You sound so unique. When I think of Jersey, I’m thinking of Joe Budden, I’m just thinking of, like, spitters. And I listen to your music, and it’s so smooth, it’s wavy. It could be played in a lot of different social settings. So I really wanted to know, what were your musical influence?
Well, I always tell people the story. Like, I went to two different high schools. I went to my town’s high school, which was, like, urban town, by the way. I’m from Pens Grove, New Jersey.And then I went to an Academy, like a graphic design Academy, for two years.
So, like, two completely different crowds. So you listen to your rat and you meet new friends. They listen to their Lincoln Park.,Coldplay, Blink 182. So when you listen in all these different styles of music, you start adapting to it. So just having different experiences and being around different people, like, brought me sound together.
Okay. What led to the graphic design school, huh?
So I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the old school computers where it just had paint on it. That paint program. I used to paint every day after school, I would draw on paint, and really, I was pretty good at it. So I’ve been designing since I was, like, eight. So I got one little fight, and my mom got scared and said, you don’t.
So now that you’ve been developing those skills, are those skills that still you use today? Do you design any of your covers or anything like that?
Yeah, for sure. Because I actually want to design cars later on. Like the outer body of cars, right. I’m, like, super into that. Yeah, that’s one of my plans, so, yeah, I’m glad I did it. Growing up. Sometimes if I need some quick graphic design work, I just do it myself.
Yeah, I like that, though, because it sounds like you’re already thinking ahead of things outside of music. So what are some things you’re looking at to kind of do outside of the music strategy?
I want to open up a film studio where, like, models and anybody wants to do pictures, videos can really come to. I want a super dope film studio, though, because I’ve been to plenty. When you’re shooting your videos, you’re like, this is all it takes for you to make all this money.
Okay, cool. So that’s one of my plans, some type of foundation. I just want to figure out how to help raise the awareness of what needs to be done after high school. I want to build people up to that because I feel like a lot of people, they just go through life, like, in the early years thinking, like, everything’s going to be sweet once you’re an adult and they don’t really know. So I would want to have something like that.
It’s funny you say that because I was watching the Kanye guy and kind of just seeing how when he was in the early intermediate stage with his career, he was kind of already thinking, okay, I want to do fashion, I want to do this and that. So is he one person that you find some inspiration from? Because I do find it interesting that your mind is already on things beyond just music.
Oh, for sure. That’s my favorite artist of all time.. I literally watch everything he does. I was tuned into that documentary. As soon as it drops to me, it’s going to be one of the greatest documentaries ever.
Only because with our icons, you never get to see that much footage from the beginning. We don’t have that. We don’t have that from Michael Jackson, Prince, Jay-Z. We don’t have that from anybody. So the fact that he started filming that early, that’s why I say that, not just because of time.
I do agree. Has that inspired you? With the climate we’re in, musicians got to make music, but they also got to be like concentrators in the sense where they got to create content to bring the fans. And after seeing that doctor, is that something that you’re kind of interested in doing in the future?
Yeah, for sure. I was actually trying to do it with this project, to be honest.But so I plan on doing it for the next one for sure. Because I like when J. Cole does it, it’s just good when they get to see the process because everybody thinks you just go in there and you just nail it on that one day.
Right. So let’s take it back. You start from Jersey, you’re a guy that you see, I can already tell with your mind you’re into so many different things. What kind of has to happen for you to realize that you want usage to be your initial vehicle to doing all the other stuff first.
I feel like just God in general because to go from being a rapper from the age of twelve to my kidney surgery when I turned 22 and then make a completely different sound of music, I just feel like that’s straight from God. So I feel like the music is the vessel to do other things.
Right. Did the music change after the surgery? Did you have a different insight on life?
Hell yeah. I had a super big surgery. I had a kidney mass removal surgery. So I was down for a month and once I woke up and I realized I was going to be in the hospital for a week, I’m like, you know what, I always wanted to try different stuff, but I was scared because, you know, you’re in College and people know you.
For one thing, you’re like, I’m about to do a complete 360 right now. So it’s a little scary, but you got to have a talk with yourself. Like, okay, am I going to hold back Because I’m worried about what other people are going to say, that once it hits the masses, It’s not really going to matter anyway. So, yeah, it’s more so just having a real talk with yourself.
