We interviewed Aria Jay about her latest release, Growth.
Pink isn’t at the top of my favourite colour list but it’s starting to grow on me thanks to Aria Jay. The pastel rose hues of her Instagram are a perfect accompaniment for a brilliant musician. Aside from her visual aesthetic, Aria is a beautiful vocalist and we caught up with her about her latest EP and what inspires her.
Firstly, a belated congratulations on the release of the Growth EP. Would you say this is your best release to date?
Thank you so much! I would definitely say this is my best, or at least my favorite, release to date. I spent a significant amount of time working on this collection. They’re the most personal songs I’ve ever written, and my band mate/producer Cam Outlaw and I put in a lot of effort to crafting a particular sound we thought would be right for this music.
You have a playlist of inspirations for the EP on Spotify. Would you say your general listening habits match with these artists or did you reach for new areas of creativity?
I think now they’re my general listening habits, with a few outliers of course, but they were definitely different for me back when I started writing this music.
I love watching your stories on Instagram and feeling part of the creative process. How do you feel Instagram has influenced the EP and your work in general?
The entire platform that Instagram runs on is visual and immediate, and so what you’re posting on there feels way more personal than on other platforms. I love that aspect, because it allows me to so easily connect with people who are interested in what I’m doing. I’m not sure it has directly influenced my work, but it definitely has made me feel like I want to share more and more. I want to connect with people on a personal level through my music, and Instagram has given me the space to do that.
I noticed a lot of your Instagram photos have a pink theme? Was that a specific theme or is pink just your favourite colour? Haha.
Haha, great question. I would say, for sure, I’ve always been a fan of pink. When I was 7, my family and I moved to a new house, and my mom let me paint my room any color I wanted. I chose straight up bubble gum pink. To top it off, my mom also got a matching colored carpet installed, and it was the. absolute. best. That being said, I feel like the specific shade of pink we’ve been focusing on recently is definitely reflective of the music we’ve made and the way it feels to me. I’m first and foremost a music artist, but there is a visual aspect that comes into play for me with each release. Pastel pink, lilac, and gold, have been it for Growth, but I think my next releases will be quite different, so that focus will probably also shift.
What was the biggest obstacle making Growth?
Growth was tough on me emotionally. The director of my visual album, Janet S. Kim, called it “a room of my growing pains”, and she was so right on. I went through a lot, on a personal level, but that’s why I had to write about it. I love music that I can listen to and feel is truly honest, and although I didn’t set out to do that specifically for this EP, it happened and I couldn’t have been happier about it.
I’ve seen you described in one interview as an “edgy alt femme R&B pop” musician. Would you say that’s a fair description of you?
Haha, I remember when that article was posted, and I was like ”…oh…hmmm…mmm ”. But I do think it’s accurate. I definitely lean toward feminist and I make alternative pop/electronic R&B music. Not sure I’m really all that edgy, but I like that someone else thinks so!
What is your perception of what defines ‘R&B’ today?
I think the term “R&B” now sort of encompasses a lot of different sounds. With electronic sounds becoming more and more the norm, you have this term “alternative R&B” (which my music is described as all of the time). If you filter out those things, it really kind of means the same thing in my opinion, because it preserves that same feeling that classic R&B has always evoked, just with a sort of modernized sound.
What are you listening to currently?
So much SZA. SG Lewis, Ben Alessi
What are your nominations for album of the year so far?
SZA. SZA. SZA. Can’t wait to see her at Afro Punk this summer. Also Kehlani.
Do you have one album you always go back to?
Erykah Badu – “Mama’s Gun”. Will be one of my most favorites forever.
What are your fondest musical memories?
How many can I list??????
When I was in high school Lew Soloff (of Blood, Sweat, and Tears) saw me sing with my school’s jazz band. He called me up on the phone sometime after that and offered some of the most encouraging words I’ve heard to date. I think that was really important for me at that time. It kind of helped guide me through my next steps in music.
On a smaller scale, when I began to write “He Said”, which is my favorite track off of Growth. That piano riff that you hear throughout the track is what came to me first, and it was another moment that just felt so right, and in my own way, felt like an encouragement to keep moving forward. I’ll never forget that feeling.
Are there any artists in the UK that have caught your ear?
Oh yes. Most of my favorites, actually! Sampha, Jack Garratt, Raleigh Ritchie…to name probably just a few.
If you weren’t involved in music, what could you see yourself doing instead?
Graphic design! Or like, anything involving puppies…
Who would play you in your biopic and what would you call it?
*best question I’ve been asked to date (just saying)*
I feel like it would be called something like “Keep It Moving”. And I would be played by someone with a pretty wide emotional scope. Maybe Jennifer Lawrence…I like to think we have similar vibes. She seems silly and goofy, but can also be really serious and have an emotional depth for the work she’s doing. There is some interview with her where she’s asked to describe her own perception of her looks, and she responds with something about how she always feels like she’s a 10, and then sees a picture of herself and is like oh damn, more like a 6. I love that easy breezy attitude, and the effortless confidence she has about her, and feel like it embodies some of who I am.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“If it is to be, it is up to me”
What advice would you give to beginners starting out?
“If it is to be, it is up to me”