“Music has the ability to connect with people on an emotional level all over the world.”
I think that, at 48, I’ve rediscovered my inner teenage girl. At concerts, I’m often on the far right side of the bell curve, age-wise. The Facebook pages of my favorite bands are filled with the hearts and exclamation points and adoration of giddy adolescents. And the music on my iPod is increasingly made by—well, kids.
Add AJ Lehrman to that group; in fact, at 17, he’s probably the youngest. And on top of his musical talent, he’s making a difference in the world, working with DoSomething.org, the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Although I missed catching his live show last week when he opened for Pentatonix in Denver, I got to catch up with AJ via email.
It seems all my favorite new artists right now are under the age of 25. What is it with millennials that makes them so musically gifted? Is there a secret Kool-Aid I’m not aware of?
I’d say it’s more in the Capri Sun! I think we were born at a special time that we are fortunate to have been influenced by so many great artists, people like Michael Jackson, Prince, and Stevie Wonder.
Where did you grow up? How did that place influence who you are today?
I grew up in New York City, which is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. I think that is why I am such an open person, always wanting to experiment and learn different ways of doing things.
Do you come from a musical family? How much did your parents encourage your musical talents when you were growing up?
I come from a household where music is always blasting. My parents encouraged all of us from a young age to play different instruments, and I definitely worked harder and harder for music, watching my older brother sing, as well.
Your bio says you’ve written songs in “a number of diverse cities and countries.” Tell me more about that. Why/how have you done so much traveling?
I have been so lucky to have had the opportunity to perform around the world as a musician. I’m always inspired to write new songs about new experiences, new styles of music, and new ways of life that I encounter.
What’s the best songwriting lesson you ever received? Music business lesson?
The best songwriting lesson I’ve ever received was to “just keep going,” and that even if a session isn’t working out great at the beginning, it can still turn out really well. In the music business, the best advice I’ve even been given is that, “You can be the juiciest, sweetest peach in the entire world, but there are still going to be people who don’t like peaches”—and I think that applies to life in general.
Your debut single, “Tongue,” is great, but I want more. Any plans on the horizon to release an EP or LP?
Thank you, and yes! I have a lot of songs that I have been working on, and I am hopefully going to release (let’s say around eight of) them within the next couple of months.
How did you land the Pentatonix opening gig? That’s super impressive, even for someone of legal drinking (or voting) age.
Well, I will be able to vote very soon…but still not drink. I had been writing for a while and starting to get my name more and more in the industry as a songwriter, and so I was offered the opportunity to open for Pentatonix as a platform to release original material, and my immediate reaction was, “Of course!” I am such a huge fan of them; I was planning on going to watch them in concert even before I was asked to join the tour.
How important is social activism to you?
Social activism is the main reason why I am a singer. I obviously love music and the whole creative process, but the platform that it provides me to spread messages of self-confidence, happiness, and respect for all people is overall why I do what I do. Music has the ability to connect with people on an emotional level all over the world, and I am so fortunate for the opportunity to make music that can hopefully positively impact people’s lives across the globe. | Laura Hamlett