Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
Music was always around as I was growing up. My parents had the radio on almost all the time, especially in the morning when everyone was getting ready to go to work and school. The more music I listened to, the more I discovered that I loved great songs. The songs that give you chills down your spine or goosebumps. I loved the energy I got from listening to great songs, the uplifting feeling of hope that came through for me. I gradually got more and more involved with music activities. Eventually, I decided to learn how to write songs to pass on that energy to others through my singing, playing and songwriting.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
I was attending the Conservatory of Music of Geneva, in Switzerland. One night I went to see this band, Shakin Street in a club in Geneva. There weren’t that many people in the club. But, I clearly remember the half a dozen rowdy young punks there to support a local punk band that opened up for Shakin Street. After the punk band finished its set, these guys stayed in front of the stage, monopolizing the dance floor, thrashing around to the music the DJ was spinning while Shakin Street‘s crew readied the stage. I was nowhere near the melee. Just standing on the side. I process music slightly less physically…
The DJ welcomed Shakin Street to the stage. The lead singer was a young woman. I don’t remember anything about the band except for what happened to her right after she came on stage. The minute she started singing, the rowdy punks rushed close to the stage and started spitting on her! Screaming their heads off. Was their animosity rooted in something she said in an interview about punk music? It might just have been a “punk” thing. In any case, the punks just wouldn’t let up. They were at it as if they were never going to run out of saliva…
Had the stage been slightly lower, the punks might have tried to get on it. It was a good five feet high. They were good “spitters”. The lead singer couldn’t take it. She stopped singing and walked out in the middle of the first song, returning backstage. A few seconds later, this stout roadie came out from behind the stage brandishing a microphone stand that he started waving at the posse of punks. He was serious… It wasn’t a warning. He was cursing at them. “I’m from the Bronx motherf…ers…, let’s do this!” He was taunting them to get closer. And when one of the punks did step closer, he would swing the stand even harder, aiming at clubbing the “spitter” on the head.
Undeletable images in my head to this day.
As far as I can remember, things settled down eventually. I don’t have any other memories from that evening. Fast forward a few months. I decided then that it was time for me to visit one of these cities, homes of vibrant music scenes. Paris didn’t sound that vibrant for the kind of music I was into. For me, the latest and greatest always came from the United States or England. I didn’t have any connections in England. Chicago was an option because one of my father’s cousins had moved there, but she did not want to be responsible for me. I would be going out to clubs, etc. Not something she wanted to deal with. A high school friend was finishing his college degree at Wagner College on Staten Island, NY. I took him up on his offer to pay him a visit. Plus, I figured, if that “skull crushing” roadie was an example of the values held by New Yorkers, coming to the defense of a lady in distress, I was good with that. Let’s face it… I didn’t step up to defend Shakin Street‘s lead singer. Should I have been more courageous? So, New York City was the place to visit first.
It was late spring. While enjoying hanging out in New York City and going to clubs, I decided to answer an ad in the Village Voice. A CBS recording band, Sorrows, was looking to replace one of their members with a new singer, guitar player. “What have I got to lose?” I thought. The audition went well. It was fun. The drummer asked me where I was from. I told him I grew up outside of Geneva…
The drummer: “My brother was there a few months ago. He was the tour manager for Shakin Street.”
Me: “I saw that band in Geneva! These punks were spitting on the lead singer.”
The drummer: “Yes. My brother told me the story. He came out on stage and tried to whack these guys with a microphone stand.”
Me: “I saw him. That was your brother!?!”
And there you have it. Is that six degrees of separation? A few less? I was offered the job. I accepted. We recorded an album and then the drummer and I recorded another four albums and countless songs.
Life lesson: It’s a small world… Anything can happen…
What has been the high point of your music path?
I am so grateful for the help and direction I got from so many musicians, producers and engineers while recording with them. Recording is tricky. The way I see it, you have to be fairly precise, more so than you can get away with live, and yet, you have to sing and play with the feel and energy that you put out for an audience at a live show. It requires a lot of concentration. You don’t want to be distracted. You have to get the vibe right. You have to have fun and put real energy into a take.
