INTERVIEW with rising young star Alex Jo

Alex Jo began singing at the age of six and has been developing her love for the music scene and honing her talents ever since. By the age of eight, she already appeared in renowned singing contests like Next Star and the Voice of Romania, blowing the judges away with her natural vocal talent.

Alex Jo has intensively studied both the flute and the piano, while also taking singing lessons at the Octav Bancila National College of Art, expanding her vocal range and musical knowledge. The debut single “Never Give Up” shows the world what her superb team over at Pinky Music London already knew she was capable of doing. Alex Jo possesses the vocal power to transition into any sound she chooses. Moreover, she has the looks, and the attitude to conquer the world.

  1. Can you tell us a little bit how you got started making music and when you began to take it seriously?

Alex Jo: Music has always been an important element in my life and prioritising it is something that naturally occurred since the beginning of my journey, this being when I was around 9 years old. I wouldn’t say that was the moment I took music seriously because I was young and it was just the beginning, but just one year of work and me being devoted to music in general had a major impact on who I am today and the path I followed to get to this point. There is no exact moment that I can highlight and say ‘That is when I started making music’ because I’ve done that my entire life but I can say the moment I moved here was the catalyst setting another chain of events in motion, leading me to meet Pinky, go to a music school, record and experience being in a studio, surround myself with talented and amazing people and expanding my possibilities for the future. Considering this, I believe they’re all factors that inspired me to write and create more and more. Being part of a new environment where people are supportive and encourage me to write was all I needed to get started and write music again, but this time being more involved and approaching it with a different mindset.

  1. Who were your first and strongest musical influences that you can remember?

Alex Jo: Christina Aguilera and Rihanna were the first musical figures I looked up to since I was 9. I can still remember one of my first ever covers was a song by Rihanna and this was almost 8 years ago. The first thing I noticed was their timbre and tone, which made them extremely special to me. Time passing and me growing up, I continued to appreciate them for not only their voice but the way they expressed themselves on stage, with fans, with friends and their style, personalities and overall image. They were my role models at that time. They were the first to inspire and motivate me to continue on this path I had chosen.

  1. How important has your piano, flute and vocal training been for you? Do you think formal training is still an essential tool for artists in the era of computer-aided music?

Alex Jo: Knowing how to play an instrument is always helpful. I was lucky to have amazing teachers who made me realise exactly what I want to do in the future and by learning two instruments and having a vocal coach my horizons widened and opportunities amplified. As a singer I think it’s vital to still continue training and have the complete vocal technique mastered. It improves your performance, tone, voice and confidence altogether. They’ve all had and still hold an important part in my career, because I gained all this knowledge and now, I have the good and necessary base from which I keep building to develop as an artist and I say that because I don’t think I’ll ever stop ‘building’. Every day is a new experience and every experience brings knowledge or something new, so every day is a new lesson and I still have so much to learn whether that is about me, my stage persona, new ways of expressing myself, new techniques to perform or even learning more about the business side of it and what happens behind the stage; there’s always something new to be revealed. So, to summarise this, yes, it is essential and helpful to have such training in your background as an artist.

  1. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners?

Alex Jo: Firstly, my lyrics. That is simply because they’re the ones telling the story and shaping ideas in the song and the listener’s mind. They have the power to create, shape and wield images as well as sounds, so I use that in multiple songs to, perhaps, highlight specific sections in which the focus should be placed on the motion of words and their direction in the story rather than the instrumental. However, I do like finding a balance between the two and using it where necessary to maintain that state of harmony in the actual song. I would also like to add that I appreciate the power words have on us and being powerful in general. Like I’ve mentioned earlier, they have the power to create and this is what I use throughout the entirety of my writing process. Each word has a different frequency and energy level, so when they’re used in specific phrases, they rise or fall through various spaces filled with energy. Also, words hold even more power in songs so I believe it’s important to choose them carefully because they will eventually manifest in some form in our lives and I want my words to inspire and motivate people rather than push them in a spiral of pessimism. The other element I seem to include in most of the songs I write is the piano. I’ve been studying and playing the piano for about 6 years and now it has become my comfort zone where I can always go for ideas or inspiration. It’s easy to just sit down and play a few progressions or try different chords until I find the right ones and eventually create a song. I also believe there are many ways to use the piano and that variety of sounds offers me, again, many options to choose from, whether I want the sound to be soft and light or deep with a strong accent of a grand piano. So, these are the main elements that most likely resonate with my listeners and grab their attention.

 

  1. For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your development as an artist and songwriter, and the transition towards your own style?

Alex Jo: It took me a long time to realise that being myself is what people appreciate most. I’ve always thought that doing exactly what people like and trying to please them constantly would make me a good person and artist, but now I know it’s not like that. I’ve always tried to take small pieces from other artists and put them together to make me feel complete, but that feeling never occurred and I kept doing so until I realised I don’t need to. I am already complete and I can use my skills and talent in my own unique way. I don’t need to compare myself with others and think ‘Why can’t I be like them’ because I am me and that should be enough. The thing with comparing yourself with others is that, for some it might be done in a healthy manner that motivates them more to change and be better but most of the time it’s not like that and if it’s done in such a way that makes you think you’re not enough and that what you’re doing is not good enough then it never will be. This is why I stopped doing it. Sometimes I still find myself slowly going back to that and trying to compare myself without even realising but if I do, I quickly correct myself and self-reflect for a bit to acknowledge how far I’ve come and the long journey ahead of it. Changing this mindset is not going to happen overnight, but it will happen and every step I take from today matters.

