From Tulane to Tipitina's: Miss Mojo's Story
By Margot Corper
How a group of Tulanians found their way to the big stages of the big easy
New Orleans is where words lose their meaning. Promptness means ten minutes late, healthy means grease without the side of fries, and professional means laid back. Although the city’s skewed translations may not be conducive to the world of business in its traditional sense, it fuels a vibrant music scene. Here, anyone emboldened enough to step foot on stage or simply take to the streets singing an honest tune will be accepted and elevated.
However, that acceptance and elevation takes time and effort. In an attempt to trace one such path to said success, I turned to the members of Miss Mojo, who were happy to offer me their story along with some helpful advice for aspiring musicians and hard working up-and-comers alike.
Throughout the streets and stages of New Orleans Miss Mojo is known as “a recipe for funk, a prescription to party, and a movement of music for the soul.”
With the recent release of Miss Mojo’s first recorded album, "Up and Personal," and their ties to Tulane University, it seemed fitting to track their path. So, how does a band transition from the garage to a legitimate spotlight? In an interview with Leo Skovron and Jenna Winston, two members of Miss Mojo, I got the lowdown.
Six out of the nine members of Miss Mojo first met on Tulane’s campus. Here, during hazy parties in dorm rooms too small for the fifteen hot bodies cramped inside, Miss Mojo got their start. Whether it was through Soundcloud infused hang outs or hesitant attempts at testing their own tunes, their sound was slowly formed, recognized, and built upon.
The final two additions to the band were trickier to pin down. Before they became involved in Miss Mojo, trumpeter Ashton Hines and trombonist Jeremy Phipps were New Orleans born and bred. By the time they met Miss Mojo, the two were already heavily involved in the city’s music scene and had a groupie who was heavily invested in their sound. This groupie was none other than Jenna Winston, now one of the two lead vocalists for Miss Mojo. As so many Tulane freshman do, she took campus by day and Frenchman by night, frequenting any venue skeevy enough to let her in. Here she came across Ashton Hines, drawn in by his brass ballads. As their relationship transformed from stalker to friend, Hines would slyly tell bouncers at his various gigs “she is my cousin” to get her front and center at his shows.
Fast forward a few years and this eclectic group of nine, now known as Miss Mojo, has taken the stage of historic venues throughout New Orleans such as Tipitina’s, The Howlin’ Wolf, and The Maple Leaf. If that isn’t enough, Miss Mojo has also opened for many of the greats including Rebirth Jazz Band, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Naughty Professor, and the Brass-A-Holics.
How did Miss Mojo end up on such significant stages? In our recent interview we gained some insightful tips on how to get your foot in the door. Here is what they had to say:
“Utilize the resources already at your fingertips.” Tulane was one of these resources for Miss Mojo, and it even played a part in landing them their first show, a Tulane frat party. Since then, Miss Mojo has made it back to Tulane’s campus for a variety of events including homecoming, and multiple football tailgates.
“Plant yourself in an environment where success is tangible.” Unlike the fast-paced feel of overly networked environments like New York City or Los Angeles, Miss Mojo chose to set up shop in New Orleans. Here they were surrounded by industry members who appreciated the quality of the music and their obvious drive.
“Work with promoters who are more invested in your music than in making a profit.” Winston put this perfectly when she said, “If your manager takes a smoking break during a performance or recording session that should immediately raise a red flag…most likely they aren’t invested in your sound.”
“Understand your medium.” Interestingly enough, for the first two years of Miss Mojo’s career they solely played and produced for a live audience. Only recently have they dove into the recording process and discovered that a song written for a live show doesn’t carry the same quality in a studio session…and vice versa.
“The most important form of promotion and networking is showing up for and supporting others.” Paying it forward goes a long way, so maybe think twice before skipping that Rival event your friend shared with you on Facebook.
“Hone your sound before anything else.” It is important to be in front of people performing regularly before starting the recording process. In order to promote yourself, you need to feel comfortable with what you have to offer.
To find Miss Mojo, simply wander into any New Orleans hot spot and they will most likely be there singing and sweaty in their glory. Not specific enough? Checkout their full performance schedule.