I remember recording songs at RCA Studios in New York City. Warren Schatz was producing a new EP for me. Warren is a very talented producer. He worked with Evelyn “Champagne” King, KC & The Sunshine Band, Vicki Sue Robinson, etc. He got us in the RCA Studios. We had a few hours to record basic tracks with the band. In a corner of the control room there was a pile of tapes marked “Elvis”. These were original recordings by Elvis Presley, including a version of “Hey Jude”. The engineers were in the process of remastering the tracks. The tapes were just lying there, piled up neatly, while we were doing our thing. I was getting distracted. It was hard to concentrate…
The “king” of rock n’ roll’s voice on tape right there, taking a break, while we used the studio for a while…
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
I write the melodies, lyrics and structures on my own. I write lyrics for other artists occasionally. It can take a while to complete some songs and others come up very quickly. It’s not consistent. A few notes usually peak my curiosity and won’t leave me alone until a full song is completed but I can go through a hundred ideas before something grabs me. Then it’s a tedious process of bringing everything together. It’s a process of weaving notes and words that complement each other. It’s great when it comes together but not all finished songs survive. Some of them just don’t quite make it even though I record a version with just the lead vocal and one guitar. Only a few of these get to the next step. That is a full blown arrangement with a band and finally getting recorded for an album or EP.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
I believe it is the same challenge indie artists have faced throughout the ages: Getting Heard. It’s very difficult to build an audience. We are hopeful that we’ll be able to find fans among the people spending time on social networks but the competition is intense. You can easily have a presence online but that does not mean people will know you are there. So many other artists are there as well, as they should be. And, of course, everyone who has a product or service is there as well. As far as asking the music industry to change one thing, I am not sure what change would be most beneficial for everyone. I am glad that technology has developed the way it has. For one thing, it’s a lot easier and more affordable to record an album and distribute it via online stores and streaming platforms. That’s great. It’s also great that audiences can sign up for streaming services and access millions of songs. Not that I would find the time to listen to millions of songs. Though I do listen to lots and lots of them. The industry might want to try to balance things out a bit more so that streaming pays more than it does now.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
There are so many. I am really into Niall Horan’s work. I think Dua Lipa is great. Keith Urban, Maroon 5, Billy Idol, Christina Aguilera, Pink. The list goes on and on really. If I had to narrow it down to one, I think I would pick Sting.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
Or, how do you prepare for a live show?:They are a lot of fun. I am so lucky to work with great musicians. The focus is always on making sure the audience gets to see a great show. It’s challenging. I practice a lot on my own so that I feel comfortable performing in coffee shops or small clubs as well. Practice, practice, practice…
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
I follow the Vampire Diaries lead actress Nina Dobrev on Instagram (@nina). I am a big fan. I wrote a song about my experience as a fan of hers and follower. It is titled “Tequila Kiss”. I do think Nina is a terrific actress. If we ever meet, I would love to discuss how she prepares for a part. She is “all emotion”. And always very precise. And very entertaining, on screen and on Instagram. It took a while for me to bring together the lyrics and the music to express how I feel about seeing her work. She is very active. She swims with sharks, she jumps off airplanes, etc. She loves animals. So do I. She has a beautiful dog, Mrs. Maverick. I managed to reference Mrs. Maverick in the bridge of the song as well as Nina’s best friend, Julianne Hough, the fabulous dancer and singer. I read that Nina loves Tequila. Eventually, it came to me to write this fictitious, tongue-in-cheek story about a fan who hopes to meet his idol. I set the lyrics to a melody inspired by a Latin beat and chord changes. Caleb “kbc” Sherman, who produced “Tequila Kiss”, did a wonderful job capturing the spirit of the song and produced it to perfection.
What's coming up in the future?
Promoting my new album “Ride the Wave” is first and foremost. It’s definitely an album worth listening to if you like great songs. Forget that it’s my album for a moment: it is really, really good. Caleb did a fabulous job producing it. I would love to do more videos. We’ll see how that plays out. Who knows, Ms. Dobrev might send us some clips of her hanging out in some picturesque faraway places on the other side of the planet, or appear live in the video of Tequila Kiss… I am constantly writing but I don’t have a time table for when the next releases will come out. There is still a lot of work to be done to let folks know about my latest album “Ride The Wave”. I am so happy with it.
Tell us where fans can access your music?
Thank you for the opportunity. All of my albums and EPs are available on my website at: https://jayellesongs.com/
And of course, in all the digital stores and platforms, including Spotify
Folks can follow me on Instagram @jayelle2222
About Jay Elle
Jay Elle is a pop rock alternative singer, songwriter and guitar player currently residing in New York City. He brings warmth and energy through “five star” guitar-driven melodic songs. His voice will uplift and soothe your spirits and his witty lyrics will provoke deeper thoughts about the world while sharing optimistic, positive, upbeat messages that will “have you carry on with your day with a smile”. Jay Elle’s album, RIDE THE WAVE, was selected for the 2022 Grammy® Nomination Ballot for the Best Pop Vocal Album category. The song “TEQUILA KISS” reached number 19 on the TOP 40 National Radio Hits.