“I’ve learned to accept and understand that I will probably never fit in, and that’s something I’m okay with.”
His steel guitar skills are masterful. His voice is irresistible. His band is impeccable. His name is AJ Ghent and his band is the AJ Ghent Band. Formed in 2012, this Atlanta band has spent most of the past couple years writing music and entertaining audiences with their incomparable style. The band transcends the traditional categorization of genres- melding together sounds from across the musical spectrum, including: blues, jazz, soul, funk and rock. Last week, AMG chatted with two members, the band’s front man, AJ Ghent, and his wife, MarLa Ghent. Even though our conversation was somewhat brief, the couple’s passion for what they do was more than evident. Click the Soundcloud link below to listen to the interview with AJ and MarLa Ghent or simply read on.
AMG: AJ, the AJ Ghent Band formed back in 2012. Your music educational background, your abilities and your clout have afforded you quite a few opportunities to work with some big and talented names- what was it about the folks in your band that made you certain that they were the right people to help achieve your musical goals?
AJ Ghent: I would have to say that they were all were available. You know availability and having a willing spirit to just work hard and reach a goal.
AMG: What was your musical upbringing like? Who were the artists who influenced you the most growing up?
AG: My family influenced me the most growing up. I really didn’t have the opportunity to be introduced to many artists along the way but as I got older and became an adult I started introducing myself to different artists such as James Brown and Prince and from the guitar world, Jimi Hendrix, of course. For the most part, it was my father and grandfather.
MarLa Ghent: It’s kind of the same for me because we’re both from that church world, actually grew up in the same church organization, so you were kind of sheltered so you really only listened to gospel. But as I got older, I introduced myself to female vocalists, I would have to name Chaka Khan, Tina Turner and even some recent modern vocalist like Grace Potter- people like that. Our sister Tiffany is missing today, she’s the other core member, but it’s the same story for her.
AMG: What is your ideal way to write music?
AG: There’s really no ideal way to write music, it’s more spontaneous than anything. It’s kind of a 24/7 a day type of process.
MG: Yeah, anything can hit us at any time. I would say at any moment we can be inspired.
AMG: Which song of yours would you say best defines you?
AG: We have a song coming out called “It Ain’t Easy Being a Man.” And it definitely tells a story of not only my life but it could also tell the story of a woman’s life as well you know if you took out the man put in a woman, you know it ain’t easy being a woman either. I would say that song probably best describes who we are, what we’ve been through and just this past journey.
AMG: Do you guys have any pre-show rituals? Or how do you prepare for a show?
AG: We tried to rehearse before a show, every show we try to do a quick rehearsal. And we always make sure we pray before we go out on stage- get all the goosebumps out of the way and those nerves, you know, kind of get things ready for what we’re about to take on.
AMG: You could go and play ANYWHERE. Why do you stay in Atlanta? What is it that you love about this city?
AG: Atlanta is the new Hollywood now. And it’s definitely growing. We’ve played all over the place- from Hollywood, California to Moline, Illinois, we just left Canada. I would say that Atlanta- it’s definitely a growing scene here and it’s in the South and we’re country so, you know that’s always good.
MG: We are Southern!
AG: I think there’s something here that captures roots and we love to attach ourselves to it.
AMG: Who are some Atlanta artists that you admire or just dig on?
AG: Yeah, yeah- surprisingly a few! You know of course we love the most popular to the least- from the Janelle Monaes and even the Outkasts, even a good friend of mine Tinsley Ellis, who’s a great blues player around. Pretty much anyone who’s on the ground and working and inspired to be different in the music industry from this area, we definitely love.
AMG: What are you Atlanta favorite venues to play?
AG: Our favorite venues thus far in Atlanta would have to be Smith’s (Olde Bar) and Variety Playhouse. We just played those two recently and actually we have a show coming up at Smith’s Olde Bar on August 1st. That’s kind of been like our home base in Atlanta and also Variety Playhouse.
AMG: Last but not least, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
AG: Yes, the biggest thing we have coming up is working on our album and finishing that up. There is nothing bigger than that. You know, it’s been a long time coming and want to get going on it to hopefully be released by the first of the year in 2015.