Alex Aino dreamed of becoming a multi-hyphenate from a young age, interested in both music making and acting. Phoenix-born, Los Angeles-based talent is now on track to meet these goals. In 2017, Iono began releasing music via Interscope Records, and this year she will star in the Netflix movie “Finding Ohana.” Released today (July 23), it is the first album of “Gospel at 23”, it played as a truly determined moment for Iono, to draw its effects from gospel music, hip-hop and alternative pop. Diversity Talked to the artist just before the album was released.
What was the motivation to create an album inspired by the Gospel?
I grew up listening to Gladys Knight and Lorraine Hill – soul-rich albums and ing your heart – so now I have the opportunity to create an album where I’m not trying to keep up with the times, but want to be the most open and weak to me. And filially, it was just influenced by the gospel music and I was telling my story.
Do you think there is more freedom to bend genres today because of streaming?
You know, I think the trailblazers in front of me made it so much easier. I’m looking at Bruno Mars, listening to his albums that tune to a reggae song from any R&B song. And there are a lot of artists who have been very good at doing it.
Tell us about your recording process in Connecticut. What was it like to create an album with just vocals, piano, kick drums, tambourine and of course gospel singing?
It felt true. We were driving in Philadelphia [to record with the choir] – However, it wasn’t a professional traveling companion, it was the daily working people who had to stop working – and I was on Instagram and saw De Wilson’s own video singing “Medicine” and I arrived. We got piano tracks in Las Vegas – and all of this [little things] Feeling bigger than life. My first album felt just as good as I imagined when I was 13, dreaming of living in Arizona with my family today.
With the track “Good Morning” you said you wanted the song to sound like a perfect alarm clock. How is that?
Was literally the goal. It was, “How do we get the best waking song?” You start smelling bacon, and you start the birds screaming – just this utopian awakening – and then we add humanity to it. If you read the lyrics, you don’t have to search for what they mean. It’s right in front of you: “Mom / Dad’s phone call lost her job / Text from my ex / And she’s moving on / But we’re all alive / So good morning.” It’s the little things like this, that made me want to address the reality of waking up in this world.
You recently started your acting career on Netflix with “Finding Ohana”, about two brothers who went in search of treasure and reconnected with their Hawaiian heritage. How was the co-actress in your first film?
I’ve been able to star in Netflix movies … it’s insane. I’ve always had this dream of being multiple hyphenated and acting was one I always wanted but needed a little more confidence in myself. When I got the time to shoot the movie, I felt that I had this confidence in myself that I would not just make a singer, who would really become an actor.
What else is there for you?
Right now, I’m just waiting for positive change, whether it’s through acting or through music. My biggest goal is to fight for equal rights for people and do what I like best where they can get closer to the thing of integration.
Watch the documentary “23 Gospels” below: