10 Questions with AJ Rafael
AJ Rafael, a singer/songwriter and YouTube personality, is a contributing artist on the Discovering Routes soundtrack. Since his start on YouTube nearly ten years ago, AJ has amassed nearly 150 million lifetime views, released his “Red Roses” album, and collaborated with many other great Filipino artists. We asked AJ 10 questions to learn more about his music, his inspiration, and his roots.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is AJ Rafael, singer/songwriter currently residing in Riverside, CA.
2. Where in the Philippines is your family from?
I was born here in LA, but my parents are both from Tondo, Manila.
3. What is your favorite Filipino food?
My favorite Filipino food is and always has been my mom’s Sinigang. Can’t go wrong with Sinigang.
4. What were some of your favorites memories from visiting the Philippines?
Obviously it’s a beautiful place, but most of my memories are with my friends and family there. Making music and also shooting videos with my musician friends out there is one of the best things about going there. I’ve done some cool collaborations with Yeng Constantino, Jay-R, Kris Lawrence, Gab Valenciano and some other big artists out there who I’m grateful to call my friends. They’ve also shown up at some of my shows, even though they’re way smaller crowds than they usually get, and that’s shown how down they are for me and my music. And of course the greatest memory is meeting my fans that I have been blessed with all the way out there. They rock.
5. What is the most awesome thing about being Filipino?
I’d say that Filipinos have a strong sense of family and community. Proud to have a huge family who loves getting together to eat, sing, and dance.
6. What were some of the musicians you listened to growing up? What influence have they had on your music?
I listened to a lot of R&B music, but when I reached high school I started listening to a lot of pop punk. So my influences range from Boyz II Men to The Rocket Summer, and especially piano-heavy singer/songwriters like John Legend, and Vanessa Carlton. My acoustic influences are John Mayer, Jack Johnson, and of course MR AZ – Jason Mraz. I learned guitar by playing their songs and different rhythms of strumming and what not.
7. How would you describe your personal style?
I pretty much wear whatever these days, but can’t go wrong with a black tee, black joggers, and some all black Adidas.
8. After 10 years of creating content on YouTube, where do you find inspiration from today?
It’s been somewhat of a struggle finding inspiration… After writing all these songs that still touch people to this very day, it’s hard to not compare yourself to art you created years ago that’s still doing well. I’ve been trying to hang out with like-minded people and killer musicians, so I can keep getting better as a musician.
9. What do you like to do for fun that isn’t related to music?
I love watching basketball (Go Lakers) and playing video games. I am always down to play some Super Smash Bros but am not the best at it or anything like that. I also love to do graphic design just for random things having to do with my branding and shows.
10. What are the top 5 places to visit on your bucket list?
Hmm.. Places I haven’t been to? New Zealand, Greece, Alaska, Korea, and Cebu!
Watch out for one of AJ’s original tracks on Discovering Routes!