Chase Von: Nhojj, this is a true pleasure! So on behalf of the Student Operated Press and myself I really want to thank you! When I got that music gift from you I figured why not ask him for an interview? Worst case scenario he`s too busy, so I was pleasantly surprised when you wrote back and said let`s do it! So again thanks for sharing yourself with our readers!
Nhojj: Thank you so much for extending the invitation - things have been really busy this year with the release of the new disc Soul Comfort but this has always been my dream, so I`m counting my blessings.
Chase Von: You`ve led a very interesting life! Growing up in Guyana and then moving to Trinidad and Tobago before making your way to the U.S. and New York. I`ve read your father was a Minister and you began singing in church at the mere age of six with your sister also playing the organ as well! And that you were appearing on radio stations and eventually even performed for the presidents of Guyana and Trinidad!
What were your younger years really like being a performer at such a young age and was there any difficulty transitioning from that life style into the American way of life?
Nhojj: Its interesting you should ask me about growing up in Guyana, I just returned from their 2nd Annual Fashion Week. It was pretty amazing to be back and to perform and to visit some of the places from my childhood. Growing up in Guyana was pretty normal. I went to school, studied, got into trouble, enjoyed my friends, got teased, cried, laughed, and dreamed. Performing was just another facet to my life as a child.
I was really excited to move to New York - it was like a big adventure, full of possibilities, so I was looking forward to it, which I think played a big role in how easy the transition was. I think the only thing that took some time to adjust to (and sometimes I feel as if I`m still adjusting to are winters), I love the heat! lol!
Chase Von: I know you have a huge fan base world wide, but how supportive are the people of Guyana and Tobago and Trinidad of your successes? And do you get to return there because I would imagine you still have family there also yes?
Nhojj: Right now most of my fans live in the USA and Europe, I want to spend more time over the next few years cultivating and re establishing a following in the Caribbean in general. I`ll be performing at the Barbados Music Awards in January and I think that would be a great step in connecting with music fans there. I don`t get back as often as I would like, partly because most of my family lives in the US, UK or Canada.
Chase Von: The way I learned about your music was from a friend and fantastic fellow poet Vennie, author of the soon to be released poetry collection, "Swallowed." She wrote me one day and said... "Chase you have to check this guy out!" I`m glad I did! Initially I thought of Maxwell, then I thought of Prince and then I thought of a variety of other people who are all great but you have your own unique sound that is distinctly you!
Nhojj: Thank you and I`m glad Vennie connected us - thank you Vennie! I remember when I first heard Maxwell, I got so excited, because it was a bit of validation for me, we had such similar voices. Believe it or not growing up I didn`t listen a lot to Prince, I listen to him now - I`m actually watching a live performance of him as I type, lol. But all the comparisons have been very encouraging, as an artist and you know this because you are an author - there is so much pressure to conform, to give up your dream, so these give me strength to continue pressing on.
Chase Von: Dozie, who I`ve interviewed as well uses instruments on occasion from Africa in his music and I was wondering, with all the many references to your Caribbean sound fused with Reggae and Jazz and R and B, if you incorporate instruments as well that are from your native lands?
Nhojj:Someday Peace Love & Freedom, was inspired by my experience growing up in the Caribbean and it expresses more of a West Indian sensibility and perspective. We didn`t use any local instruments, but we did use the musical style, the vibe and the feeling. I like trying different things with each project, so Soul Comfort has a different vibe. But on the flight back from Guyana, I was listening to the steel pan radio station. The steel pan originated in Trinidad & Tobago, I was really inspired - so I`m sure you`ll hear more of it in future projects.
Chase Von: I was born in Japan, have lived in England growing up and various other places being a military unspoiled child. Heh, Heh:) More commonly known as Military Brats! (Brat part still mystifies me). (Smile).
But do you think your being from another place other than the United States and the many other places you have traveled to and performed at, allows for your music and your lyrics to have more of a universal appeal? Because your music is being well received all over the entire globe!
And do you think if you weren`t as well traveled as you are, you would still be able to achieve that?
