When British singer-songwriter Jay Sean was in Singapore this week, Musichel got the chance to speak to the talented singer. Best known for his hits "Down", "Do You Remember" and "2012", he was in town to promote his latest studio album Neon.
The interview was held at the luxurious Extreme WOW Suite in W Hotel in Sentosa Cove. Priced at an astounding S$12,000/night, the opulent 195m² hotel suite boasts a large living room with charcoal chairs, a private pool, a 55" LED TV set, two bathrooms and a spectacular ocean view.
The father-to-be could hardly his excitement over his first child, whom he is expecting with his wife Thara Natalie. He also talks about giving up medical school for music, songwriting, Instagram and of course, his experience in Singapore!
As this was a roundtable interview, all questions asked by Musichel will be denoted with: [M].
How are you finding Singapore so far?
I think it’s my third time in Singapore. Well it’s a beautiful hotel! I love the pool, I love the vibe and the sun came up for us [it was raining earlier in the day] – I was lying outside, getting a little tan. We love it!
We heard you were a straight A student in school!
Yeah, I did really well in school and I went to med school. Eventually, music found me and I just couldn’t give up music. And somehow, I just knew that this was what I was meant to do. I enjoy it – it’s funny how… I didn’t know I was going to be doing this for a living. Sometimes, when you’re lucky enough, you’ll find out what you were meant to do. Some people study, study and study, and they don’t know what they want to do. So I’m lucky I found what I wanted to do.
You have released four albums now. How do you think your music has evolved?
I think my songs have gone back into the more soulful and R&B side of things; I started off like that. And then I had some very big pop songs. Over ten years, the music business has changed so much. First, I started off with indie-fusion, then that sound kind of got tired and I was like, “Okay, we’ve got to find something else.” Then I started doing some pop-R&B songs and then of course, dance music became so big over the last four years. So then, I had to do a couple of dance songs! It’s nice to go through the changes. Music changes all the time and you have to change with it, I think.
Congratulations on being an Indian artist who has been in the industry for such a long time!
It’s crazy, I know. I feel like an old man now! I’ve been doing this for so long now and I feel like, you know, ten years ago – maybe eleven now – I’ve been doing this. To still be able to do it and to still get to do shows around the world, to come to places like these and have fans sing along… it’s such a good feeling!
What is your favourite song to perform live?
I’ll be doing a lot of songs today [at the show in Singapore] because it’s a very long show. Some of the up-tempo songs are really fun – I really enjoy songs like “2012” to do live and I really love doing my new song “Mars”. I love that song – it’s a slow song but it just allows me to really sing and the crowd can chill out for a bit [undecipherable] and then they can get their energy back up.
Was your song “Guns N Roses” in any way inspired by the band Guns N’ Roses? [M]
No, actually, I thought of the concept about how no relationship is ever perfect. Why is it that sometimes, we want to kill each other and then other times, we just can’t live without each other? I was like, a relationship really is like that – it’s bittersweet. And I thought “Guns N Roses” was a really cool title for a song.
Speaking of relationships, congratulations on your baby!
Thank you! I’m so excited!
There have been some really controversial names, like Blue Ivy and North West – have you thought of a name for your baby yet?
My one is actually going to be called Saad Bani.
How do you spell that?
I’m joking! [Laughs] Saad Bani’s an Indian name! When it comes to the names, one thing I have learned is that… Even though I love my tradition, I think that sometimes, in the western world, people don’t know how to pronounce traditional names. And what happens is that kids get bullied in school. You know what they do, they pick on their names because they can’t pronounce it – it’s not nice. So I’m going to give my child a name that feels universal. It’s still got traditional roots but people around the world will still be able to say it. Like Jay – Jay is an Indian name but in the western would, they can say it too.
Your show in Singapore tonight is on a beach – what do you like best about beach parties? [M]
Yeah, beach parties are always fun! Who doesn’t love the beach? Everyone loves the beach. First of all, everyone loves going to the beach. When you go to the beach, you’re already in the mood to have a good time. It’s open-air, as opposed to feeling confined. You’ve got the weather, it’s beautiful; you’ve got a lot of beautiful scenery – it’s just always a good time! We have a great, great time at beach parties.
What’s your favourite song? It doesn’t have to be one of your own.
I don’t have a favourite song. I definitely don’t have a favourite song. As a musician and as a singer-songwriter, I don’t think it’s possible to just have one favourite song. I might have favourite albums – for example, I love Stevie Wonder’s music, I love Michael Jackson’s music. I love a lot of soul music like Donell Jones, Boyz II Men – definite favourite of mine! So, you know, I love those kind of artists.
You have a huge social media following and you’re regularly on Instagram. I think your hashtags are very cute!
