I was presented with the opportunity to interview Ms. AJ Duke, a military wife releasing a powerful single called Soldier’s Heart. It’s the first song released from her debut album, “Let Me Tell You a Story”, with a core message about “taking a stand for what’s right.” Her album speaks to her husband’s career and what it’s like to be part of a military family. I sat down to chat with this inspiring lady and she was truly a delight. Her voice is true soul and AJ is all heart.
Have you always wanted to be a musician?
I guess “wanted” would be a good word for it. It’s something that’s always been a pull on my heart since I was very, very young. I wrote my first song when I was about 7 years old. It’s been more of this underlying passion that just wants to burst out and of course, growing up music wasn’t something that everyone considered a dependable career so I went in other ways as well, but it’s definitely always been kind of an underlying part of who I am.
What would you say to a little girl who wants to grow up and be a singer-songwriter?
After shedding a tear or two, I would tell her to just do it and keep doing it and even if other things that come along – definitely through college and stuff like that I still kept songwriting. If it’s something they want to do and a passion that they have not just for the sake of putting it out there but also for the sake of fulfilling themselves. Songwriting is something that just brings me such joy and I think that’s really the most important part of it, if someone wants to do that there’s clearly a passion there so just keep tapping into that and don’t let it go.
How can we as parents encourage our kids to pursue music?
I used to teach guitar. I have some friends who wanted me to help teach their kids guitar and one of the beautiful that I saw about it, I taught myself to play guitar when I was 15, and tapping into what their interests are and not being so structured about it. Letting the creativity come, I think a lot of what happens with creative minds and musicians – you have a left brain/right brain and I think a lot of parents can jump in there and say, “Ok, we have to do all these lessons and music theory and stuff” and for kids that’s not as fun. For them to have that time to just get creative with it, bless my parents’ hearts, they had to hear me learn guitar chords on an untuned guitar before they got me a new one. They had the patience and let me play around with the creativity. I think that’s a good thing to remember.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Helping people. That’s the whole reason I started pursuing this 100%, seeing that music can actually give people hope. It can actually literally change people’s lives. Seeing that firsthand with some of my music was really what inspired me to keep going with it. I want to see that healing and just be a part of that – I think that that’s just an incredible calling and incredible journey – it’s much bigger than just being a musician playing music.
What do you find most challenging about what you do?
Keeping that joy and creativity going. There is an entire business aspect of it that is necessary and great, but not letting that overwhelm everything else. Taking that time to enjoy your craft and be in the moment tends to be a challenge, but you just remember the people that are there and that’s what you’re there for.
Tell me about your new single coming out. How are you feeling launching it?
I am excited. I’m trying not to throw up all the time right now from nervous excitement. I’m still kind of in awe over it. I’m excited we’ve got some stuff lined up with Veteran’s Day coming next weekend. I was reflecting on that this morning, it’s just incredible to be able to go out there and actually give back to the Veterans and give that gift to them just in performing and sharing that story, and it’s all about the people. I’m really excited about that part, about getting it out there and just having it be just like a connector and to inspire hope in the military. I’m really excited about that.