We had the good fortune of connecting with AJAE and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi AJAE, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
My folks started me on piano lessons early, around age 5. We had no particular musicians in the family, but being the grandson of a painter and a businessman, I think I was subtly shaped to be both imaginative and practical – crucial attributes in any creative industry. I guess… I was also getting into drawing and painting back then too. I was fortunate to have a lot of support for exploring different avenues growing up, later picking up guitar, then drums/percussion, all the while doing recording projects, making beats, playing in photoshop, making videos, etc. I remember distinctly at a point feeling like if all this is what producers do, then that’s what I want to be. And so far that’s how it has turned out, that there is a “career” possible out of juggling all those sorts of things at a high level if you’re up for it.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
It’s been a journey to get to where I am right now. Pursuing music and finding ways to work and engage with the best people in the game has taken me all around world. It felt much more random and chaotic while it was happening. Looking back, it’s starting to feel a bit more linear and sensical, given that I have been doing something or other in music and especially live music since I was a child
However, doing this kind of thing isn’t for the faint of heart. That goes for the self-employed, entrepreneurial lifestyle in general, as well as when specifically doing some of the work I do. When doing playback engineering, the pressure is immense – the entire show is coming down to me and requires me to remain calm and in the zone. I haven’t had a true show stopper yet, but have definitely been in some crazy situations on live shows. Everything from absurd client requests and last minute changes, to malfunctioning gear, to the audience rushing the stage and surrounding me and my gear – these things are part of the gig. This all goes for studio sessions too – creating a positive environment for people to be creative in and being able to navigate sensitive social situations takes a lot of energy. But that’s also why it can be a lot of fun.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I was really lucky to get connected with Laura Escudé (https://lauraescude.com) while at Berklee, so when I came to LA she pretty much instantly put me to work. It was a few years of a crash course in playback engineering, but what began as a few people working under the name Electronic Creatives (https://www.electroniccreatives.com) we transformed into a larger team of badass engineers working on shows for some of the biggest names in the game. It’s through that experience that I came to work with Ariana Grande, Anderson Paak, Harry Styles, AlunaGeorge, Logic, Reggie Watts, Big Sean, and many others. Laura definitely put me on and has done so for many others too and has been killing the game for years – currently she’s been running playback on American Idol and doing all kinds of projects. She’s constantly inspiring and changed the game for me for sure, so she gets a big shoutout.