Smooth, shiny and loaded with sin. Mojo Juju sings songs that sound just like that night you can’t quite remember, in that bar you swear you weren’t at, with that girl you promise you’ve never met. Mojo spoke to The Echo about Seeing Red / Feeling Blue and going from nine to three.
Mojo Juju – is that Mojo for short? or Juju?
Yep, people call me Mojo. That’s what’s on my driver licence.
People seem to go off their nut after your performances, and folk loved your last Bluesfest appearance. How are you dealing with the love in general?
Oh it’s always nice to know people appreciate what you do. I’m always experimenting with taking my songwriting different places, so I just hope that people continue to enjoy what I’m doing even when I’m trying new stuff. This Bluesfest performance will be quite different from the last (it’s been six years!). The Snake Oil Merchants broke up; I’ve released two albums since then, and they’ve been distinctly different from one another, with different musicians working on each. This time at Blues, I’ll only have two others onstage with me instead of eight! Haha. They are great guys too: Andrew Garton on sax and my brother Steve ‘T-bone’ Ruiz de Luzuriaga; these two can definitely fill the stage.
Seeing Red / Feeling Blue – a freakin’ awesome name for an album – I’m so surprised someone didn’t think of it before. Was it hard, as is often the case, to get yourself moving again into the second album after the first release?
Hmm… in some ways yes. I’d been touring nonstop for 18 months and then all of a sudden I just came to a halt and everybody expected new material.
But on the other hand, once I got writing one or two songs, I realised what the album was going to be and it was much easier to get back into it. I let go of the idea that I had to write something that related to the last album, which was a huge relief. I’m actually really proud of the new album. It was challenging in all the right ways.
What was your process for that? Did you change the way you did things?
Yes definitely. It’s a completely different album. Working with my producer, Ptero Stylus, was amazing. He taught me so much.
He has mostly worked on hip-hop records, and I really wanted that experience to come across on this record.
I’ve always worked with live bands and made records in a more traditional way. It really opened up a new approach to songwriting that I think I am kinda hooked on.
Is your work evolving in the direction you expected it to go?
Funnily enough, YES, but I don’t think anyone else expected it to go in this direction. I love music. I love a lot of different kinds of music.
I guess I’ve always just wanted to create something new that simultaneously pays homage to a stack of different influences. But I don’t ever want to make the same record twice and don’t want to sound like anybody else. Right now, I think I am creatively more adventurous and less afraid than I have ever been. So watch out! Hahaha.
Are you working on something new right now?
I sure am. I might try to slip one or two new tunes into the set at Bluesfest. I’m pretty excited to be working on new material. I think it’s one of the most satisfying parts of being a musician – writing songs.
What differences will Bluesfest audiences notice from your last trip across the festival stage? Are there any surprises in store?
Well it’s been six years… the last time I came up I was still fronting The Snake Oil Merchants. We split up not long after that.
That was a nine-piece band, very much a party vibe. This time we are a three-piece, so there will be a lot of space in the music. I think this time it’s more about the voice, the stories in the songs. I’m excited to come back up and do something very different than the last time I was there.
Who are you looking forward to seeing at Blues?
Kendrick Lamar is #1 on my list. But there are a lot of great artists as always. I think my pick for locals is Steve Smyth. He’s a favourite of mine
Mojo Juju performs at Bluesfest this coming Easter long weekend. For tickets and program information go to bluesfest.com.au.