We recently got the chance to sit down and chat with 3lau before he sets sail on the Groove Cruise LA. Justin talked to us about his recent trip to Guatemala, where he’s teamed up with Pencils of Promise to help build schools for children in the underdeveloped nation. Justin has taken a prominent role in terms of giving back to communities, using his platform as a world-class producer/DJ to help do some good in the world. Here’s what Justin had to say.
So you just got back from Guatemala, tell me about your trip?
“It was amazing, it’s actually my second time. The first time I went in 2013, I had raised enough money to build a school. Fast forward to four years later and we have seven schools. It’s really only four right now, but we visited the groundbreaking for a new school that was completely funded from my label. It’s actually going to be the biggest school that the organization has ever built with seven classrooms. So that was a whole different level of experience.”
Have you always been passionate about this cause?
“So I’ve always been passionate about philanthropic projects in developing countries because the money goes a really long way. And I still do a lot of charitable initiatives here in the U.S. I just recently played a show in Houston where we donated all the ticket money to hurricane relief. I actually made the donation yesterday, it was $20,000. But, the money goes really far in developing countries. When I visited the first time I saw that, you can really impact the whole community for very little, relatively speaking. So, throughout my life, I’ve always done a lot of work in developing countries. In high school, I ran a microfinance organization at my school, and I just kind of became passionate about education when I was in college. Mainly because there were a couple of organizations on campus that did a lot of work with building schools in developing countries. And I found Pencils of Promise that way and I just kind of fell in love with the people at the organization and the transparency of it all, because Pencils of Promise you see exactly where your money goes, you’re not just making a blind donation. To me education is one of the most important causes to donate to and work with because it’s a generational charity, it’s nothing that ends in our lifetimes. Giving and helping build educational networks in developing countries can impact communities for years to come. To me, if I’m going to donate my money and time I really want to be as effective as possible. Education is really such a big part of solving a lot of root-cause problems that developing countries have.”
Would you like to see more artists do what you’re doing and use their platform to help bring awareness to these types of causes?
“For me, I started my label (Blume) around April 2016, and I started the label because I really felt an obligation to do something because I feel so lucky with having the career I have and doing what I love and I have all these fans that are listening. I wanted to create a system to basically involve fans in giving back. That was the whole purpose of creating my label. So, for me, it’s a collective process. Me working with fans, just listening to music raises money, it doesn’t cost anybody anything. It’s something that’s really revolutionary because of streaming, because of the way that streaming has revolutionized the music business, how that money is distributed. Do I think other artists should do it? Yeah, of course. Any artist is lucky that we have an audience to listen to our art, and to me, when you have a platform, I certainly don’t think it’s an obligation per se for every artist, but for me, I personally feel like I’m so lucky to be doing what I love and this is my way of giving back and taking all the things the fans and the dance music community have given me and doing something great with it.”
Tell me about your new track “Star Crossed,” with all proceeds going to charity. Was that a song you were specifically inspired to do or was it a track you’d been sitting on?
“No. The way Blume used to work, we had a goal of raising $200,000 for Pencils of Promise, we had that faster than I ever would have expected. So I didn’t even know what to do after that, this was back in January. I was like, oh wow, what next. I thought I would let fans pick the next charity, but as streaming works, the money from existing songs keeps building and building. So I was like what do we do with the next round of money? So at the time, when ‘On My Mind’ came out, everybody was frustrated with the civil liberties situation that exists, so I thought of giving to the ACLU. Before ‘Star Crossed’ came out I was actually still debating on which charity to use the revenues for and I hadn’t decided yet. So originally it was going to be Star Crossed goes to charity A or B, and then of course the hurricane happened, so I figured what a more fitting time, I’m sure the fans would have picked hurricane relief if I asked. So it was kind of a spur of the moment decision. But even post-hurricane world, that song will continue to benefit all kinds of disaster-relief victims…I’m actually going to be splitting the money three ways between Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico, from that song.”
Groove Cruise is this weekend! Are you excited?
“Very excited, it’s my third rave cruise that I’ve played and they’re always insane. I might be playing a secret set, maybe a little secret deep house set somewhere, it’s a really fun time.”
How’s the fall tour going?
“The tour’s been crushing. I was really happy the Houston show sold out and we hit our charity target. But, all the shows have been incredible so far. I’ve got a lot of new music coming, been playing some of it live, some remixes live. I actually just have a lot of unreleased music. My sets are full of unreleased tracks that I never put out, so that’s kind of fun for fans to hear when they come to see me play. I am gearing up for a big project at the start of next year. Can’t say much about it now, but it’s definitely going to be a new chapter for me.”
Between recording, touring, philanthropic stuff, do you ever find a moment to just chill and relax?
“I don’t. I mean as it is travelling and making music is very difficult. When I’m home in Vegas, I spend as much time as I can in the studio because it’s really hard to keep up. It’s easy to come up with ideas, but finishing things requires a lot of focus. People ask me all the time if I have hobbies, and I honestly feel like I’ve dedicated my life to the people that listen to my music, the music itself, and more recently the charity projects. For me, it’s fun, I legitimately love it. I just got to go to Guatemala for three days, you know, driving on windy roads to places I never would have been. And I get to meet people there, all these kids, some of which have heard my music, some of which haven’t. And I get to go and travel the world and meet the people who have supported me and that’s why I do what I do.”
Check out 3lau’s new single “Star Crossed” below. Every play helps benefit hurricane relief, so make sure to share this great track with your friends.