AJ Mitchell has soared into the music stratosphere. Currently gearing up for the release of his forthcoming project ‘Skyview’, 2020 looks like it will be a promising year for the Illinois native. Easily distinguishable by his smooth and mesmerising vocals, the skilled singer proving to be quite the musician. An artist on the rise he has already been named as a One to Watch by MTV, where he was selected as their One to Watch International Push. He was also recognised by Vevo LIFT and he featured on their LIFT acts for 2019.
Exuding charm and charisma, alongside an incredible vocal range AJ Mitchell brings a fresh and unique feel to his sound. Although his sound predominately fits within the pop hemisphere, his music contains elements of R&B, all drawn from his seasoned music taste and you can definitely hear it. With an Instagram following of over 1 million people and he has also gained over 210 million streams on Spotify. If you’re not already a fan of AJ Mitchell, you’ll soon be. In the run-up to the release of his debut album, I had a chance to speak with him all about his forthcoming release, his recent performance in London, collaborating with Ava Max and more!
Released in the latter part of 2019 AJ Mitchell debuted his single ‘Unstoppable’, he also released an incredible live video, which was was filmed for Vevo LIFT. The powerful song was amplified even further with the incredible live marching band, transporting us as if we are watching him in person and there with him.
‘‘I had this idea of a music video and I was like man it would be super cool if we had a marching band, a super badass marching band, like march down the road and doing this little chant like ‘left, right, left, right’.’
Filmed in one take, AJ speaks on the music video: ‘It was amazing, it was super cool because it was also kinda like my idea came to life in that video because that’s how the song came together, was with the marching band so to be able to go and then actually go to my hometown and especially do it at the Skyview drive in movie theatre, which is actually the name of my album ‘Skyview’, it was super cool to be able to kind of bring that vision to life.
Having been selected by Vevo LIFT to be part of their LIFT acts for 2019, he talks about how it felt when he found out he was featured. ‘I couldn’t believe it, I know Billie Eilish was on there, I believe Khalid was on there, so to even be named Vevo LIFT Artist of the Year. Sitting up there with Billie Eilish and Khalid it’s one of the best feelings in the world, because I mean those are really amazing talented artists so I am very blessed to be up there with them’.
Making his live debut to an international audience, he performed a live show at The Camden Assembly. Speaking on the experience he says: ‘It was so amazing, that was actually my first show that I ever did internationally actually and also my first show in London obviously, so it was really cool to see the fans come out to the show.’
He was also given the opportunity to perform a string of live dates, which were part of the Jingle Ball radio tour in the states. He reflects on the tour, which spanned across cities from the East to the West Coast of North America. ‘It was amazing, I just got off the Jingle Ball tour, which is with all the radio stations. We started in Florida, I had like nine other dates, we went to Chicago, California, back to New York, we were travelling all over doing Jingle Ball tour and that was with Sam Smith, Shawn Mendes, I know Camila Cabello was doing some, I know Taylor Swift was doing some.’
‘Being on the stage and sharing the stage with all those artists it was so amazing.’
The Illinois native also performed at Jingle Ball the year before. ‘I remember last year I was doing the pre-shows, which was outside the arena, so now I am able to start off the show inside the arena, so it’s a great feeling.’
Keeping on the topic of performing, he spoke about his most stand out touring experience, which included performing at the VMA’s with Ava Max for their single ‘Slow Dance’. ‘I would say there was a couple this year, I would say the last Jingle Ball show was in Miami, which I believe was 18,000 people, that was really, really cool. This year also performing at the VMAs and doing the VMA performance, that was also my top favourite performances of the year.’
If you haven’t already heard the spellbinding single ‘Slow Dance’, you need to check it out! Both AJ Mitchell and Ava Max bring their A game and their vocals are breathtaking. The emotive track and exceptional narrative of the Romeo and Juliet inspired narrative will hook you in. When speaking on the collaboration with Ava Max, AJ speaks of her powerful voice and vocal runs, a staple to Ava Max voice.
