How many instruments do you play? "I play mainly keys and sing. I play a little guitar, bass and drums. I studied classical violin which led me to dabble in viola and cello. I don't remember a time when I wasn't around music. My mother sings and my father plays the piano. But the 'passion' came as a form of rebellion. I was forced into piano lessons like many children. As a child, you don't realize you have a choice. You also don't have a concept of boredom. My mom just wanted to hear me play well and made me practice a lot. So I would actually improvise or compose things that sounded like what I was supposed to be learning. I suppose I cultivated my particular musical ability in the process of being rebellious. Pretty soon, I would play from 4pm until 11pm. They would have to tell me to stop."
What is your musical process like? "My process is the organization of an on going volume of work. I'm always writing notes in my phone, notebooks, loose paper, margins of pages. I'm always recording memos, little riffs on the keyboard...notes on manuscript paper. I would try to make at least 3 short beats a day behind my desk whenever there was downtime at work. I make titles of songs before I make the actual songs. Concepts. So at any given time, I can grab any of these ideas and a cascade of production typically follows. Sometimes I Frankenstein these ideas if a single idea doesn't become a complete song on its own. As long I as I have an anchor, then I can write. I try to 'stay' ready."
How do you put yourself “in the zone” to write music? "When I write lyrics, I think about the concept and try to become a character. How old the character is, their daily existence...mannerisms...backstory. Then I think about poetic composition...like meter. How would that reflect the delivery and speech pattern of a defeated person, etc. Also, what cultural reference would be appropriate? I want to relate to my listener depending on their demographic. Not that I'm pandering as a market strategy, but Baby Boomer mothers in Latvia: how do I send you my specific message if I'm talking about something underground in Milennial Vietnam?"
Are there any artists that you would really like to collaborate with in the near future? "My friends. Over and over again. Anyone in LA that doesn't know about me. There's such a wealth of talent here it's overwhelming and I believe all of us should be friends. I was in Manila earlier this year and I found some gems. I've hit them up for collaborations and it is pretty exciting. But other than them, the dream would be Philip Glass (he would make killer loops), Bilal, Pharrell, Bjork, Arvo Part, Kanye."
His dream venue... "I would love to do Red Rocks in Colorado during sunrise and everybody is dressed in red. The border of two warring states. The jungle with a sound system that runs on alternative energy. An ancient ruins. Don't really care about the prestige or the rep of the venue. I want to create experiences."
As far as influences in his life... "How my body feels. What I read. What movies I watch. What photos of Fashion Week I see. I really like architecture and design. People watching. Traveling."
On his goals... "As far as goals, I want to release one more album this year. I want to score more music! So hit me up. I hope to play in Los Angeles more and hopefully, play some shows in another country. I think we can do it all by year's end."
On what he wants to evoke... "I want my songs to allow people to be more empathetic. I'd like my listeners to imagine being in each other's shoes. My goal is to never write an easy song. I like to use familiar elements, whether it's melody, harmony or rhythm. But then, I try to put unusual things in the song. I believe it stays in the memory better rather than a formulaic earworm that sticks with you because it's catchy and it has lulled your brain into accepting it. Ultimately, I want to make you happy. Happy in the sense that you've fought for your right to be happy and I've reminded you of that."
Is Music your number-one profession? "Music is not as much a profession to me as it is a compulsive behavior. I cannot imagine living a life without it. However, I would like to build up leverage with my music and parlay that into other challenging pursuits. I'm very much interested in Business. I like thinking about product and I like thinking of the relationship people have with their products. I just feel that my most 'innovative' years as an artist are now. Artists can produce excellent work throughout the rest of their years. But typically, their most daring and interesting works are in their twenties. That's when the style and approach are developed and later perfected. I want to be able to focus on that until the well dries up, so to speak."
Besides internal motivation, are there any other factors that are driving you to pursue and succeed in this industry? "I'm not entirely sure of what success in the industry means to me yet. I just wanna make the best music I can. Sure, there are metrics like followers, plays, accolades, cultural relevance...net worth. These are really great. But they don't last. There's proving your naysayers/exes wrong. Vindication is only satisfying for a period until you get new haters or you have to find something else to do. I guess, I'm hoping it would help me pay for some student loans."
Listen to KAJO's "Brighter Times Brentwood" via Soundcloud: