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

Advice for Arizona Photographers: Up in Smoke presents Natalie Allen

With her charming laugh and almost 80,000 Instagram followers, Natalie Allen helped Raina and I kick off the first official episode of Up in Smoke.

Highlights of the very first Up in Smoke podcast include Natalie’s awesome advice for other Arizona photographers: The Arizona native discusses her growth in photography as well as how much her success has depended on being able to collaborate with other Valley artists, putting her art out there, handling mental break downs like a champ, and learning how to schedule downtime as a freelancer.

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Listen to the podcast here or continue to read about Day 1 of Up in Smoke Episode 1 below:

On a rather busy Saturday morning Raina and I scurried to the third floor of ASU’s Walter Cronkite Building. One of the (few) perks of still being a college student is that I can take advantage of the free podcast studio equipment that my college tuition is funding.

As first-time podcasters, we expected to face a few obstacles. For this first episode, the morning began with locked doors and a lost guest…..

Luckily, everyone in our group had enough caffeine and optimism to overlook these WTF-R-WE-DOING moments, so we continued on our mission to make Up in Smoke a reality.

Both of these issues were fixed in about five seconds (more like 20 minutes) and we were able to escort out guest, Natalie, away from the ASU parking lot and towards the ASU Blaze studio (Thank you Blaze & J!), and get the first episode going.

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The talented photographer had been in Hawaii only 24 hours before our show, and I still have no idea why she agreed to be our first guest (WE ❤ U NATALIE) but I am beyond grateful that we are starting this podcast off right with Natalie Allen.

If Hawaiian jet lag is a thing then I will never know because Natalie was just as excited and goddess-like on the morning of our show as she was in this photo of her on a surfboard in Hawaii.

(Sidebar: Is Hawaiian jet lag a thing and if so can I go to Hawaii and then come back and cancel all of my plans because of said island jet lag or nah?)

As stated above, Natalie was more than willing to share her story about how she got started in photography, as well as advice that she has for those getting started in the business in Arizona.

If her amazing photography (which you can see on her Instagram here or on her blog here) isn’t enough, Natalie’s whole lifestyle revolves around the concept of sustainability. (Read: and she only wears sustainable clothing items).

WHICH IS AWESOME AND EVEN MORE OF A REASON TO FANGIRL HER (but be cool about it… don’t tell her I sent you).

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Again, I can’t capture all of what Raina and I found out about Natalie and her crazy behind-the-lens talents in this blog post alone ——so go listen to our first episode and find out why Natalie is one of Arizona’s magical photographing unicorns in a sea of cacti and sand.

P.S. If you want to know what type of food that unicorns eat then you should know that Natalie’s favorite cereal is “multigrain cinnamon honey-something from Trader Joe’s” and once you find that you should ship 1000 boxes to her house.

But don’t take my word for it, listen to the Up in Smoke podcast and find out for yourself!

–Jamee

 

 

Advice for Arizona Photographers: Up in Smoke presents Natalie Allen