This Black guitarist became a K-Pop sensation in Asia – Interview
By Sound Check
March 27, 2018
By Brionna Taylor*, AFROPUNK Contributor
An unforeseen R&B musician continues to defy all odds. Justin Lyons, 32, also known as the GuitarSlayer is a musician like no other. Lyons has evolved from a self-taught child guitarist to a KPOP sensation. As an artist, his playing style is a fusion of Rock, Pop, Soul and Funk bringing a unique twist to the craft. Lyons’ success as a guitar player has allowed him to travel all cross the world and perform for more than 1.5 million people across the Asian borders.
“I have never had guitar lessons a day in my life,” says Lyons. “ K-POP is my Cinderella story.”
Lyons grew up in a musical family and on numerous occasions watched his father play the guitar in church. He became interested in music at age 5, but his mother who was a single parent could not afford to buy him a guitar. After saving, Lyons’ mother bought his first electric guitar from Toys R Us. Lyons’ mother consistently sat behind him during church service to hum and sing all the notes he needed to play since Lyons was unable to receive guitar lessons. Captivated by B.B. King, Lyons often played as he listened to King’s album, The Thrill is Gone. Lyons also followed along on his guitar as he sat in front of the radio.
Lyons’ artistic process is quite unparalleled. Unlike many musicians, Lyons doesn’t read music. Instead, Lyons charts out the notes in his head as he listens to the song. “I go to the studio and make the notes and marks necessary,” says Lyons. “Once I play the notes they’re automatically written in my brain…I never look back.” As a matter of fact, Lyons is able to render by ear any artistic style.
Lyons started off as a struggling local musician in Dallas. He made his money as a barber since working a regular 9-5 job was not an option for him. Lyons began performing with his band, K’nnect 4, at Sankofa, a local café which caught the attention of Neo Soul singer, Erykah Badu. His band became a household name within the Dallas Neo Soul circuit as he began performing with and opening up for Geno Young and such acts as, Carmen Rodgers, Eric Roberson and Tonex.
In 2012, Lyons drew the attention of the K-POP boyband, BigBang via Lil Wayne’s music director. Lyons received the opportunity to tour with BigBang as their lead guitarist for his first major tour, The Alive Tour. Lyons never anticipated that he would end up performing with BigBang, the largest KPOP band in the world. Grabbing the attention of many, they were officially the first ever in Asian history to put together an urban band combining R&B and soul into KPOP. Lyons has now been touring with BigBang for six years.
Along the way, Lyons has written, performed, and toured with many artists such as, Chrisette Michelle, Bobby Brown, En Vogue, and Lecrae. Lyons also co-produced two songs with R&B singer, Tank. The songs, Good Thing and Do For Me released on September 29. Currently, Lyons, a PRS artist is finishing part 2 of his EP, Lost which will debut his vocal skills and is scheduled to drop in Spring 2018.
Lyons has recently opened his studio, The Lyons Den in Dallas, a studio hub for traveling and emerging artists. “I want to build a platform for artists,” says Lyons. “I want to be the tree branches for other artists to have opportunities.” He hopes to motivate and develop other artists and encourage true artistry. Inspired by Quincy Jones, Lyons appreciates all musical instrumentation such as, horns, strings and drums. In his words, real music still exists and he hopes to keep that alive.
* Brionna Taylor is a freelance journalist whose works can be found at D Magazine, Okayplayer, Black Fitness Today, Global Rap Demand and many more. Follow her on Twitter at BrionnaT_.