Jul 20, 2009 ~ With the release of her new album “Chameleon“, Victoria Vox is one of the first to use the sound of the ‘ukulele with a pop music style. And she does it well. With her great voice and fun songs, Victoria is a perfect fit for her new instrument. Vox agreed to do an interview via email – thanks Victoria!
Victoria Vox: It’s funny you say “music bug”… because that it just what it is! I was 6 when I consciously knew that I wanted to be a singer… but there is proof on cassette tape that I wanted to be the center of attention/star singer from when I was 4! I loved to sing, whether it was a Girl Scout song, in Church, or listening to records or the radio. I’d also sing at the talent shows in school (not very well, I might add)… I wasn’t a child prodigy with an amazing voice. I guess my “voice” was always there, but I’ve learned control and honed my tone simply through practice and performing. I started the violin when I was 9, the oboe at 11, trumpet at 14, and finally the guitar at 17. It came very natural to me to strum along and sing and make up songs. I then started playing the bass and the ‘ukulele about 6 years ago. The ‘ukulele clicked as my accompaniment.
BB: Who do you consider your musical heroes?
VV: Oh gosh… here’s the quick list: Cyndi Lauper – she gave me the inspiration to sing. She is truly amazing. Madonna – OMG. What a business woman. Super impressive… (and I’m jealous of her body!) :) Ani DiFranco – for keeping it indie. She paved the way for a lot of indie artists. Other artists I look up to are: Martin Sexton, Jill Sobule, John Mayer, Peter Gabriel, Laurie Anderson and Feist. And then there’s Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, Mel Tormé, and Louis Armstrong.
BB: How did you become interested in the ukulele? It’s such a Hawaiian instrument, do you play any Hawaiian songs?
VV: I was given a[n] ‘ukulele in September of 2003 so that I could properly cover IZ’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (as I was playing it on guitar). But before I learned that song, I was inspired by this new (to me) little instrument and began writing my own songs on it. These ‘ukulele songs became the most requested tunes I played. I was annoyed at first, but then at some point one has to just go with the flow ;) I started writing more and then I released an album in 2006 (recorded in 2005) and toured Hawaii to promote it. It was perhaps an interesting place to promote a[n] ukulele album (without any traditional Hawaiian songs on it)… but while I was there I became sponsored by KoAloha ‘Ukulele in Honolulu. That meant (and still means) the world to me and supported the idea that I was doing something right, finally! (even though it was a more contemporary uke sound than they heard in the past) Now, I primarily write on the ‘ukulele and wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I don’t do any traditional Hawaiian songs in my set, although, I’ve played along a bunch at the uke fests.
BB: On your site you mention your “trumpetless trumpet”. How do you get that sound if it’s not a real trumpet?
VV: I started “mouth trumpeting” over 4 years ago as I was writing a jazzy tune which called for a solo. Since I do so many shows alone, I had to come up with something that I could do to fill the space. I didn’t know what instrument I was shooting for the first time I did it. It stemmed from pure curiosity of what noise I could possibly make with my mouth! Some people get it all wrong and expect to get sound by simply blowing air out of the side of their mouth. The “trumpetless trumpet” is still singing… not just blowing air. I just channel it through a slightly parted corner of my mouth (right side) ;)
BB: As a vocalist and an ‘ukulele player you have more to focus on when performing than someone who is playing only instrumentals. What is the most challenging aspect of putting on a great show for you?
VV: I don’t know what I would say is most challenging. As a one-woman show, there is a lot to think about in general. Song order, reading the crowd, interaction with the crowd, eye contact, singing in tune, keeping the rhythm, and playing the right chords ;) As for the performance side of things, I think it’s similar to an instrumentalist… you have to turn your brain off. The stage is not the place to be thinking about what you’re doing. You just have to do it.
BB: Now, I’ve got to ask: how did the Victoria Vox panties and boxers come about? You’ve really got the market on that one – Jake is missing out! (laughs)
VV: Hahah! I’ll have to think of some slinky slogan and sell it to him ;) haha! I used to do my own t-shirt screen printing and got the idea to print on other things like onesies, socks (vox sox), panties, “voxer-briefs” and “voxers”. Marketing Victoria Vox is so much fun! The undies sold faster than the tees… So I figured I was on to something. The thing is, printing can be a bit pricey, so I mostly break even on that stuff (like the panties) so I can keep the retail price down. It’s fun to have and people get a kick out of it! ;)
BB: Any closing comments?
VV: Thanks so much for getting in touch, Brad! It’s an honor to be a part of the thriving ‘ukulele scene :)