‘I really wanted a duet for this song because it just really felt like it kinda needed that duet, it just kinda made sense, it’s such an intimate song. For me this song kinda reminds me of eighth grade, when you go to prom and you’re like asking a girl ‘hey do you want to slow dance’, you are super nervous. I think it kinda goes both ways, the guy and the girl, so I thought it made sense to have a singer. I really wanted a powerful vocalist and I heard some of Ava’s songs and she’s such a good singer doing all these runs and stuff.’
He also goes onto describe the concept behind the music video: ‘For me I always loved Romeo and Juliet, I think I was a freshmen in high school when I first watched the Romeo and Juliet movie, I think it was like a class project. When I saw it I was just like whoa, I mean not only is the movie is so well done but I think the style and the clothes they are wearing to all the small details and the church and all that, it was so ahead of their time, it was just beautiful. I kind of wanted to reference that in the ‘Slow Dance’ music video, because I think it just really fit perfectly so we did a dancing scene in Romeo and Juliet first met with each other.’
The track is taken off his ‘Slow Dance’ EP: ‘Pretty much with the Slow Dance EP, it was kind of just like some of my favourite songs all on this one EP, like ‘Talk So Much’ to ‘Slow Dance’ to ‘Out My Mind’. I felt like they kind of all had this similar upbeat kind of vibe to it. I thought it would just be perfect to put all these on one EP, I think in that order sonically just sounded amazing.’
Making his first mark in the music scene at the age 13 with ‘Used to Be’, he self released his single, he reminisces on the exciting experience: ‘Best feeling in the world, I wrote that song when I was 13, I put one out on YouTube, literally just a video of me playing the piano and singing.’
The track was produced by hip-hop heavyweight, Mike Dean, which then propelled the track into the viral sensation it became. He discusses how the collaboration with Mike Dean came about: ‘I was working with this producer, his name is Jess Jackson, he’s actually Mike Dean’s engineer. Jess Jackson brought the song to him, he showed Mike Dean who I was and we kinda just vibed from that and we just started working with each other.’
The single really helped push start his career and he moved from hometown of Belleville and move to LA and he talks about making the transition. ‘It wasn’t the hardest thing, because honestly I was just super excited to get out of my home town and just start my career. But at the same time it was a little bit hard because I was leaving all my friends, I was leaving all of my family. But I think the excitement overpowered the nervousness of it.’
Music has always played a major factor to him, not only as a musician but as a fan and he grew up in a musical household. AJ went onto speak about what inspired him to get into music. ‘I would say as a kid I was always surrounded by it, my mom was playing music throughout the house, everyday, my dad was playing the piano and writing songs, literally everyday.
My sisters were singing to all the songs that were being played, everyday, I was constantly surrounded by it and I think there was no way I could get around not being in music. But it was always something I always just loved, it was a huge hobby of mine, everyday I was playing the piano, I was writing songs, always singing, always trying to get better at playing. I was always surrounded by it, I think it was something I always wanted to do.’
‘‘When I was younger I actually listened to a tonne of eclectic sounds like I loved The Beatles to Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder to Bruno Mars, Lil Wayne. Even some classical, my mom has this iPod that I would listen to with classical music on.’
His musical inspiration is somewhat reflective of his music style in that it’s hard to pinpoint his exact sound, he creates his own. ‘I really don’t like to stick to one lane, for me that’s like super boring like I said I like all types of music so that’s kinda like the music I like writing. When you listen to my upcoming album you’ll hear a bunch of Pop music, mixed with R&B, but sometimes you hear a little bit of contemporary, to like throwback 80s, to like Justin Timberlake, Timberland vibes. So I like writing music that I like listening to.’
Talking on his upcoming project, he gives us an insight into what to expect: ‘Pretty much this album it’s letting the fans get to know who I am, my personality with the music that I am writing. Also to let them know where I came from, which is why the album is called ‘Skyview’, because it’s a drive in movie theatre in my home town, Belleville, Illinois, it kind of just wraps it all together.’
Photographer Lee & Arthur
Stylist Zane Page
Makeup Artist Ibi Molnar
Hair stylist Jason Goh
Photo Assistant Anne Danao, Ahn Jiyong & 4UNG
Words Remina Nair
Editor Arjen Gill