What were you doing at the time? You said you’re in College? What were you into at that time?
So I was studying business management, and I had a minor in graphic design at Cane University. I‘m from South Jersey, which is, like, 2 hours away from new York and everything. So I told myself, I was like, yeah, I’m going to go to school in North Jersey. I’m going to build relationships up there, snd I’m going to get a record deal in New York. That was my plan when I left from high school.
Right. What was your viewpoint being from Jersey? What was the kind of viewpoint of New York? Because I know, I understand there’s an interesting relationship between Jersey and people from new York. So was your idea that you were going to bubble in Jersey And then go to New York?
Just move as fast as the people from new York. Just be on top of everything. When you meet people in the room, Stay in touch with them, and that’s going to lead to something else. Like, I feel like if you get one room, one relationship will lead to another one. So I just always had that type of, like, mindset. If I go up, if I leave from home, I’m making something happen.
At the time, did it feel like you could blow up just by focusing on Jersey, or did it feel like was a necessary piece in order to get to where we wanted to go?
It’s definitely a necessary piece. That’s where the radio stations are up here. That’s where a lot of the platforms are. That’s where a lot of the corporations are in general. It’s just the mecca of hip hop in general.
So after being in the studio, creating music and trying to push it as best as possible, what was that distinct moment where you felt like, okay, I’m making traction. This is starting to work. I’m heading in the right direction.
When I was in College, And I was actually having several label meetings, like, L.A. Reid called me to the office twice. I’m like, this is L.A. Reid, he’s calling me back. Even though he didn’t sign me, it was just the fact that it was him calling. I’m in college at the moment, so this is like people don’t even believe me. Like, I just left L.A. Reid’s office.
Right. So the L.A. Reid conversations felt like you were moving in the right direction. What happened after this?
I ended up signing with Republic Records. It was a great learning experience for me. I got to perform at the BET, experience, cool stages at South by Southwest TV shows, Power Rangers, movie. So it brought more opportunities. And plus it helped me learn, like, a lot about just the business in general.
Right. What did you learn? What were some of the things that you didn’t necessarily know about how a label situation goes? Maybe how big marketing teams are all there? What were some things you learned?
I learned to build it up. You got to build it up. I learned to have your own team first. That’s going to get the majority of the work done. Like from the digital marketing to the videos to the talents, the touring scouts. I learned have your own team for that first, because then when the label comes in, it’s just an add on, right.
So you never want to just be going to the label with your hands out. Like, yeah, we need this from you guys. So that’s the main thing I learned.
How do you feel getting all those placements, though? You talk about getting a Power Rangers sync. Just talk about the importance, not just how cool it is to have these things, but the importance, the financial implications of getting your users on these major corporations.
So for one, while you’re trying to blow up, getting tv and movie placements, they definitely help your pockets in the meantime. It’s also a reminder that you can actually do this, because sometimes you might get down on yourself.
This song going to play on the video game forever, you know what I’m saying? Yeah. It helps you keep pushing forward while you’re trying to blow up because of course, the goal is to be one of the biggest or be really in the discussion. So while that’s happening, if those things can happen, it’s good for your mindset.
Absolutely. So you’re having all these things and things of that nature. Is this coming out of College or are you still in College after you in College?
So I took my last semester off and ended up signing, so I’m out of school [at this time].
So you do that, how are you sustaining life? Trying to figure it out as an artist, I think that’s something that we don’t really talk about a whole lot between the media and artists. How’d you sustain your day to day life as a musician, before you get the big break.
You got to get your hustle on. And for me, luckily, I had a good team who were like, financially stable, making sure I was good for me. But I know a lot of times you might sign a deal and you still got to do some Uber.
You got to do some Uber until the big checks come in or the tour comes where you’re getting paid something every show. Like, you gotta hustle, right? You gotta hustle, man.
Absolutely. I agree. So then after signing, you learn a whole lot of information. Where does that leave you after initially signing with Republic and being on the label for a while. What’s the next chapter after that?