Nhojj: I`d never connected the two before, but I think it is true, traveling exposed me to different cultures, views, forms of expression, ways of being and my whole experience informs my work in subtle ways even I don`t know. But at the fundamental level, I believe this is a gift that I`ve been given - traveling shaped it, and molded it, made it richer, but I think I was born this way.
Chase Von: One of the things that blows people away is your four octave range! You`ve been compared to Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Bobby Mcferrin, Maxwell, Prince and I could go on! All legends in their own right! And like Prince you`re the whole show! You`re self taught and you write your own lyrics, arrange your own songs, play all the instruments on some occasion`s and even produce it!
I`ve also read that you prefer being independent like a few of my other friends because it allows you total control. Recently I read where Miss Control herself, Janet Jackson is disappointed with her sales and is planning on going more the independent route as well! I still occasionally hear a main stream song I like but more and more, I find myself listening to yourself, Dozie, Barabara Evans, Willard Barth, Janice B, Kristin, Leah Devon, Rachael Bell, Trish Andrews, The Artist C, Alice Marie, Brian ONeal, Alina, Jena, Lisa Lavie and a host of other people that aren`t with major labels or if they are, just recently signed.
My question though is this, if a major label said they would allow you creative control would you bite the bullet or are you totally against being with a major label because you certainly have the talent and then some!
Nhojj: I play guitar and a bit of piano, but its all forms of self expression. I feel things that I want to express, I`ve learnt things from my spiritual journey that I want to share. Music is my medium, music is the tool I`ve been given to help shape the world. I`ve just accepted the call. I believe we all have seeds of genius waiting inside; we just have to have the courage to accept the call.
If a major came along and gave me creative control; the room and support to grow as an artist and a human being; and I felt they truly believed in what I create and were committed to using their resources to support my music, I would bite the bullet. For me being an independent artist is not sitting around waiting for that to happen, its taking control and using the many resources I have right now, and carving out a future that may or may not include a major. There are so many successful artists who have gone the independent route, and so many who have gone the major label route. So we artists have options and options are always good.
Chase Von: Not only are you a singer who is getting accolades the world over for your initial CD "I`ve Been Waiting For You" as well as your other release, "Some Day, Peace, Love and Freedom" but you also are an actor! You appeared in a stage play called "The Making of The Black Man" directed by Sean which I hear got all kinds of positive reviews!
And you also sing some of your original music in it as well! With your original look and apparently women are digging not only your voice but you yourself. (Smile).
Do you see yourself pursuing more roles and perhaps tackling the movie industry as well?
Nhojj: Absolutely, so many things, so little time - I don`t have the time right now to audition and pursue acting the way I would want to. The disadvantage of being an independent artist is that I`m also the manager, the secretary, the booking agent. But that is changing and help is on the way - so soon hopefully I will be able to get back to acting.
Chase Von: The list of awards you have garnered already is mind boggling! 1 Fusion was on My Space NY Charts for 6 weeks! Neo- Soul was on it for an incredible 25 weeks!
You were also nominated the Best Male Performance for the Fresh Fruit Festival 2004, Outstanding Male Album Nomination for the Outmusic Awards 2004, and Honourable Mention at the 13th and 14th Annual Billboard Song Contests for 2006 and 2007!
You have two film sound tracks, Finding Me and Blue Print and your acting credits include Out of Dreams, a play, Twirling Earl & City Sights which is an animation, "Jesse O "I Think I`m Falling in Love" a Music Video on Logo TV, Fabulosity and Downsizing the Gods for New Fest, and The Making of the Black Man which was with Fringe Festival!
On your fourth CD, Soul Comfort, you worked with Carl Evans who has worked with the Amazing Stevie Wonder and the Legendary Barry White, David Stark who has worked with the Super Freak himself, Rick James and Tena Marie who I love! (Smile). And you filmed an Intimate Evening with Nhojj, an unplugged performance with Emmy-Nominated director Bill Cote! And you`re also performing there with incredible Jazz guitarist Marcelo Cardozo!
Who are some of the people in the industry you would love to work with and also would love to work with again? And who are some of the people you consider mentors and role models?
