The popular solo artist has expanded her musical horizons by performing with as a duo with husband Jack Maher and occasionally with a band
By Laurence Vittes
Ukulele last visited with Victoria Vox back in 2015, when writer David Templeton noted in his cover story: “If there hasn’t been a university study on the psychological and sociological benefits of playing the ukulele, now might be a good time—and Victoria Vox could be the test case.”
An award-winning songwriter and performer, a native of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and now living in Costa Mesa, California, Vox (born Victoria Davitt) studied at the Berklee College of Music and in 2003 began to incorporate ukulele into her repertoire as a performer and songwriter, eventually it replaced guitar as her main accompaniment. Since the release of her first ukulele album in 2006 (Victoria Vox & her Jumping Flea), Vox has been part of many festival lineups with other top-notch ukers, performing mostly as a one-woman-band, incorporating a loop pedal and other effects, while also taking solos on “mouth trumpet” and pure voice. These days, too, Vox performs with her husband, Jack Maher, as an “Americana/indie folk duo,” Jack & the Vox, as well as occasional gigs with longtime friends the Unified Jazz Ensemble
Vox gets around. Here’s a sampling of where she’s playing, from late October until Thanksgiving: Bournemouth, London, Prague, Berlin, Tampa Bay (for the Ukulele Getaway Festival), Baltimore, Las Vegas, Morro Bay, Santa Rosa, and a special one-off show in Annapolis with the Unified Jazz Ensemble.
I caught up with Victoria as she was flying to Berlin.
Who are Jack & the Vox?
I’ve been primarily performing as a solo entertainer since 2003; however, since getting married in 2016, I’ve started to incorporate my husband, Jack, into my shows. We created the moniker “Jack & the Vox” and have been working on music together strictly as a duo, consciously separate from Victoria Vox. We are currently presenting music we’ve co-written, or only perform as Jack & the Vox. However, Jack is also able to enhance my solo work, so we perform songs from my Victoria Vox catalog as well.
After performing as a solo artist for the majority of shows—even if I’m bringing other musicians into the picture to accompany me—taking Jack & the Vox on the road is rare for us; it’s a real treat to travel and make music together.
How does touring affect your lives?
Over the past summer we saw each other for about three days, but felt comfort in knowing that starting mid-September we were going to embark on a six-week journey sharing our new music. Playing together comes in waves. We started on the East Coast with club dates in Maryland and Massachusetts, and then performed at the Royal City Uke Fest in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
What repertoire are you playing these days?
Currently, the duo shows are a mix of both my solo material, mostly from my latest album, Colorful Heart, but now that Jack & the Vox has a full album’s worth of songs, we’ve been slowly introducing the new music at shows, as well as the new line of Jack & the Vox swag: t-shirts, USB drives, and patches. I feel that the two acts are stylistically different, but I equally enjoy both.
What will you be playing on your East and West Coast U.S. tours?
After we get back from Europe, I’m home for a day and then head back out, but solo for two weeks. It’s always a little bit of an adjustment going from having back-up and more instrumentation, to simplifying things, or relying more on my loop pedal and other electronics. I also don’t play any of the Jack & the Vox material, so I can dip deeper into my solo repertoire.
What is the Unified Jazz Ensemble?
They are a 4-piece killer jazz band who have graciously learned my tunes and are able to back me up for an entire show in a completely new way. It’s always a blast to hear how the songs are interpreted, and I have extra special fun with the trumpet player when we trade solos or harmonize. The UJE and I go back about 12 years, but most recently backed me up on my 2015 When the Night Unravels album tour on the East Coast. Since then, and my moving away, we do about one show a year. It’s always inspiring for me!
When do you hit the road with Jack again?
Jack and I will meet up again in Las Vegas and California for a few shows. In the meantime, I’ll be working on new material and booking shows for 2020 and beyond. After 16 years, I am still self-managed and do all of my own booking, tour logistics, and creative planning.
What are your workshops like?
I don’t consider myself a teacher, however, I do love teaching the workshops and I find that my degree in Music Songwriting has made it easier to teach. My favorite workshop is on “Groove,” basically a rhythm/strumming crash course to 11 different grooves. It’s great for everyone, and if someone has a difficult time with one particular groove, we are constantly moving on to the next pattern, which they may execute better. But ultimately, the workshops are work and I enjoy planting the seeds for things that the attendees can work on individually. My goal is to teach them something new.
What gear do you take on these trips?
On the road I’m currently playing my Mya-Moe low G custom tenor. I travel with a Fusion Urban gig bag single with the attachable backpack for my laptop, old school agenda, and a book. I use the Boss RC-30 Loop Station, a Pitchfork octave pedal, and the L.R. Baggs Reverb pedal and Venue D.I. My microphones are Beta 58s by Shure and are hands down the best live mic that doesn’t need phantom power, in my opinion.
What’s the ukulele scene in the UK like, how does it differ from the U.S.?
I find that the uke scenes around the world are very similar. Good people, sharing music, and having a good time. The ukulele truly brings people together.