Artist Q&A: Catching Up with AJ Mitchell

Artist Q&A: Catching Up with AJ Mitchell

Things are happening quickly for AJ Mitchell, and he’s fine with that.

The Illinois native built a huge following online before signing with Epic Records.

AJ turned 17 in May, then released his first EP, Hopeful, in July. He released a new music video shortly after the EP dropped.

The rapid succession of major events has kept AJ busy. So, it was no surprise when we caught up with AJ for an interview that he was in a car on his way to Nashville as part of a promotional tour. It was just another busy day in the life of a rising pop star.

SoundExchange: Your first EP, Hopeful, came out in July. How proud are you to be able say that you’ve dropped your first release?

Mitchell: I’m super proud, especially because it’s my first EP. It means a lot to me. The reason I named it Hopeful is because my whole journey, the whole thing, has been hopeful – hopeful when we went into the studio. Hopeful that the EP would be good.

SoundExchange: Can you talk about the new video for the song “Girls” that was released August 16. Considering the subject matter, the church setting was a bit of a surprise.

Mitchell: It’s probably not what you expected. The director, Danny Iglesias, did a very good job. He brought us a great idea about shooting it in a Catholic church and symbolizing temptations. I’m 100 percent happy with the way it turned out.

SoundExchange: You made your television debut on the Today Show recently. Things are moving at a different pace now. Has it been hard to adjust?

Mitchell: In the beginning it was a little different because I was doing so much traveling. Now I’m pretty used to it. I love it.

SoundExchange: Talk about the single “Hate That I Love You,” one of six songs on the new EP. That’s an interesting musical arrangement. Where did that idea come from?

Mitchell: That song was brought to me. The producer and writer, Andy Wells, has worked on a lot of big stuff. [Wells has produced tracks by bands including 5 Seconds of Summer, Fall Out Boy and Jason Mraz.] It was really cool when it was brought to me. It has a cool dance vibe, and I didn’t really have a song like that, so it fit perfectly on the EP.

SoundExchange: When did you first begin songwriting, and how do songs come together for you?

Mitchell: I started writing songs when I was about six years old, kind of inspired by my dad. He was writing songs on the piano and learning how to play the piano, which inspired me to do that. Writing songs has always been a passion of mine – just like writing about what’s happening in my life.

SoundExchange: Are you planning a tour to support Hopeful, and when would that begin?

Mitchell: A tour for Hopeful will probably be a little bit later. Right now, I’m doing a radio promo tour. Probably in February we’ll begin a tour.

SoundExchange: What convinced you to pursue a career in music? Did you grow up in a musical family?

Mitchell: Definitely. Like I said, my dad was learning how to write songs. I have two older sisters, and they both sing. We were a musical family, and we would always be singing, and we would always harmonize.

SoundExchange: How do you fit your career into being 17. You’re not living the life of a typical 17-year old.

Mitchell: No, I’m not living the typical life. But I love it, and I’m glad I’m doing it.

SoundExchange: I want to ask about where you grew up. Belleville, Illinois (population 42,000) is also the home of Jeff Tweedy, who started Wilco, and Jay Farrar, who started Sun Volt [after their band, Uncle Tupelo, broke up]. There’s a lot of creativity in tiny Belleville.

Mitchell: I haven’t heard of them, but there’s a rapper named Comethazine who’s from Belleville as well, and an actor who’s on “Orange is the New Black” from Belleville [Lea DeLaria, who plays Carrie “Big Boo” Black].