djheer Catches up with 'Jay Sean'

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SimplyBhangra caught up with international Pop phenomenon and undisputed British-Asian megastar Jay Sean! With a host of incredible accomplishments, Jay Sean has truly left an indelible imprint on pop culture. Alongside Rishi Rich, he elevated the Asian fusion sound with a string of UK top-twenty crossover singles.

Next, he achieved extraordinary and trailblazing success stateside. His single Down topped the Billboard Charts, producing the type of enormous sales figures not seen by a UK artist in America since Elton John! Jay Sean now rubs shoulders with Rap and R&B royalty – Lil Wayne. Nicki Minaj, Sean Paul and Mary J. Blige to name but a few – while dominating Asian radio and award shows.

See what the unstoppable R&B singer/songwriter had to say in our candid interview. We discussed his original fusion sound, eradicating barriers for Asians, the recent Twitter incident, a UK tour, his upcoming album Freeze Time and more!

Jay Sean, welcome! Your new single Hit the Lights is out now on iTunes. It fits perfectly into the contemporary Dance-influenced Urban landscape, but still retains that signature Jay Sean feel. Tell us about the song.

That’s it; I just wanted to do something that would work not just on the radio, but also in the clubs!

Jay Sean – Hit the Lights video:

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You’ve proven to be a versatile artist, delving into different genres, as Hit the Lights demonstrates. Your initial sound was a successful Asian-R&B fusion. Did you adopt that fusion sound then because it was less prolific at the time and/or to help establish you on the Asian scene?

You know what, I don’t think it was ever that thought out. I heard what Rishi was doing and just liked it! We had no idea that it was even going to be prolific at the time. As an artist, every album is an opportunity to play with different sounds and genres. I think it would get boring if every album I did sounded exactly the same. And sometimes a song just comes out of what mood I’m in that day!

Jay Sean – Eyes on You video:

Do you find it condescending that Asians are pigeonholed into that fusion genre?

Of course I do! Just because we’re Asian doesn’t mean we should only do Asian music. We are just people, people who love all music. And music is supposed to be the universal language.

Could Asian-R&B fusion have total, sustained crossover success? Is it too ‘different’?

Who knows? It only takes one hit to make something happen. More than anything, I think the key to music is that it should just be good, and that can always cut through!

You’ve made the transition to (primarily) total, smooth R&B. Succeeding in that arena and being the first Asian to do so has made you a trailblazer. How would you say such a complete crossover, which makes ethnicity almost irrelevant, is important to eradicating barriers?

I think that was what was amazing about the success of Down. A lot of people didn’t know me or where I was from or what my background was. They just loved the song! And that was enough. They loved the song and then they went backwards to find out about me. But, at that point, they didn’t care about my being different, because they were sold! And then they were interested.

Jay Sean – Down (featuring Lil Wayne) video:

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On your first album, you rapped, “My culture isn’t a fad, it’s an honour.” You have created such a positive and significant impression on, and on behalf of, Asians with your international success and recognition. You’ve become the representative that someone like Freddie Mercury (relatively few people know the Queen frontman was British-Asian) could not have because of the time. Does it surprise you that it’s taken this many decades for a change to occur?

The change is still taking place! Culturally, we haven’t been seen largely in mainstream entertainment or music. Yes, we have Bollywood, but it’s only in the past few years we’ve only really started to see Asians on the big screen and in music. I think we still have a long way to go. This is just the beginning. People are just starting to realize that all Asians aren’t just doctors and lawyers!

Your stage name doesn’t carry or potentially prompt any ethnic preconceptions. Is that a way of focusing peoples’ attention on the music itself, and does the issue surrounding that highlight the next change that needs to occur?

Again, it wasn’t that deep of a thought process. My family don’t even call me Kamaljit. That was my given name, but I always had a nickname since birth. But let’s be real; does Kamaljit sound like a name you’d hear on the radio? Probably not.

I think we have to be patient. And I also think there has to be balance. You can’t go from nothing to shoving it in peoples’ faces. And I think that’s part of what works for me. I am who I am. I will always be Asian. It’s written on my face. I don’t have to shout it from the rooftops every second. But if you want to know, I will certainly tell you all about it.

A true trailblazer, Jay Sean’s Asian-R&B debut album Me Against Myself placed him in both the UK mainstream and music history

A recent Twitter incident was prompted by comments expressing that you, supposedly, aren’t supporting the UK scene enough as you haven’t taken artists from here to America with you. Isn’t your responsibility not to elevate artists directly, but to pave the way for them?

I think that’s a very good point. I do want to help the scene, but first I have to be firmly planted before I can take anyone with me. My success is opening peoples’ eyes to the UK. Isn’t it funny how after I came to America, UK record labels starting pushing their artists stateside as well? They realized that UK artists did have a shot, and that makes me happy.

Right now, I’m still too busy with my career to start focusing on someone else’s. And when I do sign someone, I want to be able to focus on them and truly help them. So, when the time is right, I’ll know.

Speaking of other artists, your current list of collaborations is already impressive, including Lil’ Wayne, Mary J. Blige and Nicki Minaj. Are there any other features we can look forward to on your upcoming album, Freeze Time?

You’ll have to wait and see!

Jay Sean – 2012 (featuring Nicki Minaj) behind the scenes video:

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What can we expect from Freeze Time as Jay Sean’s fourth album?

This album was an interesting journey for me because I realized I needed to go back to my My Own Way roots. I wanted more slow jams and sexy songs; the songs that my fans had originally loved. So, we did that! And it was a lot of fun.

There’s some songs to party to, songs to make babies to and songs for the girls to cry along to. I’m really excited about everyone getting to hear it!

Are there any plans to tour the UK with this album?

Yes, definitely! I’m dying to come back and tour the UK and see all my UK fans! It’s been too long. Thankfully, I’ve gotten to do a few radio shows where I’ve seen a lot of them, but I’m looking forward to a headline tour of my own for sure.

In closing, what would you like to say to the readers?

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have amazing fans and I’m just really grateful to them for all of their support! They always have my back. Be sure to catch up with me on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter!

Interview by Govinda Lakha.

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