  1. How did you get together with Pinky Music London, and what has your experience been like with them so far?

Alex Jo: It’s actually quite a funny and interesting story because it was pure luck and meant to be. When I first moved here, almost 3 years ago, I was looking to continue my piano and flute studies so I was in search of a new piano. My dad met someone who was selling a baby grand piano and thought it was perfect for me so eventually went there and got it. We did know, however, that it had an issue with the sound so no matter what we tried it wasn’t working. We kept it for a few months with the idea of fixing it but we couldn’t find the time to do it and back then we didn’t have many connections, didn’t really know many people who would help or know someone who specializes in something like this. Unfortunately (well, fortunately actually) my dad decided it’s best to sell it and look for something else and I agreed so that is what we did and this is also how I met Pinky. The day he came to see and take the piano, my dad showed him some old videos of me performing and that was the ‘meant to be’ moment I was referring to earlier. I’m here right now, writing and recording in studios, releasing music and performing again live because of a broken piano and just meeting the right person at the perfect time.

  1. Could you describe your creative processes? How do you most often start, and go about shaping ideas into a song? Do you usually start with a beat, a narrative in your head, or a melody?

Alex Jo: It usually starts with a feeling. By becoming aware of what I’m feeling I can think of ways to put it into words. Sometimes that’s how a song begins to form a shape, but I would say the process is rarely the same. Sometimes I feel like I’m drawing inspiration from art or even poetry. Just like music, they are a way of self-expression and conveying emotions each of a different essence, therefore I always try to find a balance between them and bring some influences into my music. I also think it’s important to mention that when I write, I don’t set limits to follow a strict structure or pattern for the song I’m creating. I’m describing the feeling, the image and art in my mind without necessarily thinking of rhyme schemes and clear verse/chorus structures because this is my way of expressing myself. I normally choose to structure my songs in a way that could resemble a letter or just a message from me to my audience which they can take and interpret it in their own ways. This is something I keep in mind each time I write because what I want is my audience to feel more connected with my thoughts by finding theirs as well. When I write, I try to associate the words with a current situation in my life or simple things that make me happy. Writing about something that gives me joy will automatically add more value to the process of creating that song. One thing I can think of now, as an example, is astronomy. I’ve always been fascinated with anything astronomy related and I’ve been referencing that in some of my songs; subtle references to constellations and stars which add depth to the lyrics while also being a personal matter to me.

  1. As far as recording the instrumentals in your music, and performing are concerned, do you collaborate with fixed band and producer?

Alex Jo:  I work closely with musicians and producers when recording and performing not necessarily with a fixed band because I consider potential connections and new acquaintances that might form, so I’m normally open to collaborating and starting different projects with people.

  1. What has been the most difficult thing you have had to endure in your musical career, or life, so far? And how did you overcome that event?

Alex Jo:  First I want to say I admire everyone who is able to transform a feeling, especially a somber one, into music because it’s not an easy thing to do and it takes strength to open up and let everyone see a vulnerable side of you. For me, that has been something I’ve struggled with my entire life. Facing a challenge when opening up or talking about myself and my feelings in general was not an exception for music. It was difficult talking about the way I feel and describing a personal situation without having a constant fear of being judged or misunderstood. I know I’m not alone in this and there’s a significant number of people who feel the same and understand the doubts I deal with when writing. Before writing and making music such an important part of my life, I felt like no matter which words I used, no one would hear what I had to say. I felt like I was the only one in that kind of situation, left alone to find a solution all by myself. But putting those thoughts and emotions behind words in music was the best way I could ‘talk’ without actually doing it. Now, seeing all the support I’m receiving from people, for the simple fact that I am truthful and truly myself in those words motivates me to write more and keep expressing myself that way because I am not only doing it for myself but for others who might have not found their voice yet.

  1. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or career so far?

Alex Jo: I’m proud of myself for being able and having the determination to change my mindset to a more positive one because that gave me a new perspective, a new way to see everything around me. I don’t normally (actually ever) express gratitude towards something I’ve done myself but overcoming the difficulties that stopped me from being truly happy with myself is something I’m proud of. I can communicate with people better now. I am more confident and trust myself and my decisions more without letting doubt control me which, again, is something I’m proud of.

  1. With social media having a heavy impact on our lives and the music business in general, how do you handle criticism, haters and/or naysayers in general? Is it something you pay attention to, or simply ignore?

Alex Jo: I’d like to say I ignore every negative comment thrown my way but that would be a lie. I don’t think ‘ignore’ is the right word because it’s hard to ignore a constant in our lives, something that will always be there waiting for you to notice and give your full attention. Despite being aware of this negativity, it’s important to not indulge it.

  1. Do you have the full support of your family and friends, in your musical endeavors, or are you pretty much on your own?

