AJ Rafael Interviews w/ The Star Scoop

One of Youtube’s most popular artists, AJ Rafael, has a new interview out with the Star Scoop where they talk a lot about the online video streaming medium, his path to where he is now, and how he feels about the industry as a whole. There’s a lot of discussion on his various collabs through the years along with hints at what transpired over the year as he talked with major record labels. I thought it was a great read and encourage any fan to check this one out. You can read it after the break or head on over to the Star Scoop.

When did you start to see that YouTube was actually working for you and that it was picking up speed? Was there a turning moment, where you were like, wow, this is really happening?

In the beginning I put two videos down. They were just me playing the piano. It was linked to my Myspace so people could hear my original stuff too, if they wanted to. I had no idea about subscribers back then. So I posted two videos with Andrew Garcia, this was back in 2006.

We did “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz, which hit like 10,000 hits. At that time, that was amazing. 10,000 hits right now is still great but [then] it was just like, damn, something’s happening. I did not notice that there was a subscribers thing until I looked at my channel, which I had never done, and that was when I had hit a thousand [subscribers]. I was like, no way!

I think the beginning of 2007 [was] when I just really really realized the potential of YouTube.

You’ve done a couple collaborations with Ahmir. How did you guys end up hooking up and working together?

Ahmir hit me up. I had already seen them on YouTube. Ahmir sent me [a message] and said, yo, we really respect your hustle., you know. Obviously you have a lot of subscribers because you work hard. Things like that. They were doing a collab series at the time so they hit me up to do one.

I had suggested the song “I Thought She Knew.” They wanted to do a Boyz II Men. For me, I don’t really feel like I’m strong vocally enough to hang with these guys, especially R&B. So I suggested an ‘N Sync song. That’s kind of like a notch down from Boyz II Men.

They were ecstatic and singing with those guys made me sing better. In that video, and in the Jay Sean “Down” video, I hear myself getting better vocally because I’m around those guys. Those guys are amazingly talented.

Do you have any upcoming collaborations?

Yeah, a Christmas series. Two years ago I started the Christmas series, and I did 12 videos, had a couple collaborations, like two or three. Last year’s had two or three collaborations. But this year I want them all to be collaborations. I’m not sure how many videos I’m going to do yet.

But the first one is with Andrew Garcia. Also, Tori Kelly who was onAmerican Idol. There’s this really big collaboration with a couple of guys I know. But I’m going to kind of keep that secret for now and that’s really exciting.

Do you have a favorite Christmas song?

I have a bunch. I love “Happy Christmas( War Is Over)” by John Lennon. Of course, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” That’s like, my all time favorite.

What’s the story behind how you chose ilajil for  your YouTube channel name?

I used to be into AOL when I was in like, 6th grade, 7th grade. One of my first screen names was Il aj Il because they look like bars, you know…I just kind of kept it through the years.

Is there anything that you want your fans to know about you?

I play piano at church every Sunday and I have been for the last 10, 11 years. My mom is a choir director…we took over when my dad died because he was a choir director and the pianist, back in 1999. Even when I have shows, when it’s still in the negotiating process, I always tell them, I always tell them, is it possible to be home Sunday morning so I can play church?

I was raised in the church so that’s where I get most of my piano skills from. A lot of people ask for sheet music and they asked where’d I learn how to play piano. For me, it was really on my own…I’ve never talked about that in a video before. I get a lot a lot of questions about how I learned the piano.

You have stuff on iTunes and you’ve done a lot of original music. What’s the next step? Do you hope to get signed to a label? Do you just want to continue doing it yourself?

I was talking to labels earlier this year. They are stupid. That’s what I think. They don’t see the potential that we have. And not just me, all these other artists on YouTube. We have the numbers and we have the fans. Not that it’s all about the numbers. All of us, we have great music.

For me, it was all about making my own fan base and sharing the talent with everybody. Right now, I’m just continuing to do that and to stay independent. We’re working on an album right now, me and my band, which I met at Berkley College of Music in Boston…We’re working on an album and it’s going to be released hopefully in the spring.

I’m just playing shows, for the last five years. Now it’s time to finally put a real album on iTunes and to legitimize me even more as a real artist as opposed to just an Internet or YouTube artist, whatever they call us nowadays, because we do want to transcend. For me, YouTube is a stepping stone, and I want to go bigger than that.


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