: You don’t have to be in a recording studio to be creative. Ideas come at any time—in the car, on a plane—and you just need to record it on a voice memo.
Jaden: Charlie Puth is one of the greatest songwriters of this generation—because of that. He dropped this new one, “Light Switch,” that I’m messing with.
Jamie: It’s so catchy!
Jaden: It started on the social media app TikTok. He just started posting short clips. There’s another one he is going to release soon.
Justin: I think the new one is “That’s Hilarious.”

When these apples fall, what instruments/equipment help you write, record and perform?
Jaden: As a producer, I always go to my keyboard. But I’ll fiddle around with every instrument I know how to play. I choose the instrument or voice that the idea, the lead melody, sounds best on.
Justin: For me, it’s piano—but it also may be guitar or bass. I too fiddle around with any instrument I can get my hands on, but I mainly go to keys when these ideas fall.
Jamie: I play drums and bass.
Jaden: She plays keys too.

With instrumental music, how do you convey what you’re trying to say?
Jaden: When people can sing the melody in their head, then you’ve accomplished your goal. You need to make sure the average person can sing your melody. It’s that easy. It’s also that complicated.
Justin: With instrumental music, we only deal with melody. We’re always trying to communicate how we feel at that point. We always stay joyful and positive when we’re recording. If the energy is not right in the studio, people will know.

Why did you choose to cover Jeff Lorber’s “Stainless Steel”?
Justin: Jeff Lorber wrote that in the 70s. For my first album, I reached out to Jeff to see if he had songs that he wasn’t planning to use. He sent me “Stainless Steel”—and I immediately knew it would be fun for this project. I put my own spin and we all contributed to it. We gave it a young vibe.
Jamie: It was such a fun song to record.
Justin: We always joke that it’s superhero comic film music—like Spiderman shooting his webs. Kenny G used to play with Lorber before he blew up, and with Dave Koz too. Lorber has been a vessel for a lot of careers. We all have huge respect for him, his songwriting and career.

How did you lock in to that complex piece?
Jamie: I had trouble locking in. Usually, I lock in with Jaden pretty well. It was incredibly fun to record but I had a hard time with the solo. I got kicked out of the booth many times for trying to perfect my part.
Justin: Our engineer is John, but we lovingly call him Bear. He was like “Get out of the booth, Jamie!”
Jaden: But it’s all good vibes.

Which Top 5 Musicians inspired you to become a musician?
Justin: My Dad [Julius Schultz], Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Bob James, Chick Corea, Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum and more.
Jaden: Multi-instrumentalists influence me the most. Jordan Childs, producer Slim Wafe, Aaron Freeman, Devin Morrison, and the genius of them all—Hamilton Hardin. He plays every instrument you can think of. He blows my mind the most.
Jamie: Michael Jackson, Sheila E., these two (points to Justin and Jaden) and Eric Moore.
Justin: Awwww.

What are your Top 5 favorite albums of all time?
Justin: Stevie Wonder albums—Songs in the Key of Life (1976), Talking Book (1972), Innervisions (1973), Music of My Mind (1972); Michael Jackson albums—Thriller (1982), Off the Wall (1979), Bad (1987); Whitney Houston Whitney (1987); Prince Purple Rain (1984); Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars & Anderson.Paak) An Evening with Silk Sonic (2021).
Jaden: For favorite albums, every song needs to be a banger. So, I only have three—Dave Matthews Crash (1996)—I grew up on that record; Lucky Daye Painted (2019)—produced by D’Mile, who also won a Grammy with Silk Sonic; Tommy Sims Peace and Love (2000)—one of the greatest producers on the planet.
Jamie: Whitney Houston The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album (1992); Michael Jackson Off the Wall (1979); any and all Bruno Mars albums and singles (2010-2022).

