Please excuse my poor wordplay. It was uninspired, and I'm better than that. But, Monday... AJ Smith. Musician. Vocalist. Songwriter. DC native. New York studied. Releasing new music, "Brooklyn Nights," this Friday, January 15, that is going to blow you away. I'd try to describe it, but you'd probably end up with more bad puns than a real review. (#sorrynotsorry)
1. What genre of music do you play?
2. How did you get into music?
I ran away from home when I was three. My parents freaked out, called 911, and I was found two doors down, sitting with my ear pressed against the window of my godmother's basement studio, listening in on piano lessons.
I was hungry to learn, and not only piano. After watching a Yanni concert in awe when I was five, I begged my parents to let me start playing violin. Knowing the lengths I would go in order to listen to the instrument again, they obliged.
Years sped by and by the time I was 10, I was writing my own songs, recording back and forth between two tape recorders in my own primitive form of multi-tracking. I started fiddling in a bluegrass band, taught myself guitar by watching the banjo player (which is why I have such weird finger picking styles), picked up mandolin along the way, and headed off to NYU to study film scoring and concert composition. Two years into the program, I changed my tune in the professional pursuit of songwriting, studying under songwriting greats like Glenn Frey, Roseanne Cash, Phil Galdston, and more.
3. What has your music career looked like so far?
My big break came when a song I performed and co-wrote with one of my teachers at NYU went #3 in Australia. Around the same time, I had been asked to open for The Eagles (which is how I came to study under Glenn Frey) and released an Indie EP called "Dragons in the Sky" that helped me start going down the path of identifying my voice more as an artist and as a writer.
I was fortunate enough to receive scholarships from the Songwriters Hall of Fame and Carole Bayer Sager based on my songwriting, so I made the non-standard music industry decision to stay in school to pursue a Songwriting/Music Theory Master's degree at NYU. Since then, it's been a whirlwind of writing, collaborating, and touring: opening for Lindsey Stirling, Emily Kinney, and more while also headlining my own shows and performing at SummerFest, MusikFest, and other music festivals.
4. Who are your favorite musicians to listen to?
5. Top 2 songs on your playlist right now
6. Tell us about the new music you are releasing on January 15 and how it’s evolved from your previous work
In my last EP, I was still finding my voice as both a writer and an artist. In this upcoming release, I feel I've found it. Each song in the EP, which starts with "Brooklyn Nights," centers around that journey of finding myself in the last year. It's very emotional: falling desperately in love, hitting the road to escape the following heartbreak, and rekindling feelings with an old flame. Even apart from being recorded and mixed by a team that includes GRAMMY-winners and nominees, everything is on another level musically & lyrically and I'm counting down the days until the world can hear it.
I've linked up to co-produce the record with GRAMMY-winner Scott Jacoby (John Legend, Vampire Weekend) and my bassist Lloyd Kikoler. The record is mastered by GRAMMY-nominee Emily Lazar (Sia, Coldplay).
7. Where can people see you perform?
I currently split time between NYC and the DC area. My parents live in Northern VA, and since I grew up there, the show where I debut the finished music from the new EP will be in Vienna, VA at Jammin' Java on January 27th.