If music is a conduit for spirit, Los Angeles based vōx is a ground wire. Her debut EP I Was Born dropped to acclaim in May of 2017. It’s “complex set of songs about coping with anxiety and discovering the power within.” Her music and performances speak to a lost sense of sacred for many. Often performing in churches, veiled in vintage wedding attire, her shows have been described as mystical and transformative. When not on stage, vōx spends her time writing and arranging music in her LA home. She has been selected to attend this year’s Red Bull Music Academy in Berlin. We were recently able to catch up with her and get a bit of a glimpse into the enigmatic chanteuse.
RC: Congratulations on being selected to attend the Red Bull Academy, how amazing and exciting! Can you tell our readers about the Red Bull Academy?
vōx: Thank you! Red Bull Music Academy is like the perfect academy for up and coming musicians. They have lectures, studio sessions and live performances. Thousands [of artists] from all around the world apply, and this year, which happens to be the 20th anniversary, they’ve chosen 61 applicants. It’s in a different location each time, but this year it’s in Berlin because that was the first location they ever had it! I have been to Berlin. It’s one of my favorite cities. But I haven’t performed there yet, so I’m very excited about that! I think that people who live in Berlin are so open to interesting live performances. I think they’ll really understand who I am!
RC: I read that when you decided to take the stage name is vōx (pronounced “wokes”), it came from one of your own tattoos that you had gotten years earlier? Can you describe that epiphany?
vōx: Yes! vōx the Latin word for voice. I think the subconscious reason I got the tattoo was so I could have that moment of realization. I would have never discovered the name without it!
RC: You have mentioned that performing in churches is a way of “reclaiming” that space, were you raised religious? If so, what faith? -You also use the veils as a means of protection, and in the metaphoric sense of an altar, or shrine cloth. How important is the divine in your work?
vōx: Yes, I was raised religious as a child, but instead of feeling inclusive it always made me feel [that I was] on the outside. I think part of why I include religious imagery and perform in such spaces is to allow people who may have felt similarly to know that they’re welcome now. The divine is very important to what I do. I want my work to be love and spread love, to be as pure as possible in the sense that it is holy.
RC: I love that your image and work brings a sacredness to the mundane. When you said “I think spirituality often doesn’t correlate with religion. I think of it more as being in tune with the world and its energies.” When you are composing do you feel like you are, in a sense, channeling the divine, a deeper part of your own soul? ..and are they necessarily different things?
vōx: Definitely! I think that in the sense of spirituality and purity of creation, it is channeling the divine. I write from a space outside myself and listen to what is trying to come through me. I usually don’t know what my own songs are about until much later.
I believe we all have the divine in us, so I don’t see it as different. It can feel like channeling from somewhere outside of yourself because I don’t think we often access the depths of ourselves.
RC: Do you think people don’t listen to themselves enough?
vōx: I think it can be hard no matter who you are — we live in a noisy world today. Many of us don’t get enough silence to really listen.
RC: How would you recommend they begin?
vōx: For myself, becoming more aware of the ways in which I avoid the present moment has helped me. Starting a meditation practice is probably the ideal way, but it can be very daunting. I’d recommend reading Thich Nat Hanh’s The Miracle Of Mindfulness and The Power Of Now : A Guide To Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle.
RC: What are you reading now?
vōx: I most recently read two books shedding light on strong female Middle Eastern voices. Gaddafi’s Harem: The Story of a Young Woman and the Abuses of Power in Libya by Annick Cojean and Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Eltahawy. I would recommend them both very highly. I’m always looking to connect with different female voices. These two books are especially important, because we don’t get to hear the perspectives and the stories of Middle Eastern women often enough.
RC: You’ve been very open with your own struggles with depression, and you’ve have mentioned wanting to work with youth- to help them motor through the struggle of learning to adult (I have an 18-year-old) – Why do you think that it is so hard? Do you feel like it is more challenging today? Why or why not?
vōx: I think it’s so hard because growing is painful. That will always be challenging. We have a long way to go with developing a schooling system that would teach us some of the most useful skills of all, things like emotional communication, meditation, self-worth, sensitivity. Those are things that would make being a teenager (and an adult!) at least a little easier to cope with.
RC: There is a quote along the lines of being a craftsman versus a hobbyist – a craft takes a lifetime, and endless work. It isn’t enough to just go with talent – it takes honing and practice – and hard work. How do you work on your craft?
vōx: I think the most important craft I have is songwriting. For most of my life it’s been my main form of expression. I started songwriting when I was around 12 or 13.
RC: The process. You write lyrics first, and from there melody?
vōx: Yes, I like to write lyrics first and then melody.
RC: Do you have a special place that you prefer to work in?
vōx: I always write music from home. I need to feel safe.
RC: If music’s intent is to evoke the senses, and yours have been defined as ethereal and “a beautiful spectacle” is there another image or feeling you feel? Or is that pretty spot on? Is there something you feel people are missing, or glossing over? Who do you want the audience to know you as? Who are you?
vōx: I hope aside from the spectacle, people feel the openness and acceptance. That’s what I’m always trying to channel.
photographer: Carly Foulkes
clothing: Hannah Kristina Metz
makeup: Francesca Martin