Over the past year, Jhené Aiko moved from a local PBR&B favorite to headlining her own tour with appearances at major festivals in prime slots. The 26-year-old has been around music for a while, with her first opportunity to release music coming when she was just 15. Since then, she's gone through many ups and downs, including the death of her brother several years ago. But she says the journey was a part of allowing her to grow.
"It's about what you experience that make you more colorful and I take everything as being a good thing for me, even the tragedies," she explains before a show in the Bay Area. "When something bad happens, I always know something good is around the corner and I don't think that anyone deals with anything they can't handle in the grand scheme of things."
Though we saw her earlier this year at Coachella and at a pop up show at a medical marijuana dispensary in L.A., Aiko is more excited about her local shows. Before playing the Observatory tonight, we caught up with the singer where we discussed her first L.A. show, her feelings about her Grammy nods and what the immediate future has in-store for her.
What was it like having Childish Gambino and Chris Brown pop up on stage at your first L.A. show?
Both were amazing. Gambino came out a few times and the crowd went crazy for him and that was a really cool thing.
What were your feelings about being nominated for three Grammys?
We had just gotten into Baltimore and I was super tired and my manager told me they were announcing the nominations, and she told me that I was nominated for one. I was so tired and didn't really understand what she was saying and went to sleep. When I woke up, I went on my phone to check my messages and Twitter and was just like "WHAT?" I'm still trying to take it in because to me, to be honored and recognized by the Grammys and my peers is great.
It's surprising to hear how much they mean to you. You don't seem like you'd be affected by something like this.
When I went to the Grammy building a few months ago, they sat down with me an explained the whole process and I've never been a competitor in anything, including school and never played any sport. For me, it was never about winning something for the work I've been doing. When they told me it's basically my peers voting and how the whole process works, I thought it was pretty cool because a lot of other awards shows are popularity contests and are persuaded by so many other factors. I didn't think I was going to be considered because everything I do is so low-key and not mainstream that usually isn't recognized. It's cool just to be considered.
How has your first headlining tour been going?
Every night gets better and better. The venues are perfect and for me, the shows are about connecting with the audience and vibing out sharing stories and energy. When I was on the tour with Drake earlier this year, and even though that was great, you couldn't really do that because rooms were so big.
What did you learn from playing those big rooms?
If anything, I learned from that tour was stamina. Even though I wasn't out there that long, seeing Drake up there for 90 minutes every night and with big production. I was inspired that I could do this to, since I'm doing 90 minute sets on this tour. I used to drink before I went up and I haven't done that in several months. I stay focused and try to make every show better.
It's probably better for you than the show at that weed shop on Santa Monica Blvd.
Yes (laughs). That was fun and I wouldn't mind doing a tour of weed shops.
Have you been writing new material and are there plans for more features in 2015?
Definitely. Most of the songs on Souled Out are two-to-three years old and by the time I put it out, I've already been working on stuff. I'm always impatient and I want to put out stuff because I want people to know what I'm doing right now, but the process of putting together an album takes time. I've started the next project and doing the first one, this next one is going to take more time and I'll be extra focused on it. I'm also appearing on some other songs, but since they aren't my songs, I really can't say who since they aren't my songs, but I'm planning on staying busy.