- Tue, 2008-01-22 12:00
After a 3 year break, Jay Sean returns on 21st January with the single Ride It, a sleek fusion of shimmering Eastern strings, enticing percussion and seductive vocals. The first track to be taken from upcoming album My Own Way, released 31 March.
I Like Music caught up with Jay to talk about his new material, doing it his ‘own way’ and why he dropped out of med school.
I Like Music because.... it’s the soundtrack to my life.” Jay Sean
ILM: Your new single Ride It is out on January 21st - a sleek fusion of shimmering Eastern strings, enticing percussion and seductive vocals. Can you describe the track’s vibe and how it came about?
Jay: Ride It was one of the first few tracks I started writing for my album. It was funny because the guy I did it with, an unknown producer, he’s this genius little kid who I got a mix tape from, a demo tape and I just thought it was unbelievable his music and vocal production, so I met up with him and I asked to hear his beats. He played me this track and the flow of the verse came about by me messing around and being an idiot and I was MCing over it rather than singing, which created that unusual type of [sings] bit, so that came about from being stupid and messing around, but then we thought, that’s quite different, I like that. So then we did it.
And the song itself, I’ve always wanted to write a narrative story and be very descriptive with it, that’s why I made it very specific to London and that’s why I name-dropped clubs like Movida and talked about certain specific things we can all relate to.
ILM: On your album, My Own Way, out in March, which track did you enjoy laying down the most?
Jay: Oh man, I don’t even know how to pick one! I’ve had more fun recording this album than I’ve had in any field of my job in the past four years. That’s why it’s called my own way, because everything about it was my own way. Nobody told me when to go into the studio or who to go into the studio with, nothing. I was very fortunate to be able to call the shots. I said ‘look guys, I know my market, I know the music I like, I know the music I want to make, let me get on with it’. So, I booked myself a plane to New York and hooked up with this producer I’d met with through my own contacts and I said 'I’m gonna work with him', and they said 'fine, just do your thing.'
And I went over there and stayed in New York for six months. It was crazy man, I had so much fun. And I grew my own skin as it were. It’s like when people go off to the Himalayas and come back and say, ‘I know who I am now’, well that was how it was with me, because I kept it completely lo-pro and got my head out of all the BS that goes on in this world and got myself in the studio and just had lots of fun; it was amazing, so enjoyable.
ILM: So you had fun, creative control and expressed yourself in the most natural way?
Jay: Yeah, exactly.
ILM: The video Ride has been viewed over 500,000 times on YouTube in a little over 4 weeks. Tell us a bit about the video? Do you have input into it?
Jay: Yeah for sure. Even when I was writing the song, I knew how I wanted the video to look. I was writing the story. When I write songs I always imagine the video as well. So I said to the guys, ‘let’s shoot the thing in Movida’, there can’t be anything more real than that, and that’s exactly what happened. I talked to the video director and, in terms of the colour schemes, I wanted it to be golds and blacks and browns and beige, all those tones I’d imagined in my head as the warmth of the video. So I was lucky enough to have massive input into the video but, ultimately, these guys delivered a great video and came up with some really cool ideas regarding the way it was going to be shot to make it more cinematic.
ILM: Your new album heavily focuses on the songs. Please can you describe the JAY SEAN music making process? Lyrics or melodies first?
Jay: Usually what will happen is I’ll go to the producer and he’ll show me a selection of backing tracks and, if it evokes anything in me, I’ll work with it. From the onset I’ll know what kind of song I want to write because it puts me in a mood. And from that I’ll go with whatever do and I always hum out a melody first and in the melody I’m sometimes fortunate enough while I’m coming up with the melody to come up with the lyric at the same time, and that’s when you know it’s meant to be. For example, when I came up with Ride It, it was exactly as I was humming it, I sang ‘Ride It’ as I was humming it and kept it as Ride It and wrote a song. It’s just got to feel organic man. If I take too long to put a lyric or melody down I know it’s not meant to be, so if it’s not working, I scrap it straight away.
ILM: You dropped out of med school and signed a contract with Virgin. What’s your advice to young people on following their dream career, not necessarily in the music industry but just doing what they want to do career wise?
Jay: For me, I’ve always been a firm believer in enjoying your job. It depends what drives you. Some people might be money oriented so they’d go on to do something that would provide them with a hell of a lot of money but no job satisfaction. For me, I’ve always chased both. I loved medicine with a passion, I still do; I find it fascinating. But I knew that music was something innate and was something I couldn’t actually fight and I found myself still submerged in music even though I was studying. I couldn’t ignore it. Some people think with their minds and I think with my heart. At least that way I know I’m happy while I’m doing it. Life is about enjoying your self and having fun and being happy, that’s why I always follow my heart.
But I’ll be real, the entertainment field is a horrible business; it’s cut throat, it’s harsh, you’ve got to be thick skinned, because people will criticize you publicly on forums and tell you that you’re not good enough in auditions, so it can be very hard. And if you’re not fulfilled that way, you’re only going to get hurt. It’s harsh but can be rewarding.
But nobody should stop you from achieving your dreams. If it’s something you really want to do, you have to go for it. Just realise, it’s hard work, but rewarding.
ILM: Yeah you need that passion to carry you through the hard times. Also, what’s your advice about peer pressure?
Jay: The whole peer pressure thing is fascinating because sometimes the reason people conform is because they want to be cool and there’s pressure to be cool and with in the in crowd but, sometimes, the coolest thing you can do is to NOT conform. Because it shows you’ve got charisma, you’ve got personality and you’ve got strength in you to say, “you know what, I know you guys think it’s cool to go and run off and smoke during period three but to me that’s not cool if you get caught and get expelled. I’d rather stay in, get a good education, get a wicked job, earn lots of money and drive a Lambourgini, then say who’s cool.
So, I think you’ve just got to rise above it and find the strength in you to decide yourself to say ‘no’ and, ultimately, you’ll win the right friends that way not the wrong friends.