For this week’s Savvy Seven we have the incredible Mojo Juju. Her music is a unique blend of soul, r’n’b, blues and hip-hop, and she tells powerful stories surrounding her background and identity.
She’s recently released her third album ‘Native Tongue’. It’s been feature album across Double J, PBS and Edge Radio, and sees her on a huge Australian tour, including a few support shows with Paul Kelly! (Check remaining dates here.) Mojo has partnered up with PLUS1 for the tour, a charity that supports Aboriginal Legal Service, working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People to provide culturally appropriate legal services, influence positive change, and increase access to justice. For each ticket sold, $1 added on will go towards PLUS1 to help make a difference.
Read on for Mojo Juju’s music industry advice!
1) Who was your first musical inspiration? Why? Who inspires you now?
I grew up in a household full of music. I think Billie Holiday was my earliest influence, whether I realised or not. The first influence I discovered on my own was probably Michael Jackson. And nowadays I’d have to say Frank Ocean is one of the most inspiring contemporary artists for me.
2) What advice do you have for someone who is about to set off on their first tour?
I’m going to pinch a piece of advice I once heard Paul Kelly give, because when I heard this advice I took it on in a big way. “Play to the people who are listening”. Don’t worry about the ones who aren’t. I think I’d like to add to that by saying in my experience, I’ve seen a lot of performers get agitated on stage when people aren’t paying attention. It’s not a good look. And in my opinion if a lot of people aren’t listening, it’s often cause I’m not doing my job right. I find that if I want to win their attention over, rather than getting louder, I get softer. More delicate. I draw people in by drawing the energy in, rather than pushing the energy out. Does that make sense? Hahaha. But yeah, at the end of the day, you have to give your performance, direct your performance, to the ones in the room who are present with you. If you are trying to battle with the ones who aren’t, you lose the ones who are.
3) What has been one of the most defining moments in your career?
Probably the moment I wrote the song ‘Native Tongue’. Weirdly enough. I was alone in my car. I think I wrote this song and I knew that this was the catalyst for a bigger story that I needed to tell.
4) How has your music practice changed over time?
I think the biggest changes are 1. That I trust my gut and my instinct more than ever, so I take bigger risks and experiment more. 2. I’m not trying to sound like anyone else but me. Not that I ever thought I was, but in hindsight I can hear how my influences were really transparent in earlier work. I have such eclectic tastes so I think now I have really worked out a way to just be totally authentic to my creative process without letting those things drive me too much. 3. I’m not afraid to collaborate, in fact I love it soooo much. When I was younger I was so protective of my work that I didn’t want to give up control at any point. Now I’m so happy to get in a room with someone else and just tear the music apart and rebuild it. I think it’s how some of the best music gets made! Which requires having a thick skin, but its good to let go of that ego stuff and just serve the song best.
5) My top business tip for new artists is…
Delegate. But also, know enough about how it all works so that you can tell if the people you are working with are working with your best interests at heart.
6) My biggest career mistake has been… What would you do differently now?
Probably, rebelling too hard when I was younger! Hahaha. I thought I knew it all and could do it all. And in someways I learnt so much really valuable stuff from just throwing myself in the deep end and thinking I could be an artist, manager, agent and label all unto myself. But I also think it might have saved me a few rounds of burn out if I’d learnt to hand some of that work load off to others when I was younger.
7) In my opinion, the most important issue facing the music industry is… What do you think can change that?
I think there’s a few issues right now that need addressing. Such as REAL representation across the board (not just performers, but in every aspect of the industry) of POC, WOC, LGBTIQA+, especially Trans community. I can see that the industry is changing and for the most part people are trying to do better, but it needs to extend beyond tokenism and just putting artists on stage. It should be the active mentoring of younger people from marginalised communities into taking on other roles within the industry.
Also, of course, the issue of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. This is a very real issue that has been rampant in the music industry and has for too long managed to fly under the radar being accepted as a part of the culture of music. It’s time to change that attitude.
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