TJOnline. Multifaceted creative, 1/3 of grouptherapy., and one of the kindest artists I've had the pleasure of speaking with! That Good Sh*t sat down with TJ to talk about his newest single "sweet", his experience expressing his sexuality through this song, the formation of grouptherapy., and more.
TGS: So, give us a little background.
TJOnline: Sure. My name is TJ. I go by TJOnline. I am from Yonkers, New York. Um, I grew up as a performer and a child actor in New York and around when I was eight, my family relocated to LA. So I've been, I was born and raised in New York and I grew up in LA. And that's where I met Coy and Jada. And that's where we started grouptherapy.
TGS: Cool! Tell me a little bit about your early career and starting off as a child actor, how that translated into music and just your early career as an entertainer in general.
TJOnline: Music has always been in my life. Both my parents were gospel musicians. So there was always music being played in the house. There's always music being sung and performed in the house just to do it just for fun. But I always felt like I could never really do music cuz I already had my thing that I was doing. I was like, “you could only do one creative thing at a time” in my mind for some reason. You don't have a lot of control over your career in what you do as an actor, especially as a young actor and a young actor of color. So, you just kind of have to take what you get. I wanted some outlet that gave me more control over myself and my expression, especially as I was discovering who I was and what I wanted. Music just naturally became that for me.
TGS: Beautiful! And then, going along with music, grouptherapy.! It’s the group you're in now, and we just had you performing at Sunday Sounds and y'all were so amazing.
TJ Online: Thank you. It was so fun! Thank you for having us.
TGS: Oh, thank you for coming!! Thank you very much. I think that you guys encapsulate a lot of the energy that I try to put across in That Good Sh*t, just having really positive, fun energy, but also like the music is SO incredible. And obviously having Jaxon involved too, cuz like he's a close collaborator of us. Like it was so cool to see all that come together.
TJOnline: Yeah, yeah. It was a beautiful moment. It was a really serendipitous moment.
grouptherapy. at Sunday Sounds in Los Angeles, May 2022
TGS: Yes! Serendipitous is exactly how I would put it. So, tell me a bit about how you said you moved to LA and then that's where you met the other members of grouptherapy. So how did that play out and what did the formation of grouptherapy. look like?
TJOnline: It really just started from us hanging out and being friends first for years and all of us being super shy about making music separately from each other. And then there was a month where we were all in high school and we were like, “Hey… like I made this like song… you know, is it cool if I send it to you and you listen to it, you don't have to, at all, you don't have to, if you don't like it it's fine”. And we did that and we were all like, “No, this is great! I love this, I do this too! I'm sorry I haven't told you about it!” And we just started making music together for fun and to vent about whatever we were going through at the time. It felt less like us making music as a group and more like group therapy. We would come together and work through our problems by making music about it. So, after a while we just sort of decided to take it seriously. Because of that, we thought, “Oh, if this feels so good for us to make, it might be helpful for someone else to hear. So why not at least try?”
TGS: That's dope. And I also love like, The name, “grouptherapy.” is such a smart name, cuz it is so true. Like when you're working together as a group and it's kind of like group therapy where you're like talking about these problems and expressing yourself. Would you say that expressing yourself in grouptherapy. has given you a new safe space to kind of express the things you're going through?
TJOnline: 100%. There are things that I would not have been able to unpack if not for the music and for grouptherapy. specifically. I would never have been able to make a song like “sweet” and I never would have been able to be comfortable in myself the way that I am now, if it wasn't for “sweet” and for this experience.
TGS: That's awesome. Well, you brought up “sweet”. So let's talk about “sweet”! Tell me about it; what does that mean to you? And what's the song about?
TJOnline: Well, because I grew up in New York, I grew up with it sort of steeped in the slang my older brother would say constantly to all of his friends and all my cousins. And “sweet” was something that was always negative. Or if somebody was sweet, it usually meant that they were being weak and they were easily manipulated, but mostly like, they were feminine. Hyper-feminine and usually like queer-leaning. And that was like the worst thing you could be. Like you did nothing sweet. Like “don't be out here being sweet”. And that was one of the things that I carried with me through my life up until I had come out. I was a little mad about that and about the fact that I had let myself be so affected by that for so long. So I was just like, “no, I'm gonna make a track that those people who would say this about me could not help but love and also embrace the fact that yeah, I am sweet. But there's nothing you can do about it. I'm rapping better than you are. This beat is harder than anything you have”. You know what I mean?
TGS: 100%, that is such an incredible power move. And kind of claiming that there's power in being sweet, you know. There's power in being sensitive. There's power in being loving and I think being able to take that and also put it on like a hard ass beat and like have this insanely cool flow; The way you piece that all together is really sick. I think you did that really well.
So, putting together like the lyrics for the song and the flow, what did that process look like for you?
TJOnline: Putting together the lyrics and the flows for “sweet” was harder than what I usually do for a song. Cause I had a point to prove. So I was like, “I am only going to choose the hardest possible flows, the hardest possible punchlines I can to get my point across in the best possible way”. So there's that balance of like, I want this to hit hard, but I also want to be conveying this sense that I can be sweet and kind and nice. And I don't have to be conventionally heteronormative and all that stuff. I don't need to be like a traditional tough guy. I don't need to be saying the same shit that other people are saying to be strong and powerful and have shit go hard. I can still be who I am.
TGS: That's real! And you have that line in the, in the hook that's like, “you fucking with me and you're talking to God”. And I think that is such a powerful line. What was going through your mind when that came out of you?
