Exclusive: IMAJ on opening up for Hunter Hayes
IMAJ is filling a void in music as a female African American country artist and using that platform to advocate equality and mental illness. She’s been dubbed “America’s Sweetheart” after her latest album, and after chatting with her, it’s pretty easy to see why.
When was that eureka moment when you realized country music was your calling?
I feel like it’s always been my calling. I don’t remember a specific moment, I’ve just always loved the feeling and energy I get from singing country music. It’s always had a special place in my heart.
How did opening up for Hunter Hayes come about?
I’ve performed on the Chevy main stage at the Texas State Fair before. I guess we had such an amazing time a couple years ago, we get to do it again. This time opening for Hunter Hays on Oct 14. It’s always an honor and I love when I get to perform in my town. Super excited!
Do you have any preshow rituals?
Hot water and lemon is the essential. Also, remembering that it’s never about me up there, but it’s about the audience and us coming together to experience the way music moves your spirit. I just love it when the audience gets involved. It’s my favorite part!
Can we expect to hear any new music soon?
Yes, in the studio right now working on the new album! Keep an eye out on my Facebook and Insta.
How do you feel growing up in Miami formed you as an artist?
I grew up on the beach and everything was so tiny on the horizon against the vast ocean. I feel like being close to the ocean, in that way, instilled a feeling of humility.
Why is mental health advocacy so important to you? And what can we all do to help?
It’s so important because it plagues most humans (1 in 4 adults) and yet no one wants to talk about it. There’s a stigma associated with mental illness that causes people to feel worthless, ashamed and embarrassed. They shouldn’t because having a mental illness is no different than having a physical illness that you can’t help (like cancer or diabetes). The only difference is it’s invisible to the naked eye. We can all be kind to each other. It always starts with that because you never know what someone is going through and you never know how your kindness can positively affect the mental state of another.
Is there a possibility you’ll do some acting and or writing in the future?
We hear you’re a big foodie, where do we need to go on our next trip to Miami?
I love to eat! But who doesn’t? Miami is the bastion of culture when it comes to Caribbean and Latin food. I love to go out for Cuban food when I go there, so I would say find yourself a good Cuban restaurant. There used to be a restaurant called “Friendly’s Cafe” across from my dad’s theatre in North Miami, but I’m not sure if it’s still there. There are so many Cuban restaurants to try out and all the best ones are in Miami! Also, one of my favorite memories in south Florida is when I used to go over my dear friend Victoria’s house when we were little and she’d make this delicious homemade Argentinian hot tea that I couldn’t get enough of. It’s called “mate” and it’s traditionally sipped with a silver straw. I believe you can find “mate” at Whole Foods so you can experience a little south Florida culture that way, anywhere you are in the country.