[Laughs] I love being silly! I like being silly – I think too many people take themselves too seriously sometimes. You know, it’s like on Instagram, even if I do a really stupid pose or a cheesy pose, I’ll say it. What I always find funny about Instagram is that people take photos of themselves where they think they look nice, right, and they doll themselves up and put on makeup and they take a picture. Really, the caption should be, ‘I think I look really nice, that’s why I posted this picture.’ Nobody does that! They write some crap underneath, like, ‘In the stars, you can see...’ And it’s got nothing to do with the picture! [Laughs] So I love doing those kind of stuff where I call people out on that and it’s all written in the hashtags. I have fun with this!
Apart from singing, what are your hobbies?
I absolutely love movies. I don’t watch TV – I watch movies. I never watch TV – I don’t watch reality shows, I don’t watch anything like that. I watch Breaking Bad, which is amazing. But I love movie. For me, I love exploring a lot. I’m a big explorer. So if I’m in a city, I want to go eat where the locals eat, I wanna go and see the local bars and the local food. I love the culture. So for me, that’s one thing I like to do – I like to explore. I’ve been around the whole world. If there’s any place I haven’t been, really, is South America, which I’m probably going to do now because there’s been a Spanish remix of “Mars”.
What do you love about each location?
It’s all different for several reasons. In Asia, I love the culture because it’s very respectful and you don’t find that a lot of the time in the west. People are very, very well-mannered here and I think we have something to learn from that. I love going out to the Caribbean because it’s so chill, relaxing and the people there are very friendly. I love America because it makes me think big, it makes me dream big, it makes me believe that I can do anything. I love Europe because of its history and its culture. I think the Middle East is really fancy. So there are a lot of beautiful places in the world that I’ve been so lucky to see.
If you weren’t a performer, what would you see yourself as?
Well, I would have been a doctor, because I was studying it! All my friends from medical school are all doctors now, they’ve got kids and it’s a different life. I’ve finally got there but they did that very early on because my life sounds crazy, you know what I mean? For me to settle down and finally start a family, it took a while. All my friends, they did it two years ago. So like I said, they’re all very settled and now I finally feel like I’ve got some peace – I can finally settle down and do my thing now.
You’re usually so busy. What do you like to do in your leisure time?
I like to see my friends – I’m a very social person. If I ever had a day off, I would have an evening out with all my friends and we’d all catch up over dinner. I like very low-key things – I don’t actually like doing fancy things, things that celebrities do. I find those things really cheesy and corny. “Oh, let’s go to this restaurant because there’s going to be paparazzi.” No! I don’t want paparazzi; I wanna chill out with my friends! So let’s not go to that restaurant, let’s go somewhere where they don’t expect us to be. I like going out. I think it’s important to have a balance in life. I mean, you can’t surround yourself with too much of that scene, you have to switch off sometimes to be a normal human being, you know? I enjoy doing that.
Do you ever feel the need to get into a disguise when you go out since people are going to recognise you?
[Laughs] No, I haven’t done that! I think it’s funny what celebrities do. I find it hilarious! “Oh, I don’t want to be noticed in the airport, let me put my sunglasses on and a hoodie. And everyone will look at me anyway because I’m the only idiot with sunglasses on!” You don’t need to do that! I need my security sometimes. For example, today I had no sleep. So when I got out of the airport, there would be people who want pictures and they kind of have to understand that I had no sleep on the plane so it’s difficult. I’ll go and say hi to them and make sure I’ll get to see them another time during the show and I’ll take pictures with them at the hotel and have somebody organise that. I like to be nice to my fans but you know, people are very understanding.
You’re a very grounded person. How is your life going to be like with your baby?
Now that the album is done and it sounds good, I don’t want to miss those few days and few years and months with my baby. I’ve never looked forward to anything in life more than being a dad. For me, it’s the biggest accomplishment – bigger than my number ones, bigger than anything, bigger than all of that. You know, that little kid doesn’t care what his dad does. He doesn’t care whether his dad’s a popstar or whether he’s the president, he doesn’t care – he’s just Dad and I’m looking forward to that!
Back to your music – what’s your songwriting process like? Do you take the audience into account when you write a song? [M]
Yeah, I think it’s very important to do that. Singers, as opposed to rappers – rappers rap about themselves a lot of the time. They rap about their own life and that’s their culture. With singing, we have to try to write about stuff that can relate to most people. A lot of the time, we can draw on our own experiences, for example: break-ups, falling in love. Whatever it is, we write from the heart and we know a lot of people have been through it. Someone might be looking for love, someone might have been hurt, and a lot of time, that’s why love songs are the biggest hits – because everyone around the world can relate to that. So we try to put that in our heads.
Have you tried local food yet?
What is the local food here?
It’s so diverse, like chicken rice, chilli crab…
Yeah, that’s what I thought – it’s a real mixture of different food. I’ve always tried everything they offer from the local cuisine but I don’t know if there was a specific dish Singapore’s known for. You know, like some countries are known for some food.
You should try chicken rice and chilli crab!
Oh, I haven’t tried that [chilli crab]. Yeah, I’ll try that! [Laughs]
Page 1: Interview
Page 2: Concert Review
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