By: Jaaziel Job
"Even when I think about it now, it still feels like a dream. They were singing along to every one of my songs as loud as they could. I couldn't believe it. I am so thankful for moments like that."
Photo: Melly Lee Photography
AJ RAFAEL ventured into the world of internet stardom 10 years ago. Now, the YouTube pioneer is considered to be one of the most talented and respected acts within the industry. Boasting a following of over 300, 000 fans on Facebook and more than half a million subscribers on YouTube, The 25 year old singer/songwriter has come a long way since his internet debut. With his success, it is no surprise that fans across the globe were flabbergasted with the news of his indefinite hiatus from music.
(read his letter)
AJ RAFAEL SPEAKS TO LUVTHELIFE IN THIS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW:
How did YouTube happen?
I posted my first video in September 2006. It was a piano medley of songs from my favorite band at the time, Meg & Dia. After that, I started posting more covers and original music. I didn't even realize I was gaining "subscribers" at the time, it was all really for MySpace.
You've toured many cities and countries - Tell us more about your most memorable show?
I just came from the Philippines, so that show is the highlight in recent memory. It was a random Tuesday, the venue was packed and it was loud! I kept thinking that it was a dream. Even when I think about it now, it still feels like a dream. They were singing along to every one of my songs as loud as they could. I couldn't believe it. I am so thankful for moments like that.
Who are your musical influences and why?
Boyz II Men and Michael Jackson were my singing influences growing up. When I reached high school, I started listening to a lot of pop punk and rock. My sound has influences of both R&B and rock. I'm glad to have been raised on American standards. I have a lot of music that sounds completely different. I think that it is important to have a large music library. You get something fresh every time.
Where and how do you get inspiration for songwriting?
I get inspired by real life situations, as they happen to me, in real time. Say...I went through some drama or whatever one night, when I get home I immediately get on the piano and express what I'm feeling through music. It's both a blessing and a curse that inspiration just comes out of nowhere sometimes. Sometimes you finish, and most of the time you don't finish a song. It depends where you're at physically. I've written a song in the car while I was driving- that song is the title song to my album, "Red Roses".
Any secret hobbies and talents that are not music related?
Hmm... I play a lot of video games! I've always loved gaming. I wasn't exactly good at it growing up, but I enjoy it till this day. Also, I want to learn to be good at basketball. I joined a summer league with my friends this year... I hope I can get some minutes. Haha! My secret talent? DDR! When I was younger, I competed in 'tourneys' and stuff. Random.
With all the attention and fame, how do you keep yourself grounded?
Well, I don't get recognized as much as you guys probably think... But when I do, it's either at a show or at Disneyland (haha). I just know that I have to appreciate every single moment I have when a fan approaches me because I know it won't last forever. The fact that I'm important enough in their life to tell me that I'm their inspiration, or that I helped them get through some stuff is irreplaceable. I have my mom to thank for not letting everything get to my head so easily. She always told me that there's a reason why people love me, and it's my songwriting and hard work. I'll always remember that. It's not my face and charm (haha) but it's the things I create. So I will continue to work hard to share that with people.
You're taking an indefinite hiatus from playing music professionally, tell us a little bit more on why you've decided to do so?
Well, if you've read the letter that's pretty much why. Not much more I can say about it except that I felt like it was the right time to take a break. I've been playing music nonstop and "chasing the dream" for 10 years now... It's hard to actually say to yourself, "hey, I think I deserve a break". So once I was comfortable in saying that, I announced it to my fans. The support has been tremendous and I think a lot of 'creatives' think that they can't take a break. I say that you should and can. It doesn't have to be a long one, just take some time to find your passion for your art again.
Lastly, a message to all the AJ fans reading this?
Thanks for your support after all these years, and to the new fans, I hope you guys can make it to a show whenever I get back to the scene. Just need some time for myself, that's all. You guys rock!
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LTLtalk is an entertainment blog that is part of LTLmagazine.