AJ Odneal: the ukulele folk artist on a mission to create more diversity in Phoenix

AJ Odneal is the only voice I wanted to hear after the chaos of graduation (which Raina, Jaye, and myself all endured this month… WHOOO!!).

Instantly Raina and I were relaxed by AJ’s beautiful-neo-folk voice and then blown away by the fact that she pay$$$ her rent through her music and live performances – IN THIS DESERT WE CALL ARIZONA.

Btw—this podcast episode begins with an original song by AJ, “Growing Old.” Watch her video below and then listen to Episode 7 here.

 

 

AJ is a VIP member of that small group of talented people that make their living off of their talent (that’s not really a club don’t @ me) — and she’s only 22. Her weekly shows have given her financial stability, with her first paycheck coming to her during her freshman year of high school.

Plug: You can check out some of her music here, or listen to a sample during Episode 7 of Up in Smoke here.

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Despite her God-sent talent, the creative control that AJ currently has over her music has kept her from signing a label or even wanting anything to do with that side of the music industry. She spoke specifically about the downsides of being attached to a major label during the show.

“They own you– what you look like, what you represent, what you’re allowed to say, what you’re allowed to do, and they can change it all on you,” she said before further going into how she has seen it effect similar people in her position.

“As a woman of color I run the risk of either being forced into a stereotype or being changed in a way of like, straightening my hair. I have a lot of friends who are in businesses where they try to be on film and they tell you, ‘Well, don’t go out in the sun because the darker you are the harder you are to cast,’” she said.

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The anti-stereotype stand that AJ has taken with her music career correlates with her bigger goal: to see more women that look like her in the entertainment and music industry.

“That’s very important to me as someone who didn’t have representation growing up as being like, this little mixed brown girl. I didn’t get to see myself a lot on film, so whenever I’m making videos I’m always trying to become more diverse with each one,” she said.

And her music videos are awesome — so if you have not already watched the one linked to the top of this page then you should reconsider your life choices.

AJ also talked about her pen pal (listen to hear more on that) and spoke about a few specific instances of “well-intentioned” racism that she has faced from some of her Arizona audience members in the Valley this past year.

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And AJ’s advice for similar ukulele playing artists? Know what your end goal is and reach out to older musicians and learn from their mistakes, she said.

(side note :she plays a lot of other instruments besides the ukulele)

LISTEN TO EPISODE 7 HERE.

Raina’s band stories also made their way back to the podcast, as she knew AJ in high school — so keep your ears open for that and then ask Raina to do a band reunion show.

Also, may I suggest that you follow/ stalk/ tweetlisten to AJ Odneal if you want to add some Zen to your day or if you need another reason to get a pen pal.

 

AJ Odneal: the ukulele folk artist on a mission to create more diversity in Phoenix

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