Nhojj: I would love to work with Me`shell Ndegeocello, Jamiroquai, Stuart Matthewman who produces Sade and Maxwell and Trevor Horn (Seal`s early producer). I love working with Marcelo, we`ve been performing together for about 5 years now, and Soul Comfort is the 2nd time I`ve worked with Jon Evans.
In terms of role models - Barack Obama is my role model; he has done something that many people consider impossible!
Chase Von: How important was it to you because of you upbringing, to produce a Gospel CD and considering how well all your other music is doing, how well is that one doing and will there be future all Gospel projects as well?
Nhojj: I felt it was a gift to my parents, Gospel music is very important to them and it`s music I grew up listening to. I don`t like repeating myself - each project I`ve done has been different and unique, and allowed me to explore a different type of music, so there probably won`t be another Gospel project. In terms of its success - it allowed me to tour Europe and Canada and the Caribbean, so it did really well.
Chase Von: Are there any future projects you have coming up you can share with our readers? Also any places you`re going to be appearing at so those in the area can check out your shows?
Chase Von: One thing I can certainly say about your music is it is mood changing! (Smile). Just like our mutual friend Vennie says, she puts you on and instantly she is in another place mentally! With the soothing and mellow Caribbean and Jazz and Soul combination it obviously takes all listeners to another place, but is this something you do consciously or is this just what comes from the man known as Nhojj?
Nhojj: lol, I think it`s a bit of both - I`m a pretty mellow person in general, I like the simple things, like good company, I like to laugh, I like connection, seeing what we humans have in common, growth, empowerment. I believe we should make the people around us happy, better some how. And my music is just an extension of who I am and what I believe.
Chase Von: What are some of your favourite meals? And how often do you get to enjoy them being on the road so much?
Nhojj: I love Soul food (mac and cheese, yummy)! I also love Caribbean food - I ate way too much while I was in Guyana. But I generally I don`t eat too much of these foods. I generally eat very simple foods, mostly vegetarian.
My own internal ying and yang...
Chase Von: And I also see where you are a strong supporter of HIV/AIDS, Drug Addiction, Disability Awareness, Earth Day celebrations and peace and Domestic Violence. Are there any personal reasons you feel so adamant about the worthiness of these causes and I know they are all worthy and you certainly don`t have to address them all, but let`s just say, Disability Awareness?
The reason I pick that one is because so many are coming back from the wars disabled and recently I met a model, actress and screen writer who is a TBI. Traumatic Brain Injury Survivor and she has accomplished some amazing things despite that, her name is Kitania "Kitty" Kavey and she`s an inspiration to so many! I also suffer from PTSD myself.
Nhojj: I was reading this morning Think and Grow Rich, and in it the author tells the story of his son who was born with no ears and how out of this perceived disability, so much good came out of it. I think our disabilities are opportunities. Some of the most successful people in the world have disabilities, like your friend Kitania - I want to help shed a positive light on the way we view our individual experiences.
Chase Von: What would you say, if you were standing in front of a microphone that could be heard by every child on the planet and regardless of what language it was they spoke, they would understand you? What positive advice would you give the children, if that were possible?
Nhojj: Every morning find one thing, one thing that makes you happy, and tell everyone you know about it, or write about it, or draw a picture about it. And each day find one more thing that makes you happy, and don`t let anyone stop you, because your happiness is your magical power.
Chase Von: Where can our readers find more of your music? Your different web sites and links where they can also purchase it as well as video links?
Nhojj: You can find my music on all the major download stores like iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon, CDbaby. com and there are links to these on my site www.nhojj.com and my MySpace page www.myspace.com/nhojj
Chase Von: Nhojj, On behalf of The Operated Student Press and myself, Thanks so much again for sharing yourself with our readers and honouring me by doing so! I do have one last question though, what does the name Nhojj mean if you can share that?
Nhojj: Nhojj is the name of my Spirit and it means peace and beauty. Nhojj shines through me.
Chase Von: Thanks for sharing that! I am sure many inquisitive minds wanted to know as well! (Smile). Continued success with your music and acting careers and in all of your pursuit`s brother! One love!
Nhojj: Thank you for sharing your time with me and continued success to you.
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