After the success of her debut solo album and a stint of prolific international support slots including Tony Joe White, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis and Reverend Horton Heat, Mojo Juju will be performing her last Australian gigs for the year before hitting the road to Europe. On the eve of another bout of touring, we sat down with the enigmatic singer/songwriter to talk about the past, the present and what looks like a very promising future.
By Meghan Player
Your solo album was definitely one of my favourites from last year – perfectly capturing what I had heard/experienced seeing you live. Are you happy with how the album turned out and how it has been received? It seems like everyone fell in love with it!
Thank you! Yes, I’m really proud of the way the album turned out. I think for me it was important to make an album that was about the storytelling. So the focus was mainly just on documenting the songs in the rawest form possible. No fancy production techniques, just capturing the essence of the tales and the real dynamic between the musicians. I guess it’s pretty traditional in that sense. Obviously I’ve already started thinking about how to make the next album and I think it’s going to be a very different process for me. I had no expectations of how it would be received, so I have most definitely been pleasantly surprised.
The Snake Oil Merchants were the first taste – for most people – of your unique style. Was it a natural transition for you to go from a band to a solo performer?
Indeed. I think it was something I really needed to do. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I knew in my heart that it was the best thing for me. And looking back I can’t say I regret it at all. I loved playing with the Snake Oil Merchants, and of course we are still all very close. You don’t spend that kind of time with people and then just walk away. It’s like family.
But creatively I needed to venture out, spread my wings and I guess ultimately have a little more control.
You know even as a ‘solo’ performer there are always people around you who are crucial to the process. So it’s never truly solo. And I still tour and play and record with other musicians. It’s just that I can put the pieces together in whatever configuration serves the songs best… or the album.. or whatever it is I am doing. For me it’s about creatively directing the vision. That’s the most exciting part of stepping out alone.
Did the move to being a solo artist feel like a clean slate, a new start for you? Did it allow you a chance to explore new sounds/elements/styles that perhaps didn’t fit with what was happening with the Snake Oil Merchants?
Exactly. And that’s what I was craving towards the end there. I was always the main songwriter for TSOM. But the way we operated as a group in a creative sense, was very democratic. I would bring these bare bones and then everyone would throw their ideas at it (in particular, The Duke, who is a brilliant arranger) and the songs would turn out sounding completely different from what I had ever imagined. And I think that was our strength, because we all came from different places stylistically. It was what defined our sound and made us unique.
I learnt a lot from that time. But it was so important for me to go off and trust my own instinct and write these songs and see them come to life the way I had imagined them to be.
You’ve done your fair share of touring over the last year in support of the album – as well as supporting a number of great artists – are you looking forward to hitting the road again?
[Laughs] Well, it’s not so much hitting the road as it is just following through with the current momentum. I definitely feel like I haven’t stopped touring.
For me, touring is part of the inspirational process. Everything just feeds into everything else. I’m touring to promote the album, whilst gaining inspiration for the next.
I love being on the road. I definitely need a nap soon though.
Following the final Australian tour for 2013, you’ll be heading to Europe for some dates there – are you looking forward to somewhere in particular?
Well I’ve heard Germany is gagging for it. I’m pretty keen on that. And also I think Paris might be fun. Apparently it’s kinda debauched over there. I think I’ll hold my own.
London I have plenty of friends waiting to catch up and play some tunes. This whole thing is going to be a blast… I can feel it!
The album was released in Japan as well – do you have any plans to tour over there?
Yes! I’m not sure when at this stage, but I am dying to get over there. The response has been wonderful!
As well as touring with your solo material, you’ve been part of some killer productions – Batman Follies, Hail to the King and a tribute to Tom Waits – do you enjoy taking on these different personas with these productions?
Ah yes, the brainchildren of Russall S. Beattie. He is a brilliant producer and I can never say no to being involved in any of his shows. I do love doing these things.
Apart from Batman, it’s not really so much taking on other personas, but rather showcasing the relationship between who I am and what I do, and the people who have inspired me – such as Waits & Elvis.
It’s great to have a break from playing your own songs and revisit some classics. It’s also really wonderful to join a cast of performers you get to work with night in-night out.
You all kind of fall in love with one another. There’s something romantic about being in a show-show.
You’ll be part of the next Hail to the King gig/s at the Vanguard – are you looking forward to donning the Elvis suit again? Will you be covering different songs this time around?
You’ll have to come a long and see! I do have a couple of new tunes in the show. And YES! I love wearing a pink suit. Any excuse. [Laughs]
It looks as though you’ll be quite busy until 2014 – so what will the New Year hold for you? Is there a new album in the works?
I’m always busy and always writing. There will definitely be new material coming up soon. But I don’t think it’s time for a new album just yet. Stay tuned though… There will most definitely be some surprises for you!
Many thanks to Mojo for taking the time to chat to us. You can check out the final Australia tour for 2013 dates at: https://pushtofire.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/news-mojo-juju-announces-final-2013-tour/