The Multi-Talented Soulful R&B Singer "Jay Hayden" has been working in a big way undercover for many years. Not only has he worked on some of the most well-known films and TV shows, but he is also an accomplished singer, songwriter, and producer. I had the opportunity to speak with him about his life and creative skills—Here's what he shared with me.
Hi, is this the singer-songwriter, producer, actor, comedian, Billboard Top 100 chart singer and songwriter, Jay Hayden? Yes, this is he. (laughs)
Awesome! did you want to add anything extra to that? We're going to put it all in there today. (Laughs) Hey, I appreciate you.
To prepare you for our interview, I want you to know that my approach is a little different because I am interested not only in your creative life, but also in your humanity. OK, thanks for the heads up.
My pleasure! So, let’s get into it. All right.
Awesome! So, let me first ask you, where are you located? Washington DC.
For many people who don't live in Washington, you think immediately about the White House and the President when someone says they're from Washington, DC. Isn't that funny? I know people think about the law, government, and the president, right?
I know. That's hilarious! I'm sure there are so many amazing things about your beautiful State. Historically, what is another excellent thing that Washington, DC, is known for? We’ve produced some of the best drummers in the nation.
Fantastic, I didn't know that. Yes. Many drummers from Washington play for famous people around the country, like "Usher." We just have great musicians. Washington, DC. is also known for its “Go-Go” music.
That's right! I love “Go-Go” music! It's common for people to begin playing instruments when they're young, because there's a market for them. Other cities don't allow some people to showcase their talents until they are older. In some cases, people perform live as young as 13 or 14.
That's impressive! It's great to have such an opportunity at such a young age. Providing our youth with creative opportunities shapes them in a different direction. It teaches them to think about purpose and vision rather than going in the wrong direction as they grow. Because our young people have a chance to do something positive and make money while doing it, this will keep many off the streets, so that's a great opportunity. Is church where most of them start? Yes, a lot of the drummers and keyboard players, start off playing in church and in various bands. As a result, many of our musicians are well-rounded.
You also play piano. Yes, I got involved with jazz when I was young, playing the jazz piano and playing in the church.
Did you also start singing at that time? It wasn't until later that I learned how to sing.
Awesome! I can't wait to talk more about your creative journey, but before we do that, I have a question that I can't figure out. Maybe you can help me. Yes? Ok
Awesome! Okay, so my question is, why do you think more people nowadays prefer jeans that aren't creased over jeans that are? (laughs) Well, fashion is not my strong suit, but when I was younger, I remember my Jeans being ironed, and they had creases in them, and as I got older, the jeans were no longer creased. I think it just happened over time, I guess. I can’t answer that question. (laughs)
I know because in the generation I grew up in, everyone had to have creased and starched jeans. I mean, those jeans stood up on their own. But nowadays, if anyone sees you increase jeans, you're considered old school. Funny how time changes things. Yeah, exactly (laughs)
I'm trying to understand what day and time did this happen? I guess there are just some mysteries in life that will never be solved. As far as fashion is concerned, whatever is trending in the music business starts to happen. There is always a resurgence in fashion trends. You never know, creased jeans may come back in five years and be the thing that everybody does again. It's crazy how trends set a generation's tone.
Yes, indeed. If you could bring one piece of clothing from your past into the present, which one would it be? This is the clothing item you've been wearing for a long time, and you tell everyone who asks why you're still wearing it, " I don't care what you say; In or out of style, I'm going to wear this until the day I die." That's the one I'm talking about. I used to like “Coogi Sweaters.”
Oh yes, I remember those! They were cool! Yeah, I used to love the way they fit. Wow,
you took me back!
That’s hilarious! But, it's crazy how Coogi Sweaters started making a comeback around two years ago. “Fila” as well.
Yes, I had Fila too. Yes, and “Champion” has made a comeback.
Wow! Yeah, kids are now wearing "Champion like it's something new.
Where have I been? I need to come out of lockdown for real! (laugher) Speaking of lockdown, we all had a lot of time for reflection. As an artist, where do you go for your reflective moments, and in those peaceful moments, what do you think about? In my alone time, wow, what don't I think about? I reflect on where I am in my life and where I'm trying to go. I think about my goals, the things I want to do, and how I plan to accomplish them.
In addition to my music career, I'm a businessman who owns companies. Therefore, it's always a go, go situation. In many cases, fast-paced lives don't allow you the luxury of sitting back, reflecting, or thinking in depth about how you're spending your time, your health, your family, or your goals.
I sometimes grab my phone and begin listing everything that needs to be accomplished because if I fail to do so, I will not be able to accomplish too many of these tasks or make the time for them. It's like the quote, "out of sight, out of mind." After a year has passed, you realize you did not accomplish the goals you set.
This is why I habitually write things down and check them off as I go. That way, I can always come back to remind myself, and I keep adding items to my list, you know?
Yes. That's a super wise thing to do. So many distractions can divert us while skipping along in life. The good thing is that winners like yourself set goals and accomplish them. Thank you. Yes, I reflect, meditate and clear my mind for at least 15 minutes daily. I meditate to clear my mind each day before I start my day.
The importance of clearing your mind cannot be overstated. In a conversation with my husband the other day, I mentioned how noisy our world has become. Almost every home is filled with noise; when you step outside, there's noise; when you turn on the TV or radio, there's noise; and when you use social media, there's noise. The entire globe is a vast, noisy place. Thus, we should take time out of life's hustle and bustle for reflection and direction. Well said, Jay! 3:00 am is the time when frequencies die down. That's the time when everything is quiet. Think about it. If you turn the TV on at a specific volume during the day and keep it at the same volume at night, it will sound ten times louder or appear to be because the frequencies calm down in the evening. Notice that there are not too many people riding on the road, listening to the radio, or doing construction work. You don't hear horns honking or anything like that because, at that time, all the frequencies go down.
