Jay Sean first hit the UK charts in 2003 with three hit singles and an album which won him three gongs at the UK Asian Music awards in 2005. Now he's back with his own label, a new single and a new album called My Own Way.Female First caught up with Jay Sean to find out about his musical inspiration, his decision to quit university and what it was like to appear in a Bollywood film.
Your new single Ride It is currently record of the week on Radio 1, how important is it for you to have the support of DJs like Nihal?At the end of the day Nihal has been representing for the Asian community as well as the mainstream and I think he has seen me grow for the past four years. For a lot of people I might be a brand new artist but Nihal has seen me grasp the Asian scene for the past four or five years so it's just great that he's still backing me.
Is it important to you to have a more diverse fan base in other countries like Asia as well as in the UK?Of course, it is for any artist who wants to expand his horizons, because who wants to just stop growing and stop succeeding? For me, I'm driven by achieving as much as I possibly can and pushing myself to the limit, so I'm not going to stop until everyone knows or hears my music because for me that's the ultimate goal. I look at people like Justin and Usher for inspiration, I don't just settle within one area you know?
You've just played a gig in India on New Years Eve, what was that like?
India's always fun to play. Those guys get so excited and they're always right up for it. They're out for a party and they're out for a good time. It was just a great vibe, an amazing vibe. They told us that I'd broken the record for that club, they've never had that many people inside it so that was great. They still didn't give me a bonus pay though!
What do you think about the British RnB scene at the moment?
You know what, I think it's coming back. There was a time when someone would have said 'What British RnB scene?' As soon as Craig David came in 2000 and took over, took the country by storm, I think that opened a lot of doors for a lot of people. Then you had people like myself and Jamelia coming in, and now you've got Kyle Cruz. It's definitely got a long way to go, let's be real, America's got 15,000 RnB artists and we've got, like, three. But I definitely think it's coming back again, I think urban music is coming back again.
Who are your favourite musicians at the moment and who are your influences?
In terms of contemporary artists i like people like Neo. I love Chris Brown, I think he's great, Justin Timberlake, the usual suspects. The ones that are representing right now. I also love artists that some people might not have heard of, people like Xavier who is an unbelievable vocalist. Brian McKnight, people like that, for me they're very inspiring. Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild - I love that more soulful kind of stuff as well.
Where do you get inspiration for your music and the things you write about from?
I'm always, always inspired by things I've been through in my life, because the way I look at it, you can either talk about it to your mates and leave it at that, or, if you've got a job like mine where you're a songwriter then it's about spilling your heart out through your pen. That's what I do. I write very honestly and openly about the situations I'm going through, because I'm sure if I'm going through them then thousands of people around the world have been through them and there's nothing that can resonate more with people than the truth.
Do you think that means people identify more with your music when they hear it?
Of course, because it's real, you know? I know for a fact that for me, and this is the reason I don't write about Lamborghinis and bling and guns, it's not real life. I can't pull that off honestly because I haven't been though it and I don't go through it so for me I write about situations I do go through. A lot more people are going to go through that sort of thing.
You used to be at University training to be a doctor, what was it like making the decision to drop out and concentrate on your music?
I didn't anticipate this. I didn't anticipate having to make this decision of 'Hmm, am I going to have to give up medicine to be a pop star?' I didn't think it would ever happen because I never gave up the music and the situation presented itself and then it was like oh, this is getting serious now. You know, you're halfway through a medical degree and then Virgin offer you a really good contract. What are you going to say, no? So for me I had to look at that and I always go with my heart. That way I've only got myself to blame if it doesn't work. And if it does work then I'll be happy and I'll enjoy my life and I'll have fun. That's what I did with this decision.
What do you think your life would be like now if you'd continued with your course, do you think you'd still be making music?
I doubt it because a lot of people don't realise that they're both 24 hour jobs. My friends now, they've all just finished university, I saw them all graduate and stuff and it was nice but they're all working real crazy hours now. There's no way I'd have been able to do both. I would have been a doctor and I would have been enjoying myself and I would have been happy but I wouldn't be doing music like this, no way.
So you don't regret the decision at all?
Hell no. No way, I can't go back at all. I'd never go back.
When did you first start making music?
I started writing rhymes in fact when I was 11 or 12 years old. I was actually into hip hop before anything else. I remember when Kriss Kross came out! I was round about the same age, or maybe a couple of years younger. Me and my cousin just started writing raps and they were so rubbish in the beginning! But of course they were, because what can you write about at that age other than TV programmes and stuff that kids care about, like computer games. But at the end of the day, from there it expanded and I carried on writing to the point where i starting producing. I was producing beats when I was about 16 years old. Then we were making our own hip hop aged about 16, 17, right up until we were about 20. But I was always a singer and I never took it too seriously. I didn't know about songwriting, I didn't know how to do it, but people used to tell me 'You've got a really good voice, why don't you sing instead of rapping all the time?' So then I started putting a few hooks down, you know on my songs, singing the choruses. Then before I knew it i was putting whole songs down. I guess it was just a very organic process.
What hopes do you have for your new single and album that are soon to be released?
Well of course for me, as I'm sure is the same with any artist who releases a song, I want to get as high as I can and hit that number one spot. I'd love that but I think for me, more than anything, what's been so encouraging is that I've made the transition from a major label to an independent label. And that's my own label that i set up - Jayded Records. That's something I set up that I've been wanting to do for ages, because that's the only way you can get true creative control and really take control of the reigns. You're running your own life and your own career and it's the most amazing thing on earth to be able to call all the shots and be able to say 'No, I want it like this and like this and I want this to be the single.' It's not like I'm some control freak but let's be honest, I'm the one answering these questions, I'm at the forefront and I'm on the front line. I have to defend my music, I have to defend my decisions, I have to defend my case and there's nothing nicer than being able to see that work and to see the fact that Ride It is a single I chose from my album that I wrote with a producer that I wanted to work with. It's been getting so much support across all the mainstream avenues and to see that is enough and that's just made me so happy.
Finally, you were featured doing a performance in a Bollywood film, what was that like?
Oh, that was just so much fun. For people that don't know and haven't seen a Bollywood film, you need to go and see one. They give you everything in one. They give you your comedy, your fear, your horror, your thriller, your rom-com. It's everything in one. It's a musical and Bollywood films provide for people in India who don't have much, you know, poorer people. They'll save up everything to go and sit and watch a Bollywood film in the theatre and in three hours they'll give them everything. It's just a wonderful experience and to be part of that was incredible. A four day shoot it was, to shoot one video, and my god they put on a production and a half. Bollywood is just amazing.
Female First - Jacqueline Farrer
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