Global singing sensation Jay Sean reveals more about his celebrated life as a successful Indian musician.
By Ashima Sethi
As the world’s ﬁrst South Asian to hit number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart with his debut single “Down” in 2009, Indian singer and songwriter Jay Sean has since cemented himself as a force to be reckoned with. Hailing from London, Jay established himself in the local music scene by developing a unique sound that fused Punjabi tunes with RnB and pop melodies. Soon, his inimitable tracks began to make waves across the mainstream music scene, which led to well-received collaborations with some of the industry’s biggest names, as well as numerous multi-platinum selling albums that further strengthened his success.
Now, after decades of honing his craft, Jay is more popular than ever. This talented star sits down with Masala to talk about his journey.
What motivated you to turn your passion into a career?
To be honest, I never had my mind set on getting into the music industry. I just loved rapping, singing, DJing and writing songs, so I think my passions naturally led me down this path. When I was 16 years old, I began creating mixtapes based on the inﬂuences of RnB singers like Jodeci, Boyz II Men, Joe, Blackstreet and rappers like Jay Z, Big L, Biggie and Naughty by Nature. Soon one of my original songs was played on the local radio, which got the attention of producer Rishi Rich.
What were the early days with Rishi Rich and Juggy D like?
Once Rishi and I began working together, we were in the studio day and night which led to our ﬁrst breakout hit called “Dance with You,” featuring Juggy D. We called ourselves the Rishi Rich Project, since Rishi discovered both Juggy and I, but we were never an exclusive group. At the time, Juggy already had a solo career, Rishi was producing and I had begun working on my solo album, but when we did work together, I considered us a family.
What inspired you to pursue a solo career?
After the massive success of “Dance With You,” I worked with Virgin Records to produce a solo album.
Only a handful of South Asian musicians have achieved mainstream success. So what does global recognition mean to you and your Asian fanbase?
I will always be grateful for my Asian fanbase because they got me to where I am today. It is also great knowing that no matter where my fans are, they will always be proud of my successes and will continue to be a part of my journey. Additionally, I am very proud to be ﬂying the ﬂag for Indians, and it’s deﬁnitely a huge privilege that I don’t take for granted. I feel blessed to be able to represent us and show the world the talent that we have to oﬀer.
You have collaborated with some of the biggest names in the music industry. What has that been like?
It’s always an honour to work with diﬀerent artists because everyone is able to add something exciting to a song to give it new life. It’s also a great feeling to be able to bring together diﬀerent fans. As of now, I’m thankful to have collaborated with over 20 megastars across so many genres, including Pitbull, Sean Paul and Lil Wayne. I’m currently working with more famous faces on an upcoming project, but I can’t reveal too much yet!
As you are considered a versatile artist, how would you describe your current style of music?
I don’t like to put a label on my music because it limits the audience it can reach. But if I had to describe it, I would say it’s pop with a heavy RnB and hip hop backbone.
What is your creative process like?
There have only been a handful of times where I have entered the studio with a speciﬁc song or style in mind. What usually happens is the producer will play some music and I will try to ﬁgure out what kind of vibe it’s giving oﬀ. Then I’ll begin putting together the melodies and writing the lyrics.
What are some of your favourite written songs?
Of course hits like “Down” and “Do You Remember, ” because they are fun feel-good tracks. However, the ones I really love are ballads such as “War,” “All or Nothing”, “Jameson,” and “She Has No Time,” because they have beautiful melodies accompanied by lyrically heavy vocals.
You’re a master in fusing together diﬀerent musical genres, including bhangra, pop and even Bollywood. How do you achieve this?
When creating music, I want it to feel organic rather than forced, otherwise the authenticity is lost. It’s hard to describe, but I follow my instincts so there is really no science behind it.
You are set to perform for the ﬁrst time in Bangkok this month, however you have visited our country many times before. What is it about Thailand that keeps you coming back?
I absolutely love my Thai fanbase, as they’ve been so loyal to me. I also love the culture, hospitality and of course, the food. I really can’t wait to be back.
What do you have planned for the future?
I have new singles coming out in a month followed by an album. I have been working on a secret project as well, so stay tuned!