Tell us a “pinch me” moment when you thought “Wow, this is really happening to me!
Jamie: When we met Quincy Jones. We went to his house and that was unbelievable. It was a core memory.
Justin: Yes, meeting Quincy Jones for me too—also, when I played 20,000 in Vegas with T-Pain, JoJo and Jacob Collier.
Jaden: When I got nominated for a Grammy on a record where I was a musician. I’ve always dreamed about that. It was Feels Like Home, Vol. 2 by Israel and New Breed—for gospel legend Israel Houghton.

Tell us more about going to Quincy Jones’ home.
Justin: I released a single in 2016, when I was 11 years old. It was out for a few weeks. I was at a church rehearsal for a Sunday service when I got a DM from Quincy Jones on Instagram. I immediately thought it was fake! But then I saw the blue tick and knew it was legit. He said, “Yo, I listened to your single and I would love to meet you.” We talked. He flew us to his house. I even played on his piano! We chilled there for a few hours.
Jamie: It was so crazy to see all his Grammys. His house is insane. He has a forest in the center.
Justin: It’s on the bottom floor with a fountain spewing up three stories. There were posters signed by Michael Jackson and Frank Sinatra. I was going crazy seeing all his 20+ Grammys, American Music Awards, MTV Music Awards. He’s such a legend and a super nice man. He gave us his full, undivided attention. He told us about four or five stories—funny stories. And he gave us the best advice.

What is the best advice someone has given you?
Justin: My Dad’s signature saying is “It’s better to be prepared and not have an opportunity, rather than have an opportunity and not be prepared.” I’m pretty driven. I have a lot of goals I want to accomplish. My parents have always been incredibly supportive—keep at it, work hard, do your best.
Jamie: Our parents taught us how to look at the bigger picture.
Jaden: First advice comes from my Dad’s Dad, my grandpa, who told my Dad—“If a task is once begun, never leave it till it’s done; Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.” That’s been in my life since I came out of my Mom! It has inspired me to keep going and always finish what I’ve started. Not just in music, but in life. Secondly, my Dad said, “Always stay humble and hungry.” That relates to what Uncle Julius says to Justin and Jamie—about having an opportunity and not being ready for it versus always staying ready and waiting for your opportunity to come. It’s eventually going to come—as long as you stay ready.

What advice would you give upcoming musicians?
Justin: As long as you stay prepared, keep focused and have your eye on the ball, you’ll be ready when the opportunity comes.
Jaden: Being prepared is non-negotiable in our house.
Justin: When we did the NAMM show, we didn’t have any rehearsals, and Jaden came prepared with all the music—the breaks and runs. I gained so much respect for him and his musicianship from that first moment we met.

How do you stay prepared?
Jamie: I practice every day. I sharpen my craft and stay prepared.
Justin: If I’m playing for or with another artist, I always make sure I know their music and I come prepared so it’s not any stress on me and not any stress on the artist.
Jaden: If you’re not prepared, you’re not getting that second call.

In this unique socio-political climate, how do you remain hopeful?
Jaden: I go to a public school. So, when anything happens in the United States, I hear about it. I’ve never had a difficult time staying positive. I have filters and know how to stay solid and how to approach a situation. I learn to control what I expose myself to.
Justin: I express myself through music. I have a good support system and a strong foundation—my family and my faith in God—it keeps me sane and hopeful.
Jamie: I’m usually a positive person. It’s wonderful to have parents who want to guide me—good friends, family. They all keep me hopeful.
Justin: Have good people in your circle—good friends.
Jamie: Keep your circle small.
Justin: Yes, keep your circle small!

What would you like to have happen with this album?
Justin: We made this album through the ups and downs of the pandemic. We had time to make music that we hope people will like. We want the album to get out there. It’s important for us to always be positive and to make music that spreads positivity. Music definitely has the power to bring people together and I hope J3 can do that.

Where can new fans get more info and stay updated?

Written, Arranged, Produced by: Justin-Lee Schultz
Piano & Lead Guitar: Justin-Lee Schultz
Auxiliary Keyboards: Justin-Lee Schultz & Jaden Baker
Bass & Trombone: Jaden Baker
Drums: Jamie-Leigh Schultz

comment closed

Copyright © 2022 M Music & Musicians Magazine ·