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

Female Musicians in Phoenix: Get a Mentor

Local Phoenix and Arizona musicians, heed the advice of Nicole Laurenne, the international rockstar of the all-female band, The Darts. Nicole doubles as a Gilbert judge by day (read the first sentence again if you do not yet feel any sense of amazement) and a musician by night.

Nicole has toured internationally and sold a hell of a lot of music in France with her previous band, The Love Nots — as seen on the cover of France’s Rolling Stone, and you will just die, literally I will bury you rn, DIE— after you listen to her session with us on Episode 2 of Up in Smoke.

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Nicole as featured on the French edition of the Rolling Stone.

 

Listen to Nicole Laurenne on Up in Smoke Ep. 2 here.

Not only does she rock a bang cut like Bettie Page and live a rockstar lifestyle that puts Mill Avenue to shame, but she is also a mother to twins (HOW. WTF).

Nicole talked to Raina and I about playing shows with other law students while attending The University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law as well as the steps of becoming a (then) small-town judge. Her podcast also includes stories about the beginnings of her music career at local mall venues and an interesting last-minute interview in the Red Light District in Paris that skyrocketed her career and landed her on the cover of France’s Rolling Stone.

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Nicole singing below The Dart’s guitarist Michelle B. during a show. Photo CC: Sergio Garcia

The rockstar spoke about using rejection as a tool to go forward in her creative endeavors and attributed the majority of her music marketing luck to showing up to interviews that she didn’t necessarily feel like going to, much like her last minute interview in the Red Light District.

The black-banged goddess also told Raina and I that the key to her success in music and in law school was having a good mentor.

“You gotta find a mentor. I’m telling you, this is the key to everything single thing I’ve ever done that I think I’m even barely succeeding at– it’s because of meeting the right person who could sort of guide (me) into it,” Nicole said.

She pointed out the importance of finding locals who are doing things successfully and asking them how they are doing it in order to take her own creative endeavors to the next level.

You can check out the full conversation in our second podcast episode here.

Be sure to also check out The Dart’s next show, ROCK Like A GRRL, on May 6th at Last Exit Live —– (P.S. Raina and I will be there so if you need a ride you should text Raina because she’s nicer).

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Also shoutout to The Dart’s drummer, Rikki Watson. I have never met you but Raina and I think you are a drumming goddess.

–Jamee

Female Musicians in Phoenix: Get a Mentor