Interview: Jay Sean
With the UK Asian Music Awards celebrating their ten year anniversary this year, Jay Sean has been their most decorated artist to date. To mark his global success, the industry’s most prominent names gathered to celebrate. The Wrap Up’s Carly Wilford caught up with Jay at his intimate Q&A session in London to discuss his new life in America and just what has driven him to where he is today…
The Wrap Up: The UK music industry is doing well right now. How does it compare to the American music industry right now?
Jay Sean: It is very different; what’s on English radio is totally different to what’s on American radio. When I first came back here I was like, ‘what is all of this?!’ I love the fact that there’s a lot of British music on radio in England… it goes to show we have a lot of successful artists on our own home turf. I think what’s really interesting is that recently there has been a surge of British exports in America. Since my breakthrough three years ago now, I’ve seen so many come through and it’s been so nice to see.
TWU: Which UK artists do you hear a lot of over in the US?
Jay Sean: The Wanted and One Direction. More than anything, One Direction are absolutely murdering the scene.
TWU: Do you like them?
Jay Sean: Love them, they’re good kids! In fact, about six years ago, I was doing talks in schools about music and how to get into the entertainment industry. I went to this school and I asked them if there were any singers in the audience. This little kid put his hand up; I was like ‘come up here mate.’ He was nervous and shy, I was like ‘come on, you gonna sing a song with me?’ and he goes ‘yeah, we’ll sing one of yours’. We sang one of my songs together and it was of course Zayn [Malik]. He messaged me a while back saying, ‘I dunno if you remember me from school but thank you for that moment’. Now look at him, he’s got more followers than me on Twitter!
TWU: What’s the craziest thing a female fan has ever done for you?
Jay Sean: They do all sorts of crazy stuff man… one girl made an entire album out of catalogue clippings. She’d cut out my face and put it on all the men of different couples, so it was me and her, and then we had a little baby with my face on it. It had our life together and it was deep. She gave me her passport and her keys and said ‘I want to be with you forever…’
TWU: You’ve gained fans all over the world. What legacy do you want to leave behind?
Jay Sean I want people to think, ‘Jay came and represented a scene that was never really represented before in mainstream…’ I’m aware of that now. In the beginning I wasn’t aware of how rare what I’m doing actually is. Indians in mainstream entertainment are few and far between. Whether we’re behind the scenes or in front of the camera, there’s still not very many of us; even in sport. So I feel as though what I’m doing is pretty groundbreaking for my scene. I want to represent us well and I want my people to be proud of me and I want to achieve the seemingly impossible.
TWU: Your sound has changed over the years from an Asian sound to a mainstream one. Do you feel like you’ve neglected that scene or do you feel like you’re helping to make it more commercial?
Jay Sean: What I started out as was an experiment; I thought maybe the world hasn’t heard some of these Indian sounds in music. I did it. It was new; it was great, it was fresh. But then you have to remember a lot of sounds came out like that; I don’t want to be that guy who puts an Indian sample in every song. Sometimes it doesn’t need it, what if I wanted to do Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ and I had to put an Indian flute in it just to prove a point? So I was like ‘Nah, I’m not going to do this anymore. I’m going to focus on writing great music and being respected as song writer.’ The song writing aspect of what I do is really important.
TWU: What has been the main thing that’s driven to you towards success?
Jay Sean: I just refuse to accept mediocrity. I was given this opportunity for a reason, I don’t know why I was chosen, but I was chosen to represent this and be who I am and do what I’m doing and I don’t want to leave without being brilliant. That’s it.
Words: Carly Wilford (@CarlyWilford)