Keeping it real
Laidback British Asian R&B singer Jay Sean talks about celebrating life, dealing with fame and ... err, writing songs in toilets.
Most Malaysians probably know Jay sean as the guy singing “Down, down, down, down, down,” on his catchy R&B single, Down.
But even as Bieber-fever and Gagadom takes over the world, the Londonborn, Indian-bred singer has made a notable ascent on the Us charts.
Down, his Us-debut single from his 2009 album All Or Nothing, hit No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart last year while his next single, Do You Remember reached the top 10.
“I’m living every moment of my success,” said sean, who could not have picked a more fitting name for his upcoming album, Freeze Time.
“Right now I’m all for celebrating life, cherishing every moment and enjoying the good times. that’s why I named my new album Freeze Time,” he added during an interview last week at Doubletree Hotel by Hilton in Kuala Lumpur.
“I don’t take myself too seriously. I’m always silly, it’s stupid.”
the dashing 29-year-old was here to perform at the Showdown Of Champions – A Night Of Aces at the Malawati stadium in shah Alam, last Friday. the sojourn marked his fourth visit to Malaysia.
Freeze Time, which is his fourth international studio album, is due for a Nov 2 release.
“the album is all about diversity. It’s pop, it’s R&B, it has club songs and sexy songs ...,” he said with a smile. “It’s definitely moved on from All Or Nothing. Progression is inevitable. I’ve learned more about what resonates with the audience and I’ve matured as a singer and a songwriter too.”
Freeze Time took only five months to complete and most of it was written in the toilet, apparently ...
“I write in the toilet all the time. that’s where inspiration hits,” explained the laidback star, who wrote every track on the album. “It’s either that or in bed. Because there is simply nothing else to do, no distractions.
“I’ve written a lot about my own life in my past albums. Now I get inspiration from other people’s lives too. Like my friends or people I’ve had conversations with.”
His favourite tracks on Freeze Time are Break Ya Back, Patience and Lullaby.
“ Break Ya Back is a really cool song with a club vibe and it’s something I’ve never done before. Patience is a ballad while Lullaby is me really singing in a very different way.”
But while sean has been known for popularising British Asian R&B-fusion sounds in his earlier works, he does not intend to incorporate those sounds into his future albums.
“I don’t need to do that. It’s like if you’re a Chinese rapper, people expect you to do Chinese rap all the time,” he elaborated. “It doesn’t feel organic, it feels like a gimmick and I want to break out of the ‘Indian’ stereotype.
“For me, it’s all about making great songs now. In America, music comes first and you don’t hear age, race or gender in music,” he added.
But make no mistake, he has not forgotten his roots. “My roots are very important to me. It’s who I am. If I were a tree, my roots would be my ancestors and my culture. A tree can’t stand strong without that.”
the singer has not let fame get to his head either. If anything, the success of All Or Nothing only pushed him to work harder to stay on top. “I hope for the better. I’ve learned that success does not happen overnight. It takes a long time and a certain formula to get it right. You gotta keep applying that formula.”
2012 (It Ain’t The End) featuring rapper/singer Nicki Minaj, is the first single off his new album. Freeze Time also features R&B/hip hop stars Lil Wayne and Pitbull.
He will not be working with pop princess Rihanna anytime soon, though. sean dispels their rumoured collaboration with a laugh: “I would love to work with her, but it’s not true. she’s awesome.”
He added dandily: “My ultimate collaboration dream would be with Jay-Z and Beyonce. those two are top of my wishlist.”
sean, who was a medical student before he embarked on his dream of becoming a singer, hopes to become a successful businessman in different ventures over the next five years. “I want to have my own production house and also be a successful artiste.” n Jay Sean’s FreezeTime is released by Universal Music Malaysia next month.
Celebrating life: ‘I don’t take myself too seriously,’ says Jay Sean.