Adelaide gets its Mojo back
Fans thought she’d bared her soul in last year’s album Seeing Red / Feeling Blue, but Mojo Juju has arrived at WOMADelaide 2016 with more surprises up her sleeve.
“I feel like a lot of people out there probably think they know what I’m about now,” the Melbourne-based singer, who regularly performs at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, says.
“People think they understand what to expect from me and I want to really shatter those expectations.”
On the cards for this weekend’s performance are “some new things” that she and her band will perform live for the first time.
“We’re trying to keep it fresh,” Mojo says.
“As a performer I’m always growing, always evolving and even in the last 12 months my approach to songwriting and performing has changed.
“I think it’s always exciting if we have something new to bust out. It’ll be special for you guys, that’s for sure.”
Mojo’s eponymous debut album in 2012 was distinctively rootsy, covering a lot of blues to soul ground.
The songs on Seeing Red / Feeling Blue, which she will take to the road for a national tour in May, are much poppier and differ dramatically in style and emotion.
“The album exists for me in two halves,” Mojo says.
“Half of the songs are quite introspective, a little more fragile, and then the other half have this more aggressive, external vibe.
“It’s actually a pretty emotional record. I’m always talking about things … that affect me in my own life. I couldn’t write about something that I didn’t know.”
Yet she is reluctant to pigeon-hole her sound into one genre.
“I don’t want people to categorise me,” Mojo says.
“Every time I make a record I’m looking to challenge myself and do something I’ve never done before – I don’t want to do the same thing over and over.
“I’d rather people just hear my music and know that it’s me anyway.”
Musical talent is either in the singer’s DNA or instilled in her by childhood influences.
Growing up, she listened to her grandad play the cornet, her grandmother sing and her mother play the trombone.
“There was always music playing in the background,” Mojo says.
“I think it was a very natural thing for me. Music was always just there and I started learning instruments from a very young age.”
As she reached her teenager years it became a coping outlet.
“I was a bit of a misfit, a bit of an outcast,” Mojo says.
“We moved around a lot and I pretty much grew up in the country.
“So music was this thing that was constant – something I could really throw myself into and have this great form of self-expression.
‘It wasn’t even a question of how do I get into this industry. I just went – this is what I do and hopefully I’m going to keep doing it until someone notices and wants to hear it too.”
Listen to the track ‘Your Love’ from Mojo Juju’s album ‘Seeing Red / Feeling Blue':
Since they did, her journey has had plenty of twists. Mojo fronted the band The Snake Oil Merchants for six years until it split up in 2012.
She credits her hunger to improve and develop as a solo artist to a feeling she calls ‘divine discontent’.
“It’s where you always look at what you’ve done and what you’ve created and feel like you could do better,” Mojo says.
“It’s a quietly frustrating feeling sometimes but it’s also I think really essential to the process.
“It’s the thing that propels you and gives you momentum to keep creating.”
As for musical influences, Mojo says Kendrick Lamar has been dominating her personal playlists.
“He’s addressing things head on and I like how fearless he is in doing that,” she says.
“I’ve been listening to Bill Withers as well – going way back into the record collection and getting reinspired.
“If you’re a musician and you’re inspired by music you’re listening to, I don’t think you can avoid having it influence you in some way. It’s going to come across somehow whether it’s in a conscious, obvious kind of way or just in your approach.
“I don’t think I’m going to bust out an intense hip hop record like Kendrick Lamar but it’s definitely all part of the talent that I draw from.”
While her songs are written from personal experiences, Mojo strives to make the content universal.
She wants all audiences to be able to relate to her music, whether through the lyrics or simply the emotion captured in a given song.
“I think if you’re honest, it’s going to resonate with people,” she says.
“(The songs) all have meaning to me and hopefully other people can feel it too.
“But I’m sitting on the cusp at the moment – I’m only just coming into my own.
“I’m only just starting to crack the surface of the potential here.”
You can see Mojo Juju perform at WOMADelaide at 8pm, Saturday March 12 on the Zoo Stage.