Scruffpuppie is the signed emo-pop powerhouse on Phoebe Bridgers’ new label
It’s mid-October and Scruffpuppie aka JJ Shurbet is locked in an Airbnb in New York City. Their backdrop is decorated with empty innocuous cream walls and a box-shaped room, leaning forward, the singer’s lilac hair fits into the frame. The past year for the 20-year-old has been one of overdrive. A self-taught rising star, the name Scruffpuppie made the rounds of the Internet before it started to catch on. With over half a million views on their YouTube and a promising presence on Soundcloud, it was only a matter of time before Gen Z’s grunge-pop genre shift was picked up. Singer Zombie Boy’s debut cemented her as a person to watch, while her new endeavors reaffirmed her creative ingenuity as a dynamic First Wave prodigy. Now, with a full new record on the way, under the watchful eye of sad pop phenomenon Phoebe Bridgers, Scruffpuppie explains how drug addiction, internalized transphobia, and growing up have shaped their view of music.
“With everything going on with the album and all the singles coming out, things are really starting to pick up speed. This album is something that really got me excited,” JJ nods to Zoom. It’s late. morning and JJ is, confessionally, exhausted, she casually mentions, smiling, pushing her sharp pastel purple bangs away from her eyes; a habit she does throughout our conversation. Despite the grueling schedule, they are delighted that things are starting to move forward, especially when she reveals that the record was completed early “from March to April of this year.” Her new record, a haunting multitude of folk, grunge and acoustic inspirations, testifies to the evolved sound from Scruffpuppie. “It’s a collection of songs I’ve worked on for a little over two years,” the 20-year-old told GAY TIMES. “A lot of them are adapted, especially since ‘they got sober, since I became trans and more open to my sexuality and my identity. A lot of people are starting to see a completely different side to Scruffpuppie. “
GAY TIMES caught up with the up-and-coming artist to learn more about reconnecting with their fan base, writing new music, and joining Saddest Factory Records’ acclaimed roster.
You grew up in Paris, Texas, in a Christian home. How has this personal environment shaped you as an artist?
I grew up going to church every Sunday and absolutely dreaded it except when they worshiped. I am no longer a Christian person, but more precisely what music made my parents feel. That’s the first thing that made me realize, “Oh wow, music that can make people cry, music can make people feel something, and that’s a fucking beautiful thing.” This is what started to spark my love for music and my love for the emotion that can be represented in music, whether it adheres strictly to Christianity or something else. Growing up in a Christian home was not easy at all, with very strict parents. When I started to have the courage to say that I am not straight, my parents were very against it at the time. It was when I was really young. So they thought I wasn’t old enough to figure it out for myself yet, which is clearly something that screwed me up.
Much of my childhood established a lot of internalized homophobia and transphobia because my parents made me feel like it was wrong. With the new album, my song October 14, speaks a lot about my relationship with myself and my ease in my identity and my sexual orientation. Talk about how we denigrated her and it’s cool to have adapted the song to talk about it because that song made me cry for hours and hours. Originally it was a meaningless song that I just wrote a little baseline on in 2019. This song is definitely the most expressive about my identity and direction. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to write this song without growing up in a Christian home.
You started out as an internet prodigy making hits on YouTube and Soundcloud. Now that you’ve signed to Phoebe Bridger’s Saddest Factory Records, do you think your relationship with fans has changed?
That started to change as I gained popularity on YouTube and started coming to California and doing things more on a professional level. When I first started I was just doing it for fun, and the views and stuff, that wasn’t a bonus. I started to develop a vision of what I wanted to do because everything I did on my own was good, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted everyone to hear what I was doing. It was difficult, the difference and the interaction with my audience. I have lost a lot of loyal followers because I am not that interactive. I still try to be, it’s not as easy as it used to be. Especially since there are so many of them now, on YouTube and everything like coming out as trans and everything. Like, there are a lot of people out there who like it, disagree with it, and want me to go back to how I was two years ago. The Scruffpuppie who wrote songs in his basement two years ago still writes songs but in a basement elsewhere.