Musical Muse: Meet Chicago's Next Big Thing!

Some people sing in the shower, others reserve their lungs for a great concert, but not Aly Jados. This amazing Chicago songstress took her pipes all the way to "American Idol" and "The Voice" — and she's not stopping there. With a motto of "imperfection is perfection," Jados keeps her music fresh by writing songs that are decidedly different from one another. A one trick pony, she is not.
So, to see where she jams out on her 1979 all-black Fender Stratocastor, we toured her Chicago studio — and maybe, asked her to strike a chord or two. With a new album in the works and musical performances on the calendar, one thing's for certain: This gal sure knows how to sing for her supper.
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Photographed by Jennifer Avello
Tell us about your childhood. Were you always musically inclined?
"Growing up, music surrounded me. If my dad wasn’t playing my sister’s and my Beatles records, we were putting on shows where we would sing and dance to the Monkees, New Kids on the Block or Paula Abdul. We thought we were awesome!"

"I’ve always loved to sing and perform as far back as I can remember. My dad gave me my first guitar when I was 12 years old. It was a rare 1978 Gibson Les Paul that he bought growing up at a garage sale for $25! It is my most prized possession that will never part from me. I got really into playing after that and started with basic lessons, then I got into punk bands and played jazz guitar in college."

When did you discover you had a true gift?
"I realized that I had something special when I started my first band, 2 Hoots and a Holler, when I was 16. Growing up, I was heavily influenced by punk rock and metal bands and when I started singing, I went for what I knew. My voice was very deep and scratchy, so my grandma would say 'you sound like a man!' But, I knew it was something."

Urban Outfitters pants, T-Rex t-shirt. vintage red belt.
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Photographed by Jennifer Avello
How would you describe your musical style?
"I prefer a rough edge to anything I do; to me, imperfection is perfection. I like to write each song significantly different from the next. I get bored easily. I have an eclectic taste in what I listen to and think that shows through my music."

What other musicians do you admire and why?
"I admire any woman playing rock 'n roll — especially Patti Smith. She is the definition of rock 'n roll, and there is a presence to her that is undeniable. I also am heavily influenced by Brody Dalle of the Distillers/Spinnerette and Courtney Love. They were few of the leading women in rock that young girls like me had to aspire to. So, naturally they were a huge influence on me. I liked that they both actually played guitar instead of wearing them as accessories."
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Photographed by Jennifer Avello
What instruments do you play?
"I’ve played guitar since I was 12 — I'm currently playing on a 1979 all black Fender Stratocastor."

Who or what inspires your work?
"People, society, emotion, art, and music."
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Photographed by Jennifer Avello
Tell us about your studio space. How did you decorate it so that it's an inspiring and comfortable work environment?
"The studio space has a lot of unique characteristics — the vocal booth door is like a vault, for example. Stefan Clark (my producer) is an amazing wood worker. He made all the paneling in the studio, dividers and even some of the furniture. He also is creating a liquor cabinet out of a vintage TV set. And, looking at the gold records on the walls gets me excited knowing mine could be there one day!"

Where did you purchase your eclectic furnishings?
"At a thrift store across the street from the studio, The World Through Rose Colored Glasses. They have really cute vintage pieces — I can get lost in there!"
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Photographed by Jennifer Avello
You were also on the “The Voice.” How did you handle the rejection when the judges didn’t turn their chairs?
"To be honest, this might sound strange, but a part of me was relieved it was over. It was a great experience, but I was also at a crossroads in my life. I had some obligations back home that were really important, and had to fly home and return within 24 hours. Most of my emotions at that point were running on empty and I was so torn on where I was supposed to be. I walked away disappointed, because though I didn’t sing off key or forget the words, emotion is a big part of my voice and I just wasn’t there mentally."

What advice do you have for anyone aspiring to be on “American Idol” or “The Voice?”
"I would say take opportunities when they arise and be yourself! Let your natural charm and personality shine."
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Photographed by Jennifer Avello
Talk to us about your first EP “Don’t Come Easy.”
"After my adventure on "The Voice," I decided it was time to put out a real record. I have always recorded demos, but this time I wanted to do it right. I recorded it at Cassette Company in Chicago, working with producer Stefan Clark. The EP dropped right before my appearance on the Voice. Every song on "Don’t Come Easy" is different from the next — each tells a story. I am very proud with what how it turned out; it's a true reflection of what I was going through at the time."

What venues have you played at in Chicago? What were those experiences like?
"When I first started out playing solo in Chicago, I worked as a server at Fedora Lounge on Clark and later, I was hired to play there as a weekly musical act. That is the place where I got out all my fears about playing solo. From there, I have played at Hard Rock, Angels & Kings, Rock Bottom, Cubby Bear, Double Door, and Subterranean, to name a few."

Obey shirt and pants.
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Photographed by Jennifer Avello
Talk to us about your “American Idol” experience — from the Steven Tyler flirt session to not making in the group battle round.
"I never thought I would ever try out for 'American Idol.' I didn’t have anything against it, but since my voice is very untraditional, I never considered it. My dad got on my case about it, so I eventually tried out. Before I knew it, I ended up on national television not remembering what I did or said — not only because it was my first audition ever, but Steven Tyler was there!"

"It was like a dream when I watched it on television. When I got my golden ticket to Hollywood, those were maybe the toughest four days of my life. We were working from the second we got there to the very end…everything was go, go, go! After I made it through the first audition in Hollywood, there were about 160 people left. Immediately after I got through to the next round, we had to choose groups to perform with. Long story short, five girls competing equals drama that I wanted no part of. We didn’t make it through."

What did you take away from the experience?
"It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock 'n roll. Steven Tyler would hint at this on the show and it really made me think. Paying your dues is essential in the music business — learning from your mistakes, having the worst thing that could possibly happen on stage happen, getting knocked down only to get back up, and putting yourself out there. I also think that you need to experience rejection in order to really succeed. So, my experience only made me more determined to continue on my journey on the 'highway to hell,' if you will!"
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Photographed by Jennifer Avello
When it comes to fashion, what’s your style both on and off the stage?
"I love anything vintage, leather, different, and original. I wear a lot of black, but try to add a pop of color, whether it’s with a belt or my lipstick. I still wear my old rock T-shirts from high school that I’ve altered through the years. I'll probably never throw them away."

Who are some of your favorite designers and stores to shop?
"Jeffrey Campbell shoes are my absolute favorite! Stores like Love Culture and Forever 21, as well, because you can basically buy an entire new wardrobe for under $200. I love Belmont Army Surplus, because they have modern designers like Chaser and Obey — and the fourth floor is all vintage priced at two for one! I can really shop anywhere, but there is something so rewarding about thrift shopping. If you find something good, you've earned it!"
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Photographed by Jennifer Avello
For those who are getting to know Aly Jados, which track of yours should we listen to right now, and why?
"'City of Angels' because lyrically it tells my story. Stylistically, 'Waiting' is heavier and has a more unique sound."

We love this quote from you: “My reality television journey may be over, but the real adventure has just begun.” What is the next adventure for Aly Jados?
"My next adventure? Hmm... To rule the world, ha-ha! I have a new record funded by Kickstarter that is in production as we speak. It will potentially be out by September, but we will release a song or two in time for our MOBfest showcase for record label executives on Friday, August 9 at the Double Door in Chicago."