EXCLUSIVE | Dutch-Indonesian singer SIDEWAYS gets candid about ‘SOS’, DJing and more
(Written by Nandini Iyengar)
SIDEWAYS aka Justin Maes is a 27-year-old Dutch-Indonesian musician and entrepreneur. Having started his career as a DJ at the age of 16, he has now turned to singing and songwriting. He set up his own artist management agency in 2020, RISEDAWN in Seoul, South Korea and worked with K-pop artists like A.C.E, SHAUN and AILEE and had also won ‘Immortal Songs’ with WJSN, Xitsuh and DJ Koo. As a DJ he also released a remix track for Max Styler and MAKJ’s ‘Knock Me Down’ under renowned DJ Steve Aoki’s label DIM MAK.
SIDEWAYS finds inspiration in musicians like Machine Gun Kelly and Yung Blud, among others. He is known for his guitar-based sounds which he infuses in emo rock, pop-punk or pop-rock songs. He released his first song of 2022, ‘SOS’ on March 18. The song is about a relationship where the girl is toxic with lyrics that are simple yet paint a detailed picture of it. MEAWW got a chance to ask him about ‘SOS’, his career as a DJ and his music-making process. In an exclusive interview with MEAWW, SIDEWAYS talks about his love for pop-punk, future releases and much more.
MEAWW: What served as an idea behind choosing the stage name ‘SIDEWAYS’?
SIDEWAYS: SIDEWAYS stands for me finding my own path in the music industry, doing what I truly want to do. Often in my previous projects, the songs I made and branding choices were heavily influenced by A&R’s and managers so I’m confident to say SIDEWAYS is the first project that’s ME.
MEAWW: What inspired your decision to go with pop-punk as a genre for your track ‘SOS’?
SIDEWAYS: POP-PUNK is a genre that’s known to often be about feelings and emotions. The style of that genre perfectly fit the concept I had in mind for the song. I’m also extremely in love with pop-punk, it’s such an amazing genre with awesome songs and artists.
MEAWW: Can you please walk us through our process of making the track ‘SOS’?
SIDEWAYS: I started by talking to my production team about what I wanted instrumental wise. They hit me up 2 weeks later with a finished instrumental and I pretty much started writing to it right away. I already knew what I wanted to write about from the get-go which made it super easy for me creatively. The guys from my team (Nickko Young and Pino) really captivated what I wanted to do creatively and they deserve all the credit production-wise.
MEAWW: ‘SOS’ is about past hurt and starts on a strong foot lyrically speaking. Do you think pop-punk can be used for themes like a passionate romance or a struggle?
SIDEWAYS: Absolutely, I think most of the pop-punk songs are already about those subjects, to begin with. I think because of that it won’t be long until it starts to see worldwide commercial success (outside of the US/UK).
MEAWW: You have also previously worked as DJ and music producer with a few hits under your belt. How did that experience help you in your venture into singing and songwriting?
SIDEWAYS: A lot, I can pretty easily know now if a song will work or not. The productions are often just as important as the lyrics. I think due to my previous experience I can easily write a good hook or recognize an instrumental that has potential pretty much instantly.
MEAWW: You have been around in the music industry for a few years now. What are some of the important lessons that you have learned along the way?
SIDEWAYS: It helped me realize quickly what works in the industry and what doesn’t matter. Through my first project, I was capable of basically having an experience cheat code which helps immensely to deal with certain hurdles. It’s still difficult since SIDEWAYS is still so new, but I’m confident we’re going to achieve amazing things due to my experiences, success and failures of the past.
MEAWW: When facing a writing block, what do you usually do to get the ideas flowing?
SIDEWAYS: I let go of all the pressure. If that doesn’t help, I let the songs go for a couple of days, weeks and sometimes even months. It makes no sense to force something it’ll only deliver you a bad song. I sometimes revisit a song months later and write a banger simply due to the fact it’s finally the right moment to write on it.
MEAWW: Is there any difference in your work process as DJ and as a singer?
SIDEWAYS: Yes, I no longer produce the songs. I only write the melody and lyrics. I’m fully responsible for every business aspect (which was pretty much the same for the DJ-ing) besides that, there isn’t a huge difference.
MEAWW: After the release of 'SOS' what is your next plan? Do you have any spoiler perhaps to give us?
SIDEWAYS: Yes, I do, we’re probably releasing a remix of ‘SOS’ next month and perhaps multiple more. Also, later this year I’ll drop a track with someone that’s huge on TikTok! So many things to be excited about.
MEAWW: What message or advice do you have for those who are venturing newly into the music industry?
SIDEWAYS: Don’t think too much, just do it. You no longer need a label to be an artist. You can all achieve your dreams by just pushing yourself to keep at it. You might not always see the results you want but always remember - this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Listen to SIDEWAYS' 'SOS' below.