The next chapter is kind of doing the things I always wanted to do. Like, for example, this EP is a visual EP, so it’s going to be seven videos back to back altogether. Almost like almost like a short film, but it’s still music videos.
It’s not a short film, but this is something I always wanted to do. I feel like it’s something different. It’s going to bring people and it’s like, all right, well, who’s Jay Watts? Why should I listen to him? Then you’re like, “oh, that was kind of cool”. So now it’s really about building it up and showing I’m actually dope and I can’t be compared to.
How does that come about in real life? Because it’s one thing to have an idea, like “ Yeah, I want to make this EP a short film”, but then it’s another thing to actually do it. How does that come?
Well, I say the same thing I say to everybody else when they come to me for, like with an idea or something. I’m like, yeah, the hardest thing to do is get started. But once you get started, you’re already locked in. So I was talking about it for a long time. As soon as we shot that first one, it was time to go. So we did it in two weeks. But we were on it after that first one we got. We’ve been on it, so we just finished filming last week.
That’s impressive. That is really impressive. And I think it just highlights your artistic capabilities dating all the way back to graphic design because we’ve seen Kanye do it with my beautiful dark sister fantasy. We’ve seen the real artistic guys turn their music into almost like a film sport combined with the short film.
And I think that’s really a creative way to show the people your artistic capabilities. So let’s get into the EP, though. Let’s give the fans an idea of what kind of music you’re getting based off the EP. What do you want the fans to know about the EP as far as what kind of music and tone you’re going to give them?
So for me, this EP was like a lot of past experiences, so every record is almost like its own vibe. It was a time when I was going to One Oak. So you get the rap stuff planned and you might hear some disco songs playing.
So you got a song like “Antidote”, on there where it’s like a blend of that. I feel like you could get a different experience from every song. It’s a different lesson in every song as well. So like them in particular. Right. I wrote this about a time where it’s like I didn’t care about much.
Like, I was just so locked in on music, I didn’t care about anybody’s feelings. I’m like, I’m just trying to make it blah, blah, blah. So it’s like you realize I was kind of like a POS at the moment pieces in the show. I’m like, why was I like this? You know what I’m saying?
Yeah, absolutely. Because as an artist, I’m sure you have to balance chasing what you want and getting stuff done on an individual level. But obviously you still have friendships and relationships with family and other people that you got to tend to. How do you balance it?
I do a lot of guided meditations on YouTube. It’s a weird goal, but I really want to meet, like, some monks so I could meditate with some monks at least once a week or once a month.
Got you. So you really dig into the meditation space.
Just making sure the energy is pure super, like super intuitive.
That’s imperative to your music, huh? I said, is that important for the music in order for you to be able to produce the music that you want to produce, to kind of be clear mental.
I think it’s more for life outside of music because. I’m pretty sure since you’re in the media world, so it’s like you meet a lot of people who you think you like, they call you bro, they do all these things, and then when it’s not that it gets to you, it’s going to upset you. So it’s like, I do it more so I know how to stay cool during situations like that. Right. There’s, like, so much fakeness going on that it’s sickening.
Yes, does the fakeness in the industry makes you feel like you want to just create music within your circle? Are you opposed to collaborations? Because, like you said, in the music industry, if you’re running around meeting a bunch of people, not everybody’s going to be thorough.
Does that make you want to just be like, “you know what? I’m just going to make my own music”, kind of stay out the way and create what I create. Does it leave you jaded?
I’m not jaded yet. I’m always down to work now it’s more so I keep a little wall up. I don’t think it’s bad to do that in music. Like, you can work with people and still have a wall up.
I think the wall is necessary. I do think it’s necessary, especially on the artist side, where you’re running to a lot of people with certain personalities and certain traits and they might say one thing and then do the other. So I do think it is important to have mental sanity.
Could you do a song with somebody that you don’t really bump with like that? Maybe you’re like, this person is talented, but they’re a little off, a little interesting. We don’t Bob like that, but I feel like the talent is so much so that I think we’ll make great music. How do you choose?
I feel like I don’t have to like you or you don’t have to like me necessarily. You don’t have to be best friends for us to make a great record for everybody else. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about you.
