Vōx (pronounced "wokes") is an artist who thrives on mystery.
The singer, who refers to her performance persona, vōx, simply as "the project," prefers to keep most of her personal life private, including her real name. What we do know is that the Minnesota native was raised to be religious in a Lutheran church. Her musical education began with piano lessons, which she eventually combined with her love of writing poetry to become a singer-songwriter in the making. From there, she dreamed of being a professional musician, but was unsure of how to launch herself into that career. Finally, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue music nearly a decade ago.
"I think even when I was a teenager I wanted to make music professionally, but it wasn't until I really started this project that it became more of a serious thing," vōx explains. "I started songwriting when I was a teenager, but I think because I grew up in such a small town, I just had no idea what it took to be an artist. I was pretty naive when I came to L.A., and thought that just sitting at my piano songwriting was going to be enough to make something happen. It was kind of a rude awakening."
But with gorgeous vocals and a unique experimental sound, she found her footing and became vōx.
Given her penchant for privacy, the musician knew that she wanted to release music under a pseudonym. She settled on vōx, the Latin word for "voice," while undergoing a larger change in her artistry. "It was around when I kind of changed everything about what I was doing with music and became more serious," she recalls. "I started the project, and I wanted something that was one word, and strong, and gender-neutral, and kind of mysterious," she says. And it found me; the word found me. It's funny, because the further I get into the project, the more appropriate it is. I think for a lot of my younger years, and even more recently, I haven't felt like I had a voice, so it's kind of like the project became such a huge outlet for me to really express myself."
Listening to vōx's music, which she describes as "minimal, dark, electronic pop that's very-vocal heavy," you wouldn't guess that her favorite musician is Kendrick Lamar.
"I guess I would say artists that I really love, I don't sound like at all, I think because there's a magic to something in music that is so far from what I could do," she explains. "So, I would say probably my favorite artist is Kendrick Lamar. I obviously am not hip-hop, and I don't rap, and I don't have, really, any true musical connection to him. But music that I would say inspires the project would be like FKA Twigs, James Blake — even more recently, a little bit of Rosalía and Billie Eilish. I love the way that they use their voices, so that's been really inspiring to me lately."
Using electronic vocal manipulations to expand the possibilities of her tender vibrato, vōx explores themes of vulnerability, anxiety, rebirth and healing on her latest EP, I Am Not a God. The five-track EP, a followup to her 2017 EP, I Was Born, was released on the indie label Arts & Crafts in 2019. Throughout the album, she reckons with the lingering effects of her religious upbringing, uncovering how being raised in a patriarchal church shaped her self-image and ideas of womanhood.
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"It's funny, because I think it happened by accident, and sort of subconsciously it started affecting my music," she says of her time in the Lutheran Church. "I've always written songs about the things that I'm subconsciously working through, and a couple years ago, I started trying to work through a lot of things at once, unconscious things that I wanted to figure out where they were stemming from. And they were all stemming from my religious upbringing. So that was kind of the beginning of it, where I started writing all these songs that were connected to that. I didn't even realize how much it had affected me, because it was only when I was younger, and you think you leave things behind, but you never do."
Creating music is a therapeutic experience for vōx, and by writing and recording I Am Not a God, she carved out a safe space for her own healing. Wellness and self-care are somewhat sacred to vōx, and she performed at Broccoli magazine's In Bloom cannabis festival. That's where she connected with organizers of High Style, Westword's March 5 event that will focus on cannabis, fashion and sustainability, three of vōx's favorite things.
"Other than music, those are really the things that I care a lot about," she says. "I especially love the wellness and sustainability side of the event. I've been vegan for coming up on four years, and it's often hard to find fashion events that are sustainable and care about that. The fashion industry can definitely be a little bit toxic in that way. Then, in regard to cannabis, I just love the wellness side of it. I love that education is really a focus right now in a lot of events, because I feel like that's the thing that's going to break the stigma of the 'stoner teenager.'"
Vōx will perform at Westword's High Style on Thursday, March 5, which runs from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at the McNichols Building. The 21+ event will include fashion shows, panels, cooking demonstrations and an open marketplace. Tickets are $30, or $75 for VIP, which includes early entry. Find out more at westwordhighstyle.com.
Listen to Vōx and more favorites from Westword writers on our Westword Staff Picks playlist.