“I can’t believe this is my job”: We chat to Mo’Ju before one of her biggest shows yet
12.01.2021

“I can’t believe this is my job”: We chat to Mo’Ju before one of her biggest shows yet

Image by Simone Gorman Clark
Words by Eva Marchingo

Mo’Ju is teaming up with Orchestra Victoria for a special show at Sidney Myer Music Bowl.

Singer-songwriter Mojo Ruiz de Luzuriaga, known as Mo’Ju, is once again proving there’s no genre she can’t tackle.

Presented by the Australian Music Vault – and as part of the Live at the Bowl outdoor concert series – the ARIA-nominated artist is collaborating with Orchestra Victoria for an unmissable show.

Not only is performing a Vault Sessions gig a privilege, but it’s also a massive undertaking, especially if you’ve not performed a show in a while. We sat down with Mo’Ju to see how she’s feeling.

“I’m still sort of spinning out a bit at the opportunity to do this,” she says.

“[In] the last three or four years [there have been] so many of these moments where it’s like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I get to do this’.”

Mo’Ju is no stranger to big shows on significant stages, her last gig was at the Opera House on New Year’s Eve 2019 and was televised. “I think we did about 200 shows in the 18 months prior to that, so I was really well and truly due for a break.

“I took three months off and then the week I was meant to start doing shows again we went into our first lockdown.”

More than a year on from her last show, the nerves of performing again are creeping back.

“The shows that I get nervous about these days are very few and far between. [However,] something like this – even without a massive break – [is] overwhelming.

“I definitely feel out of my depth,” Mo’Ju laughs. “But I’m prepared to give it my best shot.”

While she’s no stranger to incorporating different genres and instruments into her music, performing with an orchestra is something Mo’Ju never really envisioned doing. But she is more than excited at the opportunity.

“Working with an orchestra is something I never really set out to do,” she says. “So many artists that I love and admire – especially someone like Bill Withers, who is a huge inspiration and someone I always come back to in the studio as a reference point – did so much with orchestras.

“I guess we, as humans, try and categorise things in order to make sense of them – that’s just how we operate. For me, I’m always trying to push outside of those constraints and challenge myself.

“All the artists that I love never existed within genres anyway.”

So, what can punters expect from the show?

“There are certain songs where I immediately knew we could do them with an orchestra,” Mo’Ju continues. “[Because] there’s so much drama or cinema in the soundscape already, it’s not much of a stretch of the imagination to hear that.

“For me, it was really just about crafting a setlist… The rest is up to Jamie Messenger, who is doing all the arrangements for the orchestra, [and up to] the orchestra themselves.

“I get a pretty cruisey ride from here,” she laughs.

With the music industry still picking itself up after the chaos of 2020, and after artists’ tireless contributions to raise money for the bushfire crisis of 2019/20, there’s never been a more important time for music lovers to get back out there, hit up gigs and enjoy the intrinsic beauty of live music.

“I think it would be really nice for that support and love to be reciprocated,” Mo’Ju says. “It’s important not to under-value how much we all rely on arts and entertainment.”

Orchestra Victoria, the orchestra for which Mo’Ju is collaborating with for the show, are the proud performance partners of the Australian Ballet, Opera Australia and Victorian Opera. For Mo’Ju, the opportunity to work with such an esteemed orchestra is huge.

“You’re waiting for someone to say, ‘You’re not meant to be here’,” she says. “I can’t believe this is my job.”

Vault Sessions feat. Mo’Ju with Orchestra Victoria goes down on Saturday January 16 as part of Melbourne Music Week – Extended and Live at the Bowl. Grab tix here.

Never miss a story. Sign up to Beat’s newsletter and you’ll be served fresh music, arts, food and culture stories three times a week.