It’s about the people, too, right? It’s business, but it’s more so like, people come to you to get them through their day, through your music, bro. You got to do everything it takes to get that out. So if me and somebody, I don’t like to make a great product, then cool, right.
What’s it like in the studio for you, though? A lot of everybody has on studio rituals like, what’s yours? What needs to be done in order for Jay Watts to have productive and good, smooth studio session?
Nobody there, okay. Me and the beat and no distractions, not even an engineer because I know how to engineer slightly so it can be touched up once I’m done. I like recording by myself.
Because your music is very personable as well, and you’re running off of personal experiences and just the type of sonically, the kind of music that you’re making.
It does sound like somebody who’s kind of just locked in by themselves, just making this type of music so they can just express it how they want to express it. Have you ever had a life experience that was just so real that you felt like, “man, I can’t even make a song about the situation” because there’s too many emotions attached to it?
Oh, yeah, for sure. Definitely. I feel like everything isn’t for everybody.
Do you think that you could make music that’s not really anything personal, or do you feel like all music has to come from a certain situation?
I think you can make music that isn’t personal. It might be from something somebody else told you about their life. I’ve done that. I don’t think it always has to be personal. Just try to make it relatable, help somebody. Absolutely.
What are you trying to get out of 2022? Starting off early first quarter, dropping this really dope idea. What are you going to do for the next however, so many months that we have 2022 in order for you to get to where you want to be?
I want to do two more projects, so I want to have this year to be three projects altogether. And I want to keep doing this visual EP thing.
And every time it just gets better, like, once we get to the third one, it should really be like a short film and not just music videos, basically. You know what I’m saying? For me, this is the real build up, the real like, I can compete and I’m here type of year for me.
Speaker 1 (25:22)
Right. And that feels good that you can even say that because that takes a lot. You got to put your 10,000 hours. You didn’t feel like this could be the year where it’s like you really put your foot down, represent Jersey and where you come from on a large scale.
For sure, man. For sure, we’re done filming. I’m ready to start working on the next thing.
What is the next thing outside of music? Do you plan on doing anything outside of just putting out music in the videos? Because I know as an artist in 2022, you’ve got to be so creative to really just stand out. Like, the music has to be on board, the content has to be on floor.
You got to have so many things from so many different angles in order to be where you want to be. In 2000.2, we got Instagram, all these influences, everybody making music. So, like, what exactly what else is on the docket that you can reveal?
Oh, so I want to bring back my little YouTube series since I’m finished with the project. It’s called “Let me Try This Shit”. It’s where I basically do things I normally wouldn’t do. The first episode I’m going to shoot is me going snowboarding at the mall.
We have this super big slope at American Dream, and that’s something I’m afraid of – I’m scared of heights, but I’m going to try it. I’ve seen you can do meditation with goats, so that will be one of the episodes. Just doing stuff that’s not forced because I like trying stuf,. my girlfriend got me into trying a lot of different stuff. So yeah, man. I wanted to make a series out of it, so I’m going to bring that back.
That’s super dope, man. Because with the access to YouTube for artists, it’s like your TV channel and this little thing and this thing you’re doing is like your TV show and you’re just constantly feeding the fans a bunch of music, a bunch of videos, a bunch of different content that doesn’t even have anything to do with music. So you can build that personable relationship with the fans.
And I think that’s really dope. I think that’s some very much visionary stuff because I still don’t think that YouTube is taking advantage of in the way that it should be for artists. We have all the stuff that you can put for your fans. I think that’s really dope.
Right. People don’t realize that little series you’re doing might turn into actual TV show on MTV. Where do you do cooler stuff, right. With a bigger budget.
Right. I like that, man. I think the music is really good, and I think it does match your personality. Plus the music. And I think you’re sitting in a spot where you probably feel very confident in what you got going on in the next harvest. So many years.
Just because your brain is already thinking on this kind of wave as far as okay, I want to do the show. I just think that you’re hitting everything at the right spot, and it’s only a matter of time. I think that with you putting out these three projects this year, you’re giving the fans enough output so that you just constantly keep putting it in their face. Wow. Exactly. I love it though. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you for sure.
Likewise, brother. Likewise.
Jay Watts “ANTIDOTE” EP is out now on all streaming platforms.