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Life & Work with Aimee Jo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Aimee Jo. 

Hi Aimee Jo, so excited to have you on the platform. So, before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I had my earliest memory of singing when I was 6 years old growing up in Michigan. My sister, Allison, and my babysitter brought me into our living room and taught me, word by word, the National Anthem. Even from this early age, I took singing seriously. After singing solos, talent shows, and yes, even the National Anthem at my elementary school, my parents enrolled me in singing lessons. They would sign me up in competitions, enroll me in choirs, let me sing in musicals, and engulf each day of my week in music. I wanted to be able to accompany myself singing and had a fascination with piano, which I slowly taught myself to play during my teenage years. Eventually, I would be writing my own songs. With years of voice lessons from my mentor-extraordinaire, Trish Shandor, I spent my days singing and never looked back on pursuing music as a lifelong journey. I studied and focused in classical and operatic singing in Metro-Detroit at Fraser High school and then the School of Music at Western Michigan University. While my time was consumed learning arias and art songs and singing in the collegiate choirs, I continued to write my own songs. But I never played out these songs, rather they stayed in the privacy of practice rooms and my apartment living rooms. I like to think I was a “songwriter-wannabe” where I was writing only when I felt inspired. After all, my focus was to sing professionally and teach choir one day. the opportunity shifted from education to performance. When life took a slight turn after graduating, my husband, Richard, and I moved back to his hometown, Cincinnati. 

It wasn’t until my mid-20s, for the first time ever, I was in a cover band. Founded by a friend I played with at church, I sang and played keyboard in a 4-piece called JayBridge Corner. I had no former knowledge of what it meant to be a local musician and be out gigging at bars and restaurants. I had a firm respect for my bandmates that were at least a couple decades older than me and booked us at some of my first gigs. The gear I had was subpar and just barely got the job done to allow me to play in public. I had an old keyboard from my beginning years of playing that still had speakers attached and didn’t even own my own microphone. For those first couple years of gigging, we played hours of cover songs, and eventually a few of my own songs made the setlist. While they weren’t amazing tunes, I felt a sense of relief knowing the songs were good enough for the band to play. 

Eventually, I would join another couple cover bands, a top-40/party band, and then an original Funk band. These bands were a big shift from what I was used to playing and helped me learn I needed to be a better keyboard player and singer. The musicians really encouraged me to bring my “A” game and perform. It was a wild ride figuring out that I needed to upgrade my gear and how important it is to “vibe” in a good band. I learned most of my lessons while performing on local stages with these bands and how to lean on each other and grow the fanbase. Most of all though, we were having fun and making good music. 

Like most things, everything came to a halt when the Pandemic hit. The bars shut down, the local venues closed, and our rehearsals stopped. None of our band members knew if or when we’d get back together. By this point, I had more and more originals piling up in my setlist and still had never seen the light of day. When summer of 2020 rolled around, I felt it was time to start playing my music, but I would have to do it solo. So, for the very first time, I brought out my acoustic guitar, which I mostly self-taught for the last several years, and booked my first gigs. I never had a clue how challenging it would be do play all by myself—let alone for a few hours. 

For the last couple years, I pushed myself out of the comfort zone and played solo. I found some of my weakness and strengths and learned to adapt around those. I knew I wasn’t a strong guitar player but found joy and some ease playing it on stage. I even felt encouraged to write more. Eventually, someone would come up during or after a gig and mention how they liked one of my songs. It surprised me every time that happened. So, I kept writing, even if I wasn’t inspired to do so. Because of this, I was able to have enough songs to record and release an EP. It was something my parents always wanted for me, especially my dad, and encouraged me to do. 

I was fortunate to work with two amazing music producers, Adam Agin and Daniel Ely, down in Nashville, and they helped guide me through the process of recording and releasing music. I had no idea how to be an artist and the idea of being front and center changed from being physically on stage to sharing with the digital world. How often do I have to post? Where should I have a photoshoot? How do I distribute music? The questions of being an artist piled, and the answers were found in google searches and online music workshops, and podcasts. Again, it felt like it was self-taught, but now I realize that it’s a community of artists and independent musicians sharing their knowledge to people like me, just getting started. 

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I’d like to think that my road has a lot of turns and curves. Just when I thought I was going a certain direction, like singing opera or teaching high school choir, it totally changed. I switched paths from working in education to working in finance and changed from performing classical music to cover songs and being a singer-songwriter. Some things have been a constant for me though, like singing in church. I’ve been a lifelong believer in God and his Son, Jesus Christ, and my faith has guided my journey and the decisions I’ve made. For over a decade, I’ve been a leader/singer for contemporary church services and am currently a singer/pianist at Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church. Most of my musical influence comes from that place of my heart, and while I don’t write Christian music, I aim to write with honesty and lift others up. Even when times aren’t so great, I want others to know that whatever they’re feeling is okay, because we’re all human. The challenges in life are real, and I myself have struggled at times with job satisfaction, lack of musical direction, and loneliness. When Covid hit our world, I really didn’t know how to be an artist or make music. I’m still learning what it means to be an independent musician, and there’s a lot of lessons I’m still learning today. It hasn’t been until recently that I’m finally finding my people in Cincinnati. There’s a wonderful community of songwriters and local musicians here and it’s a family that I feel adopted into now. For the first time, I’m comfortable being vulnerable with my songwriting and my musical vision. I have friends that I get to play and make music with, friends that I can bounce my musical ideas off of, and get solid advice on how to take the next steps. 

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Right now, I’m an independent singer-songwriter and have been playing around Cincinnati for the past couple years with my music on piano and guitar. I just released my first EP called “Yeah No, For Sure” which includes 5 songs I wrote since playing around town. These songs reflect who I am and how I feel about life, during the good and hard times. I’m most proud of the fact that I dove headfirst into the recording process with only a couple resources to start. I had little to no prior knowledge of recording, budgeting, promoting, or marketing, but found myself at the end of the process proud of all the songs, each a little different from the last. I’m also appreciative that I have a full-time job—I work at Ohio National Financial Services– and that helps me make and record my music, and allows me to play around the city. I know without a doubt that if I was teaching school full-time or maybe working for another company, I wouldn’t have the same drive or available time to be able to do what I love. It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t have to be gigging full-time to be a successful musician— and I love that reality. 

What do you think about happiness?
Good friends and family make me the most happy. My husband, my mom and dad, my family, and close friends have given me life during the hardest times. Most of them aren’t musicians, but I think it really demonstrates their faith and loyalty when they lift me up even if they haven’t faced the same challenges I go through. I’m a huge advocate for maintaining balance in my life: body, soul, and mind. So, I like to go out and have a good time with my favorite people, but I also love getting sleep and treating my body well. I especially love summertime, when I can walk out of the house without putting on fifty layers and enjoy a walk in the sunshine. Making music helps keep me balanced too—without it, I struggle to find joy, but too much of it, I tend to lose myself in it. So, I find more things to have fun with, go to the movies, visit Kings Island, watch a Cyclones game, play some video games, make a meal from scratch, or travel up to Michigan to see my family. I have wonderful people in my life that are along my journey with me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. After all, life’s so much more vibrant if you’re able to share it with others. 

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Image Credits
Teresa Turner
Shawn D. Fulcher

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1 Comment

  1. Diana Raming

    March 5, 2022 at 7:38 pm

    Enjoyed reading the story of your musical voyage! Have not yet had the pleasure of being at one of your live performances, but hoping to see you sometime soon. Hoping that you will post news of any upcoming performances!

    Hope to be working with you at May Primary Elections!

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