Cuja is an Asian-American rising pop sensation based in Los Angeles and has recently unveiled her infectious debut EP titled ‘Vol. 1’ on Friday, June 21. This new voice emerging from pop scene, Cuja, fuses elements of retro-pop with a fresh forward-thinking electro-pop twist. If you dive into her lyrics, you’ll notice she’s quite the cheeky one; her personality shining through every aspect of each song. Kicking off her artist career with her debut single “Backseat,” singer-songwriter Cuja, followed up with her second single “New Friends.”, this debut EP is her big jump in the music industry which features 4 pop-flavored tracks including her three previously released hits.
Cuja showed a passion for creating at an early age which she paired with her love of singing and music. These experiences growing up cultivated not only her voice but her sense of self. Cuja’s sound has a shimmery, electronic-pop vibe that serves as her canvas for heartbreak, jealousy, and pleasure. ‘Vol. 1′ is an authentic collection of Cuja’s thoughts about woman empowerment. The EP consists of stories about love and being a woman living in the overwhelming city of LA. Cuja’s experiences are given a boost of life with cheeky lyrics, her personality shining through every aspect of each song. At times, her music can be both upbeat yet dark, contrasted by her mellow and sultry vocals.
“The communication of emotions is the most important thing to me in a song. Feelings come in all colors, shapes, and sounds. I try to chase down the feeling and then create something from there.” – Cuja
With the release of this EP, Cuja begins to solidify herself as a leading voice in the Asian-American pop community. Cuja has the drive to succeed like no other, partly due to the lack of Asian-American representation within the music industry. Like many mixed-race artists, Cuja is constantly inspired by her colorful heritage, choosing her artist name as an homage to the true pronunciation of her Filipino family name (Cudiamat).
At CelebMix, we had a chance to sit down with Cuja and chat about her latest EP, music career so far, diversity in the music industry, future plans and much more. Read below to know more.
Hi Cuja. So glad to have you here? Where does this interview find you today?
Today I’m reporting to you from my home studio in Culver City, CA. Thank you so much for having me!
Congratulations on the release of your debut EP – ‘Vol. 1’. Tell us more about what inspired you to write and record this one. And, what does the title ‘Vol. 1’ reflects?
When I was writing this EP, I was really inspired by the different relationships I’ve had. I knew I wanted to write about love, but I wanted to create a very complex picture with many angels. Each song is a little snapshot of a bigger story, but to me, the most important thing I wanted to communicate was the feeling–the emotions–of a single moment. When I was playing around with titles for the EP, I had several that seemed to create a nice umbrella for each track to sit under, but it didn’t seem right to add to the narrative. I decided to go with a simple title like “Vol. I” to indicate that this is just one installment of the story–and for me as an artist, it’s only the beginning!
What message do you want your audience and listeners to take away from this EP?
I’d love my listeners to see themselves in the songs. Stephen King talks in his book ‘On Writing’ about how writing is like telepathy. I can write something I was feeling and someone across the country or the world can listen to it and sit into that feeling too. It’s this incredible communication of emotion that transcends space and time. I hope my listeners can hear these songs and maybe understand their emotions a little better. I also hope everyone has fun because emotions don’t have to be so serious, we can dance around and cry a little too!
Growing up, how important was music in your life? Can you recall the moment when you decided that you wanted to be a musician? If not a musician, what else you could see yourself doing?
Music has always been a huge part of my life. I’ve been performing since I was around 6 years old and I always had it in my mind that I wanted to be an artist. But as I got older, I got scared. I did everything I could to pursue other avenues that seemed ‘easier’ or ‘safe.’ But this left me creatively unfulfilled. I finally realized music is the thing I’ve been the most afraid to pursue and that’s what told me I had to go for it. But, if I wasn’t able to be a musician, I’d focus more on writing. I’d love to take one of my stories and turn it into a book – maybe someday in the future!
What do you feel about diversity in the music industry? Do you feel the representation and opportunities for marginalized groups are sufficient? If not, what according to you can be done to improve?
Diversity is THE MOST important and though we’ve seen a lot of changes in recent years, we are not even close to sufficient representation! Artists, musicians, songwriters and music industry folk should all be looking at their teams/collaborators and asking themselves if they are actively working to be inclusive. In the studio, we should be looking around and asking “Is the story I’m telling going to benefit from another perspective?” I’m very excited to be a part of diversifying the pallet of creative individuals in the industry. It’s a personal mission of mine to work with and support marginalized creatives. I think everyone is yearning badly to hear the stories of POC’s, LGBTQIA+, immigrants, people with disabilities, etc. It’s time mainstream pop, and all genres for that matter, reflect the world. It’s time these voices are heard.
Which artists have continued to inspire you and your music? If given a chance in the future, who would you like to work with?
There are so many! Vocally, I continue to look up to Ariana Grande, who I am certain, stole her voice from a mermaid! Hayley Kiyoko has been a big inspiration to me. As an Asian-American artist, its been so awesome to see her out there repping both AAPI and LGBTQIA+. I’d love to work with Justin Tranter in the future. I met him almost 10 years ago during the filming of MTV’s ‘Made’ at my high school and have been following his career ever since. He’s been a big influence in my pursuit of music, but I also admire his activism.
What has been a highlight or a major accomplishment of your career thus far?
I received a DM thanking me for repping Asian-American women in music. They also said they hoped to do music in the future. I was so touched. It was such a validating moment. You can’t ask for anything better than that!
How will you describe your relationship with music in three words?
Umm.. 3 words, It’s my favorite.
In what ways has your heritage and personal music taste that you grew up on has inspired your current music style and creativity?
Both sides of my family love music and singing. I always got a new CD for my birthday or Christmas. My first CD was Britney Spears’s ‘…Baby One More Time” so that pretty much solidified my love of pop music. But I also grew up listening to Earth, Wind and Fire, The Carpenters, and Blondie. It’s inspired me to look for that sweet spot between ‘Fun Party Song’ and ‘Deep Emotional Honesty.’
How have you noticed yourself evolving as an artist over the years? If you look at your 10-year-old self today, do you want to tell her something?
My music always changes based on where I am in my life. I started writing moody acoustic songs in my teens. College was more dark, twisted performance art. Now, I want to have fun! If I met my 10-year-old self, I think I’d just let her be. I’m pretty happy with how things are turning out!
Do you get much time away from work to chill? How do you unwind?
I think when you’re an artist you’re always kind of working–soaking in experiences, harnessing feelings. I’m always writing down little tidbits here and there that might make a good song, My favorite way to unwind is to wine and dine myself (especially in another country). I love traveling and try to take at least two international trips a year. I always try to go to a country that has amazing food and spend most of my time walking from one restaurant to another.
What’s next in 2019? Any exciting plans in the near or distant future that you want to share with your fans?
There are so many things to come this year! I’ll be putting out another single soon and I’ll also be putting out my first music video which is exciting! I can’t wait!
Lastly, what would be your perfect pop star dinner guest line-up? You’ve got five choices!
Such a hard question! Right now–Lizzo, Miley Cyrus, Camila Cabello, Nicki Minaj, and Bruno Mars. Joe Jonas is on deck too, but mostly because I’d want him to bring Sophie Turner–I heart her so much!
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