TJOnline: Wow. I was on kind of a super power trip while I was writing it. I had this idea of like, the TikTok memes of where you're doing something, and then suddenly the background changes you're like at heaven's gate. That sort of idea of, yeah you can keep fucking with me if you want to, you're gonna end up standing at the gates, talking God, like keep fucking around. You know? I guess there's also the reading of if you're talking to me, like you're talking to like a God figure. Which I also thought was cool. That was less my intent than the first thing.
TGS: See, and that's the way it came across to me at first! I was like, oh, he's saying “you're fucking with me, you're talking to God”. I'm like, “oh my god claim your power YES!” That's the way it came across to me at first. So I think that was a clever bar. And in terms of opening up about your sexuality in your music, is that something that you've done much before, or is this song one of the first tracks where you do that more clearly than before?
TJOnline: This is, this is the first track that will be released where I address that sort of head on. I've written a lot of songs. I've never hidden it really, but this is the first one that I made that was super overt about it. And I have a bunch of other songs that I've written that are in this vein that haven't seen the light of day yet. But this was the one where I wanted to be unapologetic about it and kind of throw it in people's faces. You know what I mean?
Listen to "sweet" here!
TGS: Yeah. And how do you feel about that coming up on the release of it? Are you nervous? Are you excited?
TJOnline: I feel good about it, honestly. Around the time when I was playing around with making this song and tossing it around in my head, I was really, really scared of it. But I've been out for quite a while now. The people in my personal life know very, very well, it's kind of easy to pick up on. But I feel like if there was a way for me to put this forward, I'm happy that it's this.
TGS: Yeah, exactly. And the whole song, I feel like it's just super powerful. And you're just like, “Yeah, I need me a lowkey hipster baby with a Vespa!” I'm like, “oh my God, you were actually spitting in this song.” And I just I loved every single thing. It’s just very badass. And I think that the way that you're claiming it is just very confident. I'm excited for you to be able to take that step in your career. And I know it's gonna be received well and people are just gonna be like, you are such a badass! And I'm sure it'll also inspire a lot of other young artists who might look up to you and grouptherapy. to maybe share that side of themselves if they were too scared to share before.
TJOnline: Yeah, thank you. I hope so!
TGS: And outside of sweet, are there any other upcoming releases you’re looking forward to, or any other music you're making right now?
TJOnline: We have two more singles planned for this year. There's a grouptherapy. single that we made not too long ago that is one of the craziest beats I have ever had the pleasure of making, which I cannot wait for people to hear. There's hopefully a lot more. A lot more stuff in this vein, a lot more very personal, but still confident and powerful songs for people.
TGS: And you produce for grouptherapy. as well?
TJOnline: Yeah, I produced sweet. I produced on our last project. And I've been a little timid about sharing about producing and I'm excited to step more into that role as we go forward.
TGS: Do you guys all produce or are there certain people producing more than others?
TJOnline: We all dabble in producing. I started off producing before I started writing songs or rapping or anything. So that’s something I feel most comfortable doing. But it’s something that we have all done at least to a certain extent.
TGS: That's so cool. And I think that's another reason why I think on my end, y'all's personality as a group comes together so clearly in your music, cuz y'all are all not only rapping and singing but you’re all also producing. And so it's all coming together in a really cohesive way. So the personality is just like super there, which I think is awesome!
TGS: And I think the last thing we could talk a little bit about is your tour. Cause I know y'all are going on tour! As independent artists, like that's a huge move, and a huge accomplishment. How are you feeling about that?
TJOnline: I'm really excited about it! I'm excited, and nervous, but really excited about it. This has been sort of a long time coming. We first started releasing stuff at the beginning of 2020. So just as live performances were about to stop being a thing. So I'm excited to go out and perform and get in front of crowds and stuff. We haven't really been able to do that in the few years that we've been out in the public.
TGS: And what stops you making on your tour?
TJOnline: We are stopping in LA, Atlanta, San Francisco and New York.
TGS: Is there a certain place you're most excited to go?
TJOnline: I'm excited for all the stops! I'm really excited for Atlanta. I've never performed there before, but I love Atlanta so much.We just did a show in Oakland, not too long ago, opening for Earthgang. So I'm excited to go back there and have a bit of a longer set. And I'm excited to come home! I'm excited to go to New York. Last time we performed in New York, it was amazing.
TGS: I'm very excited to go! I’ll be in the front row, going so hard.
TJOnline: Yes, we need Annabelle going crazy! Need Annabelle in the mosh pit!
TGS: Yes! I'll be throwing elbows for grouptherapy.!
TGS: Well outside of the music that you're putting out and the tour, what elsE can we expect from you and grouptherapy. within the next year? What do you think your life's gonna look like a year from now?
TJOnline: I would say a lot of performing! Being able to see us play. Near you. That is something that we are planning on and we have been manifesting. We're working on the next few releases. I can't say much about 'em, but there is gonna be a lot more stuff dropping and you'll have a lot more opportunities to see us.
TGS: Oh yesss! The people cannot wait! grouptherapy. coming to a city near you! Is there anything else that you want the people to know?
TJOnline: Listen to sweet. Let it give you some confidence. If it doesn't give you confidence, maybe play it again.
TGS: It gives me confidence 100%. Like it's gonna be playing when I'm getting my fit ready before I go out, it's gonna be my song at the gym. On my bad bitch energy.
TJOnline: Yeah! Like put this in all of the bad pitch playlists. That's what's made for.
TGS: Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today. I'm really excited for you and just for grouptherapy. and everything you guys are doing. I'm a big believer in everything y'all are working on. And I'm excited for “sweet”. And when does it drop?
TJOnline: “sweet” June 20th!
Interview by Annabelle Kline-Zilles, founder of That Good Sh*t