Singer/songwriter/producer Cuja unveiled her debut project Vol.I on June 21st.
With the help of producer Alina Smith, the Denver native created a 4 track pop-electronic EP exploring the subject of love.
“It was conceptualized around complex love stories juxtaposed with upbeat musical elements. I wanted something that was so fun to listen but once you really listened to the lyrics, you were like “Wow, this is real,” says Cuja.
The promising debut EP includes the singles “Backseat”, “New Friends” and “Maneater”.
The Asian-American is using her own voice and story to provide more opportunities for minorities and marginalized groups in music.
“I’m excited to help contribute to wave of inclusion in the music industry. Growing up, I was always looking for artists that looked like me and even now it’s hard to see so many Asian-American artists fly under the radar. I figure I could complain about the problem or become part of the solution,” explains Cuja.
Vol.I is now available on major streaming platforms.
Introduce yourself - where are you from?
Thanks so much for having me! My name is Cuja, I’m from Denver originally, but currently I live in Los Angeles. I actually moved here from Chicago, but I was getting sick of the winters. LA is much more my style!
What's your story?
I’m a songwriter and producer as well as an artist, so being in LA with so many collaborators has been really inspiring! I think above all else, one of the reasons I decided to be an artist was because I wanted to see more representation. Being Filipina-American, I’ve been waiting to see more AAPI in mainstream music as well as more diversity in the writing rooms. I finally decided that I could help by just doing my art, so that’s really pushed me to work hard. I want to be a part of creating a more diverse pallet of artists and songwriters.
Could you describe us your childhood a little bit? Any favorite memories?
Well, I’ve always love singing and when I was growing up, I used to tour with a children’s choir. It was my first glimpse of the tour life, which took me overseas—for a 12 year old, that was pretty incredible! About 13 I started writing my own music, but I didn’t consider being an artist as a career path until MTV’s ‘Made’ came to my high school! I had a friend who wanted to be a bass player and I was in her band!
If you could say something to your younger self, what would you say?
I’m pretty happy with how everything has panned out, so I might just let her chill. But if I had to pick, I’d tell her not to get rid of her Beanie Babies.
How would you describe yourself today?
Hyper focused, discerning and goofy. I’m working really hard right now on my music and my career, so a lot revolves around that. I’ve found I’m in a point in my life where I am constantly evaluating what does and doesn’t deserve my energy, which is tough but liberating. However, most of the time, I’m a huge goof-ball. I love to laugh and I think that’s pretty apparent in some of my songs. I like to find the humor in things, even when life is challenging.
When did your love for art and music begin?
I’ve always been creative and I think I was teetering around, singing nonsense words when I was a baby. Recently my mom found a song I wrote when I was maybe 6 that said “She didn’t know she was queen of the world, so that’s why she hurt.” I guess even as a child I was a pretty moody writer, but still knew I was the boss!
When did you decide to pursue music as a career?
I was a late bloomer! I thought for a while I wanted to do Musical Theatre, but there were too many rules and I didn’t like not having creative control. After college I got a desk job, became a yoga teacher and started freelance writing. None of it was creatively fulfilling and I finally realized I had been doing everything I could to avoid pursuing music because I was scared. It was that fear that told me I had to try, I had to give it my all or I would regret it!
Who was the first person to ever believe in you?
My parents. There hasn’t been a single thing I’ve tried that my parents haven’t been 100% sure I would succeed. They’ve followed me down the rabbit hole of different hobbies, passions and careers. When I started pursuing music they were kind of like “Wow! Finally!” I’m so grateful for their support, it’s unwavering. I hope everyone has two cheerleaders like them.
You've just released your EP "Vol.I" - how would you describe this project?
This project is so fun! It was conceptualized around complex love stories juxtaposed with upbeat musical elements. I wanted something that was so fun to listen but once you really listened to the lyrics, you were like “Wow, this is real.”
What's the story behind Vol.I? Who did you work with?
Vol. I was written in my first tiny apartment in LA. For the production, I worked with an insanely talented woman named Alina Smith (of the production duo Lyre). I knew I wanted another women on these tracks and Alina is the best. She immediately read my vibe and was able to flesh out my sad little demos into some amazing tracks. She’s also a total soul sister of mine; she’s incredibly intelligent, creative, emotional and driven. While we were working on this project, she was also working with a hundred other artists AND writing a novel. She’s a literal star, I’d be lost without her.
What are the different topics you are talking about on this project?
This project is mostly about love. I wanted to create an interesting spectrum of stories to really highlight the complexities of loving someone. There’s betrayal, lust, butterflies and nostalgia. But each song is begging you to dance.
What do you like the most about this project?
I love being able to dance around to some feelings that used to make me cry. There is something liberating about filling a song with emotion and then putting it out into the world to have fun to.
Any favorite memories from the making of Vol.I?
My dog hates when I make music. He thinks the attention should always be on him. Every time I brought home a new mix, he would run around, chase his tail, then throw up on the carpet right in the middle of the song. He’s banished from my studio now and he’s very upset about it!
What can you tell us about the artwork for Vol.I?
We wanted to create something that fit the vibe of the tracklist and was very fun. We decided to go with a school theme since our release day was around graduation. I think these type of complex love songs connect deeply with younger fans.
What message do you want to convey through your art?
I try to be as honest as I can when I’m writing. It’s important to me that I tell the truth and do justice to a feeling in a moment in time. I’d love for my music to be a supportive nudge forward for my listeners; be sad if you need to, but don’t forget to be happy too.
What's the hardest part about being an artist? And what is the best part?
The hardest part about being an artist for me is social media! I like to focus on the music, so it’s hard for me to remember to let my listeners in and show them what’s happening behind the scenes! I’m working on it though! The best part is making music and sharing it with the world!
What are the things you are the most proud of?
I’m so proud of Vol. I ! Its been such a long road to get here and I’m happy it’s finally out!
What message do you want to give to younger generations?
I’m honestly so impressed with GenZ! I know younger generations get a lot of flack, but they are such intelligent business people already and strong fighters for issues that matter to them! My message is keep it up! And please vote!
In your opinion, what would make the world a better place?
I think if you have the privilege to travel, do it. Traveling opens your eyes to different cultures and people. Travel gives you a new perspective on your life. Travel feeds your soul and your belly! The world would be better place if we took the time to understand one other with compassion rather than judgment.
What biggest life lessons have you learned so far?
The biggest life lesson I’ve learned is to wake up early. It’s pretty simple, but it changed my life. By the time my haters or competitors wake up, I’ve already crossed 10 things off my list. That’s pretty empowering.
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