“At the end of the day for me, it’s not about the number. It’s about who you are and what you do.”
Music comes naturally for AJ Mitchell. At just four years old, he was inspired by his dad to learn to play piano and by six, he was writing his own music. “I grew up in a musical household. My sisters were always singing and we’d always be harmonizing,” AJ tells YSBnow. Inspired by his creative household, AJ says he just “hopped on the piano and started playing.” He even remembers one of the first songs he ever wrote. “It was called ‘Two Little Birds Falling Out Of A Tree,” he laughs. “Two birds sitting in a tree, one fell off and broke its knee.”
As AJ got older, his passion for music only grew. At 13, he began making videos of himself singing to post online. “I realized I wanted to take it seriously when I was 13 and I thought music is where I want to go so I started posting videos on my social media and gaining fans.”
AJ started to gain recognition online for his videos from celebrities like Jake Paul and pages with follower counts that would expose him to millions of more listeners. “One of the first moments where I started to gain followers or popularity was in the end of eighth grade. I went to go camping and I got a random shout-out from this page and it had a million followers. I got fifteen-thousand followers in one day—it was the best day of my life! I was freaking out. I woke up, I started gaining followers and getting tons of likes. It was really cool.”
Then, AJ got the opportunity to move to LA in 2016. “Jake DMed me on Instagram and he goes ‘I have a cool opportunity for you to come out to LA.’ So I went out to LA,” AJ revealed in an Instagram video he made for fans in 2017. In Los Angeles AJ joined Team 10, a group of content creators headed by Jake, where he quickly gained even more fame for his hilarious YouTube videos and Vines with the crew. In 2017, AJ announced his departure from the group explaining “I’m not with Team 10 anymore but I really do appreciate Team 10 and everything they’ve done for me,” he explained.
Less than a year after leaving Team 10 to pursue his music career, AJ signed with one of the most iconic record labels in the industry, Epic Records. “It’s honestly unbelievable. I never ever would have thought this could have happened to me. I’m from a small town and I didn’t even know how I could get here. To be sitting here, I’ve signed with Epic and released my EP, it’s surreal,” he says. And AJ is just getting started. His debut EP, Hopeful, is out now and the music video for his single “Girls” is just shy of one million views in less than a month. But AJ doesn’t care about the numbers or the followers.
“I have a number on Instagram but that doesn’t mean anything. I’ve always had that number, but I never really saw my fans so when I went on tour and I actually saw my fans in real life, I was like ‘Wow, these people are actually real, and they support me’. Before, it’s all just a number—I just saw names, but I didn’t see those people in real life.” The fans and the love for music are really what matter to AJ, which is why he wanted his debut EP to send a message he’s passionate about. “My whole journey through posting videos and seeing what people would think and how they would react, like if they would like my music I wrote. Just always being hopeful to releasing my own music hoping people would like it – my whole journey has been hopeful,” AJ explains. “I just want people to relate. When I write my songs, I want people to listen to them and be ‘Oh yeah, I can relate to that’. I think that’s the best way to get someone’s attention.”
With all of his success at such a young age, AJ still manages stay humble and find time to be a teenager. His social media will show you that he loves beach days and hamburgers, hanging out with his friends, and playing covers of his favorite songs in his downtime. Regardless of the number of followers he has or pressure from being in the spotlight, AJ understands the importance of being yourself. “I think it’s very important that you stay true to who you are because if you’re trying to be someone else, it’s really obvious—you can see that. And I think don’t think people like that. People like seeing people who are true to themselves and are grounded.”
Photos by Joe Magnani
Styling by Robiat Balogun
Grooming by Matilde Campos