With tremendous passion and unstoppable drive, 19-year-old JUJ is proof in the power of believing in yourself against all fear and doubt. At age 17, the Philadelphia-bred singer/songwriter dropped out of high school and moved to L.A. on her own, despite having no family members or friends in town. Just as she’d started to establish herself in the music scene there, an untreated case of Lyme disease forced her to move back home and put her dreams on hold. Shaken but still determined, JUJ returned to L.A. as soon as she’d recovered, pushing forward with her music and quickly setting to work on an addictive selection of songs announcing her as a bold new voice of empowerment for her generation and beyond.
JUJ partly attributes her strength and determination to her mother, a former dancer who immigrated from Brazil to the U.S. at age 18. “She grew up so poor and moved here with $100 in her pocket, without really speaking any English at all,” says JUJ. “Knowing that she was able to do that was a big inspiration for me when I started to think about moving to L.A.” Raised on the Brazilian music her mother played at home, JUJ grew up singing in the church choir and took up piano at age 7. An accomplished theater actor, she developed her stunning vocal range in part by performing at her hometown’s famed Walnut Street Theatre, and at age 13 won a major singing competition at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem.
By the time she started high school JUJ had begun writing her own songs, as well as drawing attention online with her YouTube covers of everything from “House of the Rising Sun” to Amy Winehouse’s rendition of “Valerie.” Songwriting soon became a crucial emotional outlet for JUJ, especially when one of her best friends died suddenly of a heart condition at age 15. “My favourite song I’ve ever written was for him,” JUJ points out. “A lot of the lyrics are about getting through the grieving process, and I wrote it without really thinking about it ever having an audience—I just wanted to create something that felt truthful to what I was feeling at the time.”
Produced by Essancy, the new single “Mood,” is a quiet, powerful slow-burner that sheds light on the struggles JUJ faced in leaving home. “In my town everyone tends to follow one path, so when you decide to go off and do something different, you get a lot of people telling you how it’s never going to work,” says JUJ, “This is the story of my move at 17 years old across the country to chase a dream and do whatever it takes with any sacrifice necessary.”
A magnetic blend of R&B and urban pop, JUJ is a force-of-nature type energy and effortlessly exudes charisma, soulful sensitivity, daring East Coast grit, and—perhaps most powerfully—a commanding vocal presence she’s honed by singing her entire life.