Interviews

Jay Sean: All or Nothing

Breaking down barriers and moving through uncharted territory have become synonymous with the name Jay Sean. Not only is the Singersroom’s Top 30 Under 30 star a MOBO Award nominated artist, he’s also an accomplished songwriter and as of September 2009, is the most successful male UK urban artist in US chart history.

While Jay Sean’s success spans across borders and shores from London to Los Angeles, the “Down” singer remains humble and honored to simply have the “privilege” to bring his music to the masses.

Speaking with Singersroom on the heels of his stateside (U.S.) debut, Jay Sean speaks candidly about signing with Cash Money; working with Lil Wayne and Drake; as well as his passion for songwriting. For those wondering what his album will sound like, Jay Sean clues us in on his new sound and later gives up a few fashion related tips while also addressing the state of the music.

Singersroom: Most people know you as a recording artist but you’re also an accomplished songwriter. Is penning songs for other artists an escape for you creativity wise?

Jay Sean: I love that. Being a songwriter is probably one of the favorite aspects of my job. It’s a huge privilege to be able to write a song and then have it out there for the world to listen to. I think there are certain things I want to write that are not suitable for me to sing. I might write a song that I think maybe Ted Smith could nail or I might want to write a song which I reckon, I don’t know, Musiq Soulchild could sing. For me, it’s definitely a way of being able to experiment with different styles of music.

Singersroom: With that said, what was it like being recognized by BMI as far as writing?

Jay Sean: See that is my most cherished award. You get awards for things like best album of the year and video of the year or best choreography of the year or whatever it might be and those of course are beautiful things and you have to be thankful for those but, when it comes to the songwriting man, it’s a whole ‘nother thing. I always thought that songwriters are so under recognized by the general public. They’re not going to know. You’ll say like a Michael Jackson song, you might sing it but not know it was Roy Temperton and Quincy Jones – people don’t know. I think that’s the one big thing for me to be recognized as a songwriter by BMI was just a huge accomplishment.

Singersroom: Are you writing for other artists now?

Jay Sean: With me I’m just writing all the time. I’m in the studio all the time and there might be songs that I might get into and say this probably is not for me – let’s bank this and put it out there for another artist. So I’m always trying to write for other people as well.

Singersroom: This forthcoming album will be your first stateside release. There has been some confusion as to the title; will it be “All or Nothing?”

Jay Sean: Yes, it’s “All or Nothing.”

Singersroom: What made or who made you look at releasing an album in the U.S. after several successful efforts in Europe and abroad?

Jay Sean: Actually, the U.S. came rather unexpectedly. I was just doing what I do for the rest of the world…you know; putting out my album, touring, and doing all that and I was very fortunate to be head-hunted by Cash Money. They were doing their research and seeing what was going on in the rest of the world and they came across me on YouTube and stuff and checked out my videos, my songs and style and contacted me. It was like a dream to me. It was like… “Are you serious, you’re Cash Money Records !” “What do you mean you want to put my album out?”

It’s just one of those things. Coming to America is a big deal man. So, for me it was just a dream come true.

Singersroom: “All Or Nothing” arrives this fall. What should people expect from you this time out?

Jay Sean: I’d like to say that “All or Nothing” is an album which shows diversity and some depth as an artist. You know “Down” (the first single) is not indicative of what the whole album is going to be at all. “Down” is an up-tempo no-brainer type of track. It’s not something that’s going to change the world necessarily; it’s just a fun song you know. There are other songs on my album, maybe the mid-tempos or the ballads, which hopefully I feel will strike a chord with a lot of people. I think people might say “yo. I didn’t know Jay got down like that or I didn’t know you would talk about stuff like that or sing or have lyrics that way.” There’s a bit more of a soulful way of singing on this album. I just want people to be able to hear the diversity of the album.

Singersroom: Since signing with Cash Money you’ve been given sort of a new platform or engine, so to speak. What is the best part of being affiliated with Cash Money?

Jay Sean: Of course the name, the brand, and the clout. They’re a very cool brand to be with. Why I say that is because… let’s be real… look at the people on there. You’ve got Lil Wayne, Kevin Rudolph, you’ve got Drake now and you got Birdman. To me it’s just a very cool and very current label that kids on the street and even the music industry looks up to and says wow they’re cleaning up, you know.

Singersroom: Wayne is featured on “Down,” have you been working with other members of the Cash Money/Young Money family?

