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Meet Aijia Grammer

 Today we’d like to introduce you to Aijia Grammer.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Aijia. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I grew up in LA, so it’s always funny to pinpoint when exactly I got started in the entertainment industry. As a kid, I was always doing choir shows and talent shows at school. I was raised in a very musical family. My grandfather on one side was the head of the Jazz Piano Dept at USC, and my grandparents on the other side ran a music venue in Hollywood. Music was around and continuously encouraged by my parents. I always say that music was the “sports” of my family.

When I was 14 I got a manager for my songwriting and music career, which really took things to a different level. It became more serious and less of a hobby. I went on to continue writing and performing through my teens and adult years. Playing all the local venues and doing some touring. I then attended Cal State University of Northridge where I was a Jazz Studies major. That’s where I met my future husband, Andy. At the time he was just my buddy, and we remained friends for years before we ever started dating.

While going to school I interned at a Warner Bros Records and went from department to department doing publicity, marketing and A&R. This taught me a lot about the different areas of the music business. In the summer when school was out, they’d hire me to temp as an employee. I learned a ton!

As time passed I always paid my bills by teaching piano lessons to kids, doing cover gigs, doing wedding singer gigs, writing music for commercials, trailers and TV and singing backup for other artists. (Selena Gomez, Rachel Platten, Hilary Duff, Colbie Caillat) Basically, anything that involved music. I think there is this belief that you’ll come to LA and immediately start doing the exact thing you want to do. But there is a lot of time when you’re getting better at your craft. When you’re paying dues and learning the ins and outs of your field. This is actually a very important step on your way to becoming a master at your aft. And it’s not always acknowledged. During this time is when I met many of the musicians and songwriters who I still work with today. We all slowly got better together.

Somewhere along the way, I got involved with Rock N Roll Camp For Girls, which has become my whole heart. It’s a non-profit organization that teaches girls social justice, via music education. We run a weeklong camp that is only run by self-identified women where the girls form bands, write original material, design band merch and play a show at the Troubadour. There are also amazing workshops on social media literacy, self-defense and many others. Rock Camp has become a big part of my life and really lit the flame for me to put my energy and time into furthering women’s rights. It helped me see that there is a lot of work to be done towards the equality of men and women. Helping to create the next wave of strong, empowered young females is the best use of my time. Especially if they want to learn to play bass in the process. Today I am a wife, a mom, a songwriter, a musician, and an advocate for girls and women. I’m really happy with where I’m at.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I don’t think anyone has a smooth road all the time. Sure, I’ve had struggles along the way. There were times when I felt like nothing was clicking with music. Nothing was coming easy and it was all forced. Times when everyone around me was having their “big break” and it felt like I was being left behind. But what I learned is that my path has always been a slow and steady climb. That’s my way. When I am in my purpose and finding ways to serve with my art, things always flow better and I’m always happier.

My husband and I struggled to see each other regularly in the beginning of our careers when there was a lot of touring. In those early days, we didn’t have a lot of extra income to fly back and forth to see one another. When he’d start a three-month tour, or I’d be on a two-month tour, that was kind of it. We wouldn’t see each other until the very end. That was really hard to navigate because we spent so much time living life separate. Today it’s very different. He plans visits home into his tours from the start and I am doing less traveling and more writing and events in LA. I’ve found that for now, my true love is really writing for myself and with other artists. I’m not much of a tourer. It’s funny because if you would have asked me 10 years ago I would have said that all I wanted to do was travel and tour. I still fly to specific shows and travel, but things change and I realized that I’m more of a homebody.

Another struggle for me was around deciding to have a family. From the first minute that I got pregnant with my daughter, I got Hyperemesis Gravidarum. This is not usually a word people are familiar with, but basically its a very severe and debilitating type of morning sickness. Some people have recently heard about it because Kate Middleton and Amy Schumer also had it. I went from working, creating, exercising, moving, to being completely bedridden overnight. It was liking living with constant food poisoning. It was really hard for me to accept that I had no control and had to just let my body rest and get over it. I’m a busy body and a do-er.

But my body needed me to do less. Towards the end of my pregnancy, I had a few months of feeling ok, and then when I gave birth I got hit with postpartum depression. It was a long period of feeling really out of sync with my body and out of sync with myself. Through therapy, acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, supplements and lots of pep talks I began to slowly come back to my normal state. But I look back at that time and think, “Wow! I feel like I went to war and survived.” I’ll never be the same after that experience. And then, of course, you fall in love with your child and forget all about it and it becomes a few sentences of a footnote in the story of your life. I like to think that everything comes in waves and if you can hang in there for the big waves, you will get to catch your breath just after it passes.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I am a songwriter, recording artist and women’s rights advocate. I specialize in writing music that is vulnerable, honest and empowering. There tends to be a girl-power theme in my music because that’s what I live my life by. I am most proud of the song and video that I released last fall called, ‘For You.’ I wrote it the night of the testimony given by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. I was blown away by her courage and bravery as she shared her truth. I went to bed feeling uneasy and upset for her and for all women. I felt angry that she was forced to relive that experience and face judgement.

After tossing and turning in bed, I got up and wrote the song really quickly and then went back to sleep feeling more peaceful. The next day on a whim, I went into the studio with my friend Jamey Jaz and recorded it. Things just spiraled from there. I found my amazing director Vanessa Beletic who had a really clear and brilliant vision of how to shape the video. We made a social media call to anyone who was a survivor of sexual assault, or who was an ally to a survivor. We wanted to put faces to this story. The video shoot day was one of the most powerful days of my life.

All these incredible and diverse women came together to share their experiences and to speak up. The end result of the video is definitely the thing that I am most proud of. I think that I was just 1% of the whole thing coming together and there was some divine guidance that brought all these women to set that day. It’s was cathartic and healing and profound. If you haven’t seen it, search “Aijia – For You” on YouTube and grab a box of tissues.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
The quality or characteristic I feel has been most important to my success has been my tenacity and ability to push through even when things aren’t seemingly easy. I don’t think talent is always the leading force for people. Talent is fleeting and based on opinion and doesn’t require a skill. I believe that I am moderately talented, but I am a fiercely, hard worker. I finish things to completion and continue on to the next thing when I’m done.

I also believe that it’s very important to remain teachable, so I always try to surround myself with people who are doing things differently, or better than me. I don’t think I have all the answers, but I have a desire to get them, so I try to always be open to learning more. This manifests a lot in hiring people out for small things that I know I could attempt, but that they will do better. There’s no shame in teamwork.

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Image Credit:
Marginal Creative, Jen Rosenstein

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