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Penn State Alum TEEJ Getting Back Into The Groove Of His Music Career

In 2009, Onward State interviewed aspiring musician and then-senior TJ Cornwall. Flash forward over a decade later and Cornwall, now also known as TEEJ, can be seen producing music with familiar faces such as Wiz Khalifa, Fedd the God, and E. Dan.

As a child growing up in Pittsburgh, Cornwall had many passions — his first one being sports. However, when he was seven years old, his parents signed him up for piano lessons, which wasn’t initially his cup of tea. After suffering an injury in his freshman year of high school, TEEJ decided to give piano another shot.

Courtesy of TJ Cornwall

He became obsessed with writing songs in a self-described “endless world of creativity” and found himself improving day after day.

At first, Cornwall came to Penn State as an architectural engineering major but then switched to mechanical engineering. Even still, TEEJ graduated with a degree in economics.

During his time in Happy Valley, Cornwall was in a band called “Cloverleaf” with his best friends, prior to focusing on his solo career.

“When I graduated high school, I met my drummer on Myspace, and we decided to meet up in the summer and just jam to see if we clicked,” Cornwall said. “It was the most fun in the world playing with another musician. We both kind of sucked, but we were having a blast.”

At the time, Cloverleaf played gig after gig at bars in State College, the State Theatre, and the Bryce Jordan Center, where they opened for Switchfoot & Relient K.

Courtesy of TJ Cornwall

“We did some really great things when we were at school,” Cornwall said. “I just remember sitting down with my band before moving to Penn State and having conversations like ‘man, what’s it gonna be like? Oh my God, we’re gonna have the biggest band ever.'”

“Long story short, we were the biggest local band at Penn State when we were there. So, we manifested it, we really did manifest it, and I learned a lot through that process,” Cornwall continued. “Even though we were small time nationally, in the little bubble at Penn State, we were known.”

Cornwall would often find himself playing shows back and forth between Pittsburgh, Penn State, and Philadelphia. But, he found himself struggling to balance all the lives he was living at once.

“All four of us would always take trips together, but it got to the point where I was living like three different lives,” Cornwall said. “I was a college student, I had a girlfriend at the time, so I was also a boyfriend, and then a music rock star.”

Leading up to the band’s senior year, the band went their separate ways while still remaining close friends.

The last show Cloverleaf played was at the State Theatre with an almost sold-out crowd, making it not only an emotional night for Cornwall, but also his favorite Penn State memory.

Cornwall realized that he could make a career out of music since he had a lot of experience recording in studios and producing songs. So, he decided to ride solo and started touring after graduation.

“I toured across the country for about a year and a half and if I’m being fully honest, it was really difficult,” Cornwall said. “It was a blast. I had so much fun. I had one of my buddies from Penn State come along with me who did all the videos. He just traveled around with me, and we made it fun. We slept on people’s couches and floors or whatever we had to do to get a place to stay.”

The travel burnt Cornwall out with music, leading him to pursue the next chapter of his life.

“I felt this immense pressure to go into the corporate world to make money,” Cornwall said. “So, I moved to Baltimore and worked this finance job for about a year and a half. I kinda got to the point where I hated what I was doing and decided I need to go be me. I basically had a quarter-life crisis.”

Cornwall set off to Australia with his girlfriend at the time and two of his best friends, living there for about a year.

At first, he applied for “every job under the sun” and wanted a life change. Cornwall learned the ins and outs of the business world by working as a salesperson at a startup company — all while living an adventurous life in a brand-new country to him.

Courtesy of TJ Cornwall

Once Cornwall got back to the States, he returned with a new motivation for life. Although he didn’t want to give up on music, he needed to put it on the back burner.

Cornwall moved to Dallas, where he ran multiple sales organizations for two different startup companies as the second in command. Despite the business work, he found himself sitting at the piano every day, playing for fun. For the first time in a while, time stopped for him.

“I had no pressure on my back to put anything out,” Cornwall said. “I felt like I was 15 again. I remembered why I started playing in the first place. I realized it was time to take a chance on myself and just dive into something that I loved to do again.”

Courtesy of TJ Cornwall

Next thing Cornwall knew, he was writing hundreds of songs with the help of his best friend, Penn Stater and CEO of Taylor Gang Will Dzombak.

Due to Dzombak’s consistent push to get back into music, Cornwall got back into music full-time in 2021 while also hustling as a full-time real estate agent.

“When I would put myself back in my 15-year-old brain, I realized it was so different from how I am now, Cornwall said. “Back then, I was so insecure and I wanted people to like me. I was pretty bad. Even at Penn State, I couldn’t believe that people even showed up to our shows.”

“It’s just that feeling that you brought something new into the universe,” Cornwall continued. “That’s a really cool feeling, and I wanted to feel that over and over and over again.”

Couresty of TJ Cornwall

Since getting “back in his element”, Cornwall has been producing music for himself and other aspiring artists in Dallas while releasing several singles. Cornwall has also recently written a few tracks for Wiz Khalifa and will be featured in his next few albums.

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About the Author

Evan Halfen

Evan Halfen is a sophomore broadcast journalism major from Newark, DE. Evan loves all things Penn State, tailgating, being loud, just about any beach, and his puppies, Butterscotch and Wentzy. You can direct all your suggestions, roasts, and jokes to his Instagram: @e.evan.halfen.n.

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