Jay Sean: I’ve got a song with Birdman called “Written on Her.” We’ve got Drake on the album; Kevin Rudolph on the album, and you got Wayne.

Singersroom: Cool. R&B always seems to find its way, and even pop as well, into Hip Hop… the two seem to intersect often. In your opinion, what about them coming together makes the resulting collaboration hot and unbeatable with music fans?

Jay Sean: I think it breaks up the song. Usually it works out well, especially if it’s a rhythmic record. If you have singing on it and then all of a sudden there’s a breakdown with an interesting twist in lyrics it just breaks it up and it’s just nice for your ears to hear something different, which is why I think collabs have become so popular on the whole. When you’re listening to an album, listening to 12 to 14 songs from the same person and the same voice, even if you love them it can become monotonous. But when you hear all of a sudden, Rihanna on that joint, you go okay that was nice – refreshing for my ears you know. So I think that’s why people like collaborations.

Singersroom: When it comes to your music, what makes you say let’s talk to Wayne or let’s talk to Snoop Dogg to see if he might want to get on this track?

Jay Sean: I think you kind of have to know from the song and the actual sound of the record whether it would be suitable for that and whether they’ll dig it. I doubt Wayne would’ve got on “Down” if he didn’t like it. You know, he’s slow on “Down.” He’s completely different on it; showing a different side. It was nice for him to be on that and there might be other joints on the album where I’ll know “we need to get Songz (trey) on this” because he would kill it. If you’re a songwriter I guess you have to know these things you know.

The one thing I feel about music is that music should be free of all barriers and social stereotypes and all that kind of stuff. It should transcend through all races, cultures, genders and everything. The moment you start putting all this other stuff into music, you’re killing it. It’s one of those things. I can go to Japan and might not be able to speak to anybody because they might not be too good with English and I cannot speak Japanese to them. I guarantee you that they will know the words to “Billie Jean” and that’s just the beautiful thing about music. I try to keep that with my songs and with my music. I hope that it can affect people’s lives in a positive way and that’s something I want people to be able to feel from my music.

Singersroom: As a Singersroom, Top 30 Under 30 nominee I have to ask… how have World events, tragedy or otherwise, affected your music?

Jay Sean: That’s how ‘Down” came about. I was watching the news and there was all this stuff about the economy and the depression, earthquakes and I was like “yo man” we’re on the verge of darkness right now and we need something that will take us away from here. Just a song that’s fun for a minute that allows people to forget about their worries is truly what made me write.

Singersroom: When it comes to clothing, what is the hardest thing for you to find?

Jay Sean: I’m very, very fussy when it comes to clothing because I’m from England and we wear our stuff fitted and tailor made. We have that European style so coming here to America, I’m trying to look for a shirt and it’s a small or whatever it might be and I’ll say “this is not a small” . This is not the size that I’m used to because everything fits different here. I think a lot of the stuff that I wear, in a fashion sense, is typically European, Italian cuts, and stuff like that. So yes, that can be a bit harder to find.

Singersroom: What article of clothing makes you feel powerful?

Jay Sean: Spoke (bespoke) suits. I’ve got so many, which is a slack…tailor cut. To me every man has got to have a suit, that big power suit that makes them look like ‘the man’. I’ve got a whole lode of them. That’s what my imagery is all about when I’m on stage, just that slick sharp look.

Singersroom: What bit of advice from others in entertainment, has stuck with you?

Jay Sean: I’ve learned a lot from people like Stargate. Stargate are unbelievable hit makers. I was fortunate enough to write eight songs with them. The one thing I remember them telling me is that, there is a formula. Don’t let anyone tell you there is not. You study it and you realize why certain hits are hits. They know which chords really work and resonate with people. They even know about melodies and singing a record straight ….these kind of things that I really learned about songwriting from Stargate big time.

Singersroom: As a successful International artist, what three things should guys, perhaps looking up to you, have to make it in music today?

Jay Sean: Perseverance — because you’re going to get knocked down time and time again. That’s just the way the industry is.

Self belief — Say someone really thinks you suck and you let that knock you down, that’s the end for you. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one will.

Work ethic — It’s hard work man, it’s not easy. People think it’s easy. Touring around the world and not sleeping much and singing… it’s not easy man. Be prepared for some hard work. —— By: Interview By Njai Joszor

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