An Interview with Jay Squared
Nearly two years after his last album, Jay Squared returns with the beautiful ‘it felt like a week’. In collaboration with rook1e, Jay lays down some of the most infectious melodies and hooks of his career. This 7 track project follows the story of two older men recounting the loves of their past, reliving the experiences through song. We reached out to Jay Squared to get a bit more info on the creation of the project and the inspiration behind it, as well as what he’s been up to and where he’s heading next. Take a peep at what he had to say down below.
1. Nearly a month ago you dropped ‘it felt like a week’, your first album since The Time LP in late 2016. A lot has changed in the world since then, but what’s new with your life?
“Pretty much have been trying to stay sane through it all to be honest. I’ve just mainly been adjusting to everything that’s been going on. My siblings had kids so I’m ‘Uncle JayJay’ now. Just really been trying to learn more and experience more before I hit my 30’s.”
2. This latest project is 7 tracks of classic Jay Squared, from the vocal harmonies to the creative storytelling and hopeless romanticism. What’s the meaning behind the name and the story you wanted to tell with it?
“IFLAW (it felt like a week) is just a story I made between two old guys from the future reminiscing about old times. I’ll leave it up to the people to interpret what they want from it, but it’s definitely about love in different forms.”
3. Intuition tells me this latest project is actually a sequel to ‘we talked for 24 hours’, the ep you released last year, also entirely produced by rook1e. Is there any connection there?
“Yes there is. I knew as soon as I first started working with rook1e that I wanted to do a project with him, it was just a matter of timing and working harder with my team.”
4. The intro to an album often ends up being one of my favorite songs from the project, and ‘autumn bell’ is no exception. The scat style vocals you used to compose the beat is truly unique, and the way you bring it in really sets a cinematic scope for the coming experience. How did this track come about?
“I’ve been singing and just harmonizing since I was in high school and it was something I always liked to do to pass the time. How it came about was I made a playlist of songs on Spotify that I was listening to after I saw the movie “Detroit” and how it made me feel so, it was definitely hometown inspired.”
5. Your past two projects have both been produced exclusively by rook1e, cementing your place as a truly iconic duo. Where did that connection start and how has it grown over time? Do you plan on working with him more in the future?
“I’ve always been listening to rook1e for a long time, and went from a listener to a collaborator. It really started with a track we have together called Carmen that I love a whole lot.”
6. One of my favorite moments on ‘it felt like a week’ is the change in delivery on ‘tender kisses’ that happens about halfway through. The whole vibe of the song changes and becomes very introspective, pondering your place in love. To me it seemed like you had a sudden change of heart/direction when the beat fell away, and you just let it carry you forward. What was the creation of this track like?
“Well, seeing that you asked, I was in a pretty dark place when I wrote that song. Caught in between a bind with a lot going on in my life where I just wanted to really understand what was the most important thing to do at the moment, and it felt like the only thing keeping me grounded through all this was the connection that I was having in the story. Alcohol, overthinking and desires.”
7. You’ve got a real knack for fun and creative skits on your projects which helps tie your stories together. The tracks on this project are particularly entertaining, with what appears to be two men, one presumably you, reminiscing on the events you recount through the music. Where did this come from, and did you do all the voices yourself?
“The idea of the two guys having a conversation started from a conversation I had with a friend of mine and said, ‘I wonder how we’d kick game to girls if we were 79 years old.’ And we laughed about the thought of us being old and I said this would be perfect to add into the project. And no the other voice in the skits are my good friend Corderio. He’s an incredible actor.”
8. Many writers are particular about their environments when creating projects like this. What was your writing process like for ‘it felt like a week’?
“Stress induced, lack of will to go on, procrastination, and self doubt. I try to write songs as beautiful as I can even if I can’t see it with my own eyes.”
9. Another song i’m interesting in hearing about is ‘popping bottles’. It’s my favorite song on the project, with a very emotional Jay making an appearance here. It really feels like there’s real life implications behind it, so what’s the story there?
“The story behind this is about a guy that caught a girl that he liked on Instagram drinking and having fun with another guy and how he’d cope with situation at hand. He’d think that her taking pictures with this guy and posting it was the feeling of a subtle flex or like jab at the guy, in question making him sad.”
10. One of your signatures that really stands out is your beautiful vocal layering. From verses to hooks to bridges, it’s everywhere. How did this develop?
“It mainly stemmed from working with Whyandotte (best friend). With his own music he’d place certain things on his songs that would accent the track really well, and so I just thought it was really fun to do.”
11. In the outro of 12:41, where the story comes to a close, you made an interesting choice with your skit. The two characters bicker about the singing a song, and who created it, before humming the leading layer of ‘autumn belle’. What made you decide to draw the string back to the start?
“I just thought, since the project was produced with strictly loops from rook1e, I thought why not make the entire project loop in a way that was pretty noticeable. It’s weird.”
12. Long time friend and fellow musician Whyandotte is the sole feature on this project. How long have you known him and what’s your relationship like outside of music?
“I’ve known Dot since forever. Since I graduated high school, so about 2013 and Dot is my best friend. Can count on him for anything and I’d do anything for him. Really one of the hardest working, multi-talented, hilarious & trustworthy people I know.“
13. Forever Golden has really begun to cement itself into the roots of detroit hip-hop with the success of Curis Roach, BFree and of course your own musical ventures. What’s it been like working with them, and what do you guys have in the works?
“FOREVER GOLDEN IN DE HAUS. Sike. Naw, but nah those are my brothers. Dot, Tana, Curt & Free have been there from the very start of it all and we have a lot of fun doing what we do, and what we have in store is a Forever Golden project and a bunch of other different projects from pair ups of the 5 of us. But, you’ll see in the future.”
14. You’re one of the most versatile and creative artists on SoundCloud right now, and your ability to design albums and tell stories is something truly remarkable. It might be too early to know for certain, but where are you heading next? What can we expect from your future sounds?
“Quite honest, I’ve been really thinking a lot about getting into singing more soulful tracks with smooth bass lines and different instruments, but at the same time I love all music. I’ve thought about doing an indie pop band once but finding bandmates can be pretty stressful, but hey it’s all good. I’m just grateful that I’m able to voice my art to the world and elated to see that people enjoy that Detroit kid who makes the love songs. So, who knows what would be in the future, I’m just moving with how I feel in the current time.”