Alex Jo: I’ve always had the unconditional support of my family and some from my close friends which I continue to be grateful for. I can’t say there was ever a moment when I felt like I was on my own on this musical path and for that I would have to thank my family and especially my dad for always being there with me and giving me motivation. He would always encourage me to trust myself and be more confident to put myself out there and use my skills to follow a purpose, which I am doing right now. With this said, thanking him is not enough for all he has done for me to get here and I am forever grateful for that.

  1. What is idea, message and inspiration behind your single “Never Give Up”?

Alex Jo: The overall message orbits around the concept of standing together even when time brings struggle. It’s about you, as an individual, being there for yourself and ‘’picking yourself up’’ when you need to feel supported and proud of how far you’ve got in life, but also you as part of a community, part of something greater and someone who offers their support to a person in need. As a general message, I’d say it’s about pointing at problems in our society and the way it orchestrates around us, affecting all of us, but being aware of it helps us stand together to create a better alternative that benefits us all.

  1. Could you describe your overall sound and style using five adjectives?

Alex Jo: Impactful, Reflective, Tranquil, Indelible and Strong

  1. Do you think is it important for fans of your music to understand the real story and message driving your songs, or do you think everyone should be free to interpret your songs in their own way?

Alex Jo: Can I say both? I think it’s important to understand the essence and get to the core of a song, understanding its message and overall story but I do want my audience to be able to have that freedom of interpretation and assimilate the story in a way that is more personal to them, because this is the point of creating this art and sharing my music with people. We all have our similarities that we might not even notice and music is such a strong element in our lives that connects everyone in this world, so what I choose to share through my music is not only a piece of myself that I give to the world but something, a missing fragment for someone else to find.

  1. Do you have a favorite motto, phrase or piece of advice, you try to live or inspire yourself by?

Alex Jo: I constantly remind myself these days to live in the present more. We have the past, present and future and often seem to consider the present as a transition, as a transit, a change between two major time passages. In reality, it’s not like that at all. We’re spending most of our time regretting and over analysing the past, thinking about all the other possibilities and versions that could’ve made the present better or even the future. What we don’t realise is that we allow the past to affect our present and ultimately the future as well because if I’m reflecting and projecting past mistakes/actions in my present then I’m falling back into that repetitive motion and the present becomes again the past and so on.

  1. Studio work and songwriting, or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer, and why?

Alex Jo: As much as I prefer working, producing and writing by myself, by networking and communicating in general with people will get me much farther than if I were to constantly work alone. Same thing applies to performing and interacting with an audience. It’s peaceful to practice by yourself and sing or play because you simply enjoy it, in an empty room where only you can be the judge of your creation. As I’ve said before, being vulnerable and sharing music with the world is sometimes seen as an invitation for criticism, so I used to avoid showing my image on stage like that because of that constant fear I had. However, I must say there needs to be a balance between the two. It’s essential to maintain inner peace and seek time to collect yourself and work in a calming atmosphere but getting out there and expressing yourself for a live audience to see how your work is received. Being at peace with the thought that you can’t be perfect in everyone’s eyes is exactly what lifts the barrier keeping you stagnant.

  1. What’s the most exciting part of being an independent music artist for you, and which is the part you like least?

Alex Jo: The most exciting part is having all this freedom that allows me to decide how I want to present myself and what I want to show to my audience through my music. The not so exciting part is that once you become an artist or enter this world the standard you have to reach is quite high and there’s really no room for mistakes, but this is something every artist faces at some point and once you create a name for yourself it’s more difficult to avoid it or not be intimidated by it.

  1. How essential do you think video is in relation to your music? Do you have a visual you could suggest fans see, to get a better understanding of your persona and craft, or will you be working on something soon?

Alex Jo: From my perspective and just the way I see things, it’s nice to have visuals that match the music, but not vital. Music is the art you’re presenting and the main focus is, of course, placed on that. Here, a balance is needed as well. In my opinion, the visuals should emphasise and enhance the effect of the music itself rather than take over and make the music background noise. Also, working on visuals like that is another way to create art and express yourself and this is why I’ll be working on this as soon as possible, especially now when I’m releasing new music.

  1. What do you find most rewarding about what you do artistically? And do you have a specific vision or goal set in your mind that you would like to achieve in the near future?

Alex Jo: Seeing that my music makes people happy is the most rewarding aspect of being an artist. My goal since the beginning has been to inspire people the same way they inspired me to write and make music. No matter how many times I reach this goal, I will always keep it there with me and, in my heart, I continue to reach it. For now, a future goal would be working with another artist and collaborating towards a new project.

OFFICIAL LINKS:
FACEBOOK – https://www.facebook.com/Alex.Jo.Singer
TWITTER – https://twitter.com/AlexJo_Music
PINKY MUSIC – https://pinkymusic.co.uk/artist/alex-jo/
YOUTUBE – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIVTC8AoeSQ
SPOTIFY – https://open.spotify.com/track/7Mf7rjdv8kJTORP5YnmT8d?si=9a4ca55aa003499b

 

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Rick Jamm

Journalist, publicist and indie music producer with a fervent passion for electric guitars and mixing desks !

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