This is the busking project of singer songwriter Juju Vagabond. A voice somewhere between Tracy Chapman and Neil Young, and musical influences ranging from James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez to Donovan: the music takes you back to the roots of American 70’s folk blues. It is also about the love of travelling: the spirit and soul of these songs are to be found on the open road.
Hitting the road for busking trips, whether by bicycle or by car, this is what it's all about! Music and travelling go hand in hand, and these adventures are a great source of inspiration for songwritting.
It all started back in the summer of 2013 with a busking and cycling trip through Europe, which took Juju from the north of France all the way up to Oslo, cycling accross Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Sweden along the way. The idea was to play in the streets: this is known as busking.
"With influences from Neil Young, Joan Baez, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Donovan, to name a few,
Juju Vagabond hits the road and takes on the streets with her guitar and harmonica, singing original songs about family, friendship, love and travels"
The idea was to both promote the music and help finance the trip. This wasn't Juju's first busking experience however: she learned the tricks of the trade back when she was an exchange student back in Montreal in 2010, busking in the subway.
For this busking & cycling trip there wans't an amp on board, so Juju had to get creative. Street performing can be tough, and the key to success was to be different somehow from other busking acts. Simply playing acoustic guitar unamplified and singing just was’t going to cut it ! To catch people’s eye and make a difference, something more was needed.
This was the birth of the « one girl band » act, with a foldable cajon and tambourine in addition to the harmonica and guitar. All of the equipment was carried in what turned out to be a quite heavy trailer, despite weight efficiency measures been taken!
Back alive and well from that amazing trip, she decided to record a "One girl band", no-frills album, in just a couple of days, with just one mic, "early Dylan style"!
From then on busking and travelling around became a major part of Juju's musical activity. But the "One Girl Band" act was soon dropped because although spectacular, it was quite strenuous and a lot to carry around. But also there couldn't be any quiet or more subtil finger pickingsongs, and people seemed to be more amazed by the act rather than actually paying attention to the songs themselves. So the foldable cajon and tambourine were traded for a battery powered amp.
In 2015 a new album was on the way, entitled Long Black Road. Songs about the road and travels, the people you meet, about the joys of standing at that street corner singing your heart out, or the pains of cycling up that huge hill with a trailer full of music equipement!
A new amazing busking & cycling trip took place during the summer of 2015, on the eastern coast of the US and Canada, between Montreal and New York.
Other amazing busking & cycling trips have taken place since then, on the eastern coast of the US between Montreal and New York during the summer of 2015 or accross New Zealand during the winter of 2018.
A couple of new albums were recorded in 2016 and 2017, respectively entitled Heart of the Matter and Behind the scenes. The songs here tell stories about love, friendship and family, and wonder about the spiritual dimension and the greater meaning of life.
During that time Juju Vagabond also played gigs in local pubs and venues in Belgium, as well as opening for bigger acts like Jasper Steverlinck and Rob Tognoni.
A few words from Juju about songwriting
In the early days , when I first started to write songs, it all just came so easily to me. I mean, I don't even remember writing most of my early stuff. It all went by so quickly. I'd pick up a guitar, start playing, and ideas would just flow. It sounds really unfair looking back on it now, considering how hard I now need to work to finish a song.
Songwriting is a most mysterious process, and one I am afraid that is out of my hands. I am often asked whether I write the lyrics or the music first. Well usually both happen at the same time. While I am fooling around on the guitar, a chord progression or lick will tickle my fancy, and I'll start singing along to it. And while it can happen that I sit down with an idea about what I would like to sing, more often than not I don't get to choose. The song makes that call. I'm just happy to go along for the ride.
Out of the gibberish, intelligible phrases soon come to life. It is then that I am given my first clues as to what the song is going to be about. She let's me in on the secret.
This is often double edged sword, for I rarely manage to set myself free from these first intuitive words sentences. As if these few words that only just came out of the blue were now set in stone. They are what I have to work with, for better of for worse. If I'm in luck I can see right away how they lead the way an entire song. If not, I can be stuck with them for up to several years. I have a few songs like these, gathering dust at the bottom of a drawer. Every now and then I go back to them and eventually catch a break.
I often get asked the question : « So what is this song about ? » Now that's a tricky one. The answer can be a straightforward « It's about this or that». But it can also be « I don't want to say ». Even on rare occasions a much more vague « ...hum, I'm not sure... ». Sometimes, even I can't tell you exactly what the song is about. It's not always something I can tell or even explain, sometimes it just expresses a feeling. Some songs can also be about several things, or at least draw their inspiration from different times and places. These songs have a universal meaning, and it's good thing, because then you can figure out what they mean to you!