Growing up on a musical diet of 90s R&B and classic British 00s indie tracks, songwriter and producer JKAY is stepping away from his occupation of hit song writer for multi-platinum artists such as MNEK, MK and Becky Hill, (a title which is a feat in itself), and into releasing his own music. Now a critically acclaimed artist in his own right, JKAY is signed to Black Butter Records, who have a habit of signing the next big things. His future garage/house sound is a fusion of all his influences, from the hardcore garage scene to classic indie bangers; JKAY’s smooth blend of sounds marks him for big things.
Joining forces with garage legend Shola Ama, JKAY has released brand new track “Danger”. With a UK garage and two-step feel, JKAY felt “Danger” was screaming out for a female garage vocalist: cue Shola Ama, who’s instantly recognisable voice evokes a late 90’s garage feel. Co-written by MNEK and A.M.E, “Danger” is a vibesy dance tune, with pulsing basslines and powerful vocals from Ama. An addictive sound, with effortlessly smooth production, JKAY’s “Danger” is this Autumn’s garage track.
What made you realise that you wanted a career in music?
I started writing songs at a really young age, so I’ve always had a passion for creating music. I got hooked on house & garage music in my teens and started to make remixes, then original songs; it was at that point I knew this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, 9-5 work was not for me!
You’ve previously written for multi-platinum artists, how does that differ to writing songs for yourself, and who have you worked with?
There’s a big difference between writing for an artist and writing for myself. When writing for others, there’s normally restrictions on how far you can go – record labels have briefs for the projects that you have to take on board and create something you feel will fit, not every time, but majority of the time. Whereas with my project, for the past couple of years now, it’s just been about the vibe and making tunes that feel good to me, no restrictions. I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many great songwriters & artists already – MNEK, MK, Becky Hill, Ina Wroldsen, Arrow Benjamin, Zac Samuel, Carla Marie Williams, Karen Harding, Kaleem Taylor… it’s a privilege.
Why did you step away from writing for others and made you decide to write your own tracks? How did you take that step?
I guess it was around 3 years ago, I had done the whole writing songs to pitch at major label artists, waiting for decisions, 9 times out of 10 not getting the cut… Don’t get me wrong, I had success doing that but I just got to a point where I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. It felt like I was stuck in a box and couldn’t just make music that I loved, I was making music that I thought others would love. I think ultimately that’s the best way to write songs, just creating music that you love and not overthinking everything.
How did you get signed to Black Butter Records?
I guess it was around 6 months ago, my manager met with Joe Gossa at Black Butter, Joe heard ‘Danger’ and instantly wanted to sign it. I met everyone there shortly after & I knew this was the label to sign with. They’ve been great.
Where did the idea for “Danger” come from, and why did you want to get Shola Ama involved?
It was an interesting process actually involving a few writers. Initially I had a session with a friend of mine Caroline Ailin and we wrote a song over the Danger beat. I then had a session set up with MNEK & AME… they wrote a killer song together, which was on a house tip. So we had these 2 tunes which we loved for different reasons, the verses of one song & the chorus of the other – so we decided to merge them both together. The vibe of the song, being UKG 2-step vibe, was just screaming out for a female R&B/UKG vocalist. I’ve always been a massive fan of Shola’s since the garage days, it’s like this song was actually made for her vocal! So we got in, recorded it and she sounded amazing on it.
Your sound is a fusion of multiple genres – how would you describe it to someone that’s never heard it?
What’s your favourite thing about creating music?
Definitely has to be when I hear my song being played on the radio.. it’s hard to beat that feeling!
What’s the next step?
I have lots of new music in the bag, so more single’s to follow next year … DJ sets, hopefully some festivals too.
What’s your first music memory?
First music memory is singing to Madonna when I was a kid.
How did you get involved with JKAY’s track “Danger”? What drew you to it?
I was asked to feat on danger as it has the feel of old school garage … I just thought it was a really good song. I heard myself doing it right away.
How has your sound changed over time? What have you learnt about your skills and the music industry since the start of your career?
My sound has def changed over the years. When I started out I worked with a lot of US producers and over time I’ve worked more closely with U.K. Producers.. experimenting with grime beats etc. I think I just stick closely to what I like and what I feel I’m good at which is traditional R&b song writing. But also I’ve worked a lot with different MC’s and in different genres
Can you tell us about your new 8 track EP? What’s the sound like, what themes do you explore and how does it differ to your previous releases?
The new stuff is very R&B as I’ve decided to take it back to my roots. That’s what I am. And for years I shyed away from it. but I feel now I’ve embraced being 90’s and I enjoy that I’m from this amazing era when music was a lot of fun. I’m trying to bring that back but with modern production ..also there will be garage remixes of course
How do you think garage and R&B as genres have changed over the years?
R&b I feel disappeared for a while. The classic sound was gone and replaced by a lot of dance .. but I love what’s happening with it now. Thanks to a lot of artists bringing back the classic sound .. garage I feel is just exactly as it should be and as it always been.
You’ve had an illustrious career – what would you say is your biggest achievement?
I think for me winning a Brit was up there, but also getting to work with some amazing artists and producers over the years has been important to me. For me music is really a collaborative experience, I really enjoy working with different people. I think I’ve been very fortunate to have been doing what I love for 20 years
You talent was discovered very young, how did it impact your life and do you think your career would have been different if you had started later?
I think starting young was a blessing in many ways but also a curse… I was a very insecure teen. I didn’t know who I was at all. And I tried to find my way and got lost a few times. But looking back I wouldn’t change it. I feel much happier now than I ever did in my teens or 20’s. I think had I started later I maybe would have been better prepared. But then again I wouldn’t have all the years of wisdom I have now
Do you think the music industry is supportive of up and coming artists?
I think now a days it can be a lot easier if you’re new because everyone is always looking for the next best thing. Also I feel that no one waits around for the “industry” anymore which is great. Artists are self sufficient and can get their music and videos out without labels etc.
What’s next for you?
Next is the release of what I’m currently working on and then a long awaited 4th studio album. That and just to have fun with it. I really love what I do so I just want to enjoy it now and have fun.