How easy do you think it will be when you do come back to rebuild your audience?
Rebuilding my live audience is one thing, but building up my YouTube fan base to be even bigger is what I’m currently focusing on right now. And honestly, they come hand in hand. The more momentum you have on your YouTube channel, the more momentum you’ll have with people coming to your shows. It’s going to take a lot of dedication for me to get back to where I was but I know I have fans who are still rooting for me and support every decision I make.
How have your family and friends supported you through all this?
I have the support from my core group of family and friends, too. I think that’s the number one thing. To have people who you love and love you support what you do. There are key people in my life who have really helped me during this hiatus… Because it does get hard some days, especially when I’m either itching to be on stage– or not being where I need to be financially to support me and my family. Ryan Bandong (@RyanMGrey), one of my best friends and an amazingly talented writer and musician, really helped me with realizing my worth and my impact on the community and vice versa. We’ve had several heart-to-hearts about our next steps as artists and I will be forever grateful for the times he sat me down to be honest with me and give me a reality check.
Jeremy Lin, although he’s a basketball player, has had similar experiences with comparing himself to others in his position and questioning why he was where he was during difficult times. Jeremy really reminded me that God’s timing isn’t our timing, and to trust God’s plan for us. Even during his busy season as a Laker, we’d keep in touch and he’d ask about how I was doing during my hiatus. Also the fact that I was able to attend so many Lakers games this season has just been another factor of fun and relaxation for me, especially since they’ve been my team since I was a kid. I want to thank Jeremy for being there for me not just as a friend, but as a spiritual mentor, too. And of course my friends and family in Riverside, even the ones not from Riverside– you know who you are, ha. They would be mad that I said friends, because [Vin Diesel voice] “I don’t got friends, I only got family.” And my mom and sisters have really shown their support for me by just continuing to work hard to be the best versions of themselves. They’re with me through the thick and thin, I am forever grateful for them.
Look: we miss you. Will you please come back to performing soon?
I’ll try to take more frequent breaks and vacations so I don’t feel the pressure all at once again. Let’s go with the beginning of 2016. You guys rock.
So there you go — those are the deets, straight from AJ Rafael himself. Now lets all sit here patiently waiting until early 2016! [Jeff puts kettle of hot water on for tea]