So, for me, 3:00 am is an excellent time for reflection. Usually, after that, around 3:40 am, I'll go for a jog or walk. It's an entirely different vibe in the morning versus starting your day at 7:00, or 8:00 am. Buy, yeah, I love that time of day.
Fantastic, speaking of reflection, if you could return to the most peaceful and happy memory of your life. Where would it be, and what happened that timestamped or marked that memory? My life has been filled with many happy memories that I would love to revisit. If I could only pick one, I have to say that one of my life's happiest moments was the day my daughter was born.
That's so sweet! I'm sure she will be grinning from ear to ear when she reads this interview. When you said that, I was reminded of Stevie Wonder. When his daughter was born, he wrote the song, "Isn't She Lovely." keeping in the same subject matter of music, tell me, Jay, what is one of the most brilliantly written and performed songs that you've ever heard? Donny Hathaway, “For All We Know.”
I agree; I think Donny Hathaway was a brilliant, vocal, and creative artist. Yes.
What part of the song lyrically resonated with you the deepest? The part of Donny Hathaway's song that says, “for all we know. We may never meet again. Before you go. Make this moment sweet again. We won't say goodbye until that last moment.”
What a beautiful song. Such a timeless classic. Yes. We often wake up, perform our daily activities, and don't even pay attention to when the water is running on our fingers while washing our hands.
That's deep, Jay; you're right. Because we wash our hands so quickly, we're not paying attention to the sensation of the water touching our fingers. We're not paying attention to the lather of the soap and how that feels, nor are we present in the moment. So, in this song, he captures how he felt about one moment in his life that he did not want to end, and he sang it so passionately and poetically. I love how he captured that moment's words and essence. That's why I like that song so much. He put his soul on tape where you can hear it. He meant what he was saying, and you feel it. That's one of my favorite songs.
I agree. I also love that song; everything Donny Hathaway has done has been phenomenal. And speaking of phenomenal, somebody on the other end of my phone also fits that description, which would be you. So, let's talk about music, your outstanding music. Tell me, how did your musical journey begin, and at what point did you fall in love with music and know that that was your God-given purpose? I fell in love with music when I was around five years old. My uncle, a musician, used to practice playing the organ and the piano. At the time, he was playing for a "Go-Go" band. So, I used to sit at the top of the steps when visiting my grandmother's house and listen. I didn't want to go outside and play with my cousins because all I wanted to do was sit there and listen to music.
Then, I would move closer and closer to see what they were doing. Finally, he recognized that I had a genuine interest in music and wasn't just coming over and sitting on the steps.
So, I started learning how to play the piano. He taught me a song here and there.
What were some of the songs that you learned? You know, songs like “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” They were songs more young people just starting. From there, I began writing my own music. Because I didn't know how to play many songs, I focused on getting the fundamentals down.
Then my cousins and I would all get together and huddle around the piano using homemade instruments like someone would grab a bucket and a pan for the drum, play music and make up songs all day long. I just knew that music was something that I was passionate about. Rapping and hip-hop were my first musical endeavors, and singing came later. I didn't even know I had that ability.
How old were you when you began singing? I was in my freshman year of high school.
Who was one of the first songs that you sang in high school? Was it around that troop era? I sang” Lately” (originally by Stevie Wonder and later recorded by Jodeci.)
There's no doubt that Stevie Wonder is a brilliant songwriter and performer, arguably one of the best of all time. I believe he is also the original writer of that song, but when Jodeci sang it, they took it to another level. Especially when they said, "whoo yeah!" we didn't know what to do when they came out with the gangster look with the R&B sound. I can see them now! We were crazy over that song, didn't we? I mean, come on! (laughter) Yes, that was one of the songs I sang. (laughs)
Hilarious! So later, you became an outstanding singer, songwriter, producer, composer, and independent recording artist. Because of your massive qualifications, tell me, in your opinion, what does it mean to be an independent artist? In my opinion, being an independent artist in today's time means owning the masters, productions, body of works, copyrights, publishing, and songwriting credits.
You can put your music out independently and distribute it using a third-party distribution company to get your stuff into stores like TuneCore, Distrokid, and others. I have a distribution deal through Empire. It would be best if you had a way of making sure your book, records, and your taxes and straight. And you need to understand how to itemize all your expenses so that you can write them off those expenses at the end of the year.
You also must make sure your social media pages are up to date. As independent artists, you also have to decide which direction you're going to go into. For example, are you going to be the type of artist that only performs on social media, or are you going to do live shows? That's a decision you have to make. For the most part, being a well-rounded, independent artist means you don't have anyone else supporting or funding you. To me, that's the definition of true independent artistry. It's your label and your operation.
In contrast, some independent artists at the next level already have distribution deals established with companies providing funding for their work. I would consider those types of artists semi-independent.
OK. That's new terminology for me. Can you please explain that? Yes, that's when you have a team of individuals and resources available to you to excel in your career. When you're truly independent, you have independent contractors that you hire to carry out roles that you need to be done.
If you were a 5-year-old child and were to write an open letter to the adult singer and songwriter who writes music using strong language, violence, and lyrics that disrespect women, which is entirely the opposite of the type of music you write about loving and respecting women. What would you say to them? Wow, that's a challenging question. I would ask them, "is that how I'm supposed to treat my woman or girlfriend the way you talk about how a woman should be treated in your songