AJ Young is a 26 year old Kansas City native who began his musical career as a rapper but has transitioned magnificently into becoming a successful singer/songwriter. AJ Young just released his first EP which you can find on Bancamp now! AJ answered my questions regarding his new EP, how he got from the start of his career to where he is now and his favorite albums of 2015.
MFL: What inspired you to begin rapping and what, in terms of releases and performances, came out of this part of your musical career?
AJ Young (AJ): Growing up in the inner city there was A LOT going on. Mostly bad in the beginning, but things in the environment eventually changed for the better. I had a lot of inspiration to draw from during those years. Rapping was the easiest and most accepted way off expressing myself artistically. It was a whole thing for me honestly, but I’m happy to admit my rap days are on hiatus. Haaa!
MFL: I understand that you desired more from your music in terms of instrumental arrangement and full control of the construction of music. Have you fully transitioned to being a singer/songwriter or do you still enjoy rapping? Along those same lines, how did your abilities as a rapper complement and add to what you do with your music now?
AJ: I would definitely say I’ve fully transitioned to being the singer/songwriter at this point in my career. The rapping thing actually did pretty good. I won first place in a contest to open for Drake a few years ago through Ourstage.com
Rapping has its bonus points, I’d definitely admit it laid a basis for me to learn to piece together lyrics in any given musical composition. I credit those hip hop years to being crucial in my songwriter development and lyrical content. Music has a way off being full circle I guess.
MFL: I read you’re a Kansas City, MO native. Has your life lead you away from Kansas City yet? If so, to where and why?
AJ: Yes, many times in the last few years especially. recently I played out in Maryland at the “Good Beer Festival” it was great and met some cool performers one of which was Sam Burchfield.
Sam is awesome live. He recently competed in American Idol which is where many would recognize him from. I am currently putting together some shows some off which will include bringing the Sam Burchfield band to Kansas city.
I also have competed in multiple competitions in the Atlanta, Georgia area and performed a number of times at Eddies Attic in Atlanta, the famous venue where John Mayer got his head start.
MFL: The passion in your music is absolutely tangible and undeniable. Where does this come from? What motivates the melodies and lyrics?
AJ: Thank you. It means alot to have someone recognize all the hard work and dedication I have put into this and continue to put in. Each and every song I write is about a particular time or event in my life at some point that I’ve experienced. So in short I truly have an emotional connection to the music and I’m not just doing it for a “paycheck” so to speak.
Music is a fickle thing. The creation varies when making a song. Sometimes the musical arrangement sort of starts first before you have any lyrical content. Sometimes a simple chord progression will give off a vibe and lyrical ideas start flowing. Sometimes it’s the opposite and I feel the hook of a song or have a few words I keep repeating in my head throughout the day. I usually just allow the process to take its shape naturally at this point and when a song hits me I stop what I’m doing and WRITE.
MFL: How long have you been performing and what are the biggest changes you’ve noticed in yourself over your years of performing?
AJ: I’ve been performing for about 8 years professionally. The biggest change I’ve noticed outside of my guitar skill growing vastly during those years would be my opinion of music in general. What’s good and what’s not, how to arrange a song, what style to adapt my playing to. Things change over the years but the love for musical creativity never does.
MFL: Who are your life long musical inspirations?
AJ: This is a list that could go on forever but for simplicity sake I’ll keep it short.
John Mayer, Dave Matthews, Dashboard Confessionals, Jimmy Eat World, Justin Nozuka. A few of the biggest influences in my music.
You can take a lot from different artist so I’m constantly listening to new artists to get creativity flowing and new ways to approach songs. We are in a great day in age where music is so easily accessible so I try to take full advantage of the internet when it comes to music and hearing new music.
MFL: Congratulations on the release of your first EP! What was this recording and writing process like?
AJ: Thank you, my friend. The process can vary but for this particular project I pretty much had these songs written and sitting around waiting to be recorded. We actually won a battle of the bands which gave us the opportunity to do a lot of the recording for free. I have Adam Goldberg and the My Arts Community Center in Independence, Missouri to thank for that.
I’ve already begun plans for the next project and this project will have a lot of new and never before heard material on it. If you liked the first project, you have heard nothing yet!
MFL: Tell me about your bandmates and how they became part of your musical vision.
AJ: I’ve been playing with Matt for years. An ex-girlfriend of mine introduced me to him and his style and skill was exemplary. Chris Taulborg is newer to the group. Very dedicated to the music and has been working out with us for about a month now. He met me via internet and we have been rockin ever since. Great guy and dedicated musician enjoy having him on board.
MFL: Finally, top 5 albums of 2015…
Justin Bieber – Purpose
James Bay – Chaos and the Calm
Adele – 25
Miguel – Wild heart
AJ Young- Into The Wild
Big thanks to AJ for taking the time to answer my questions! As he said, stay tuned for album number two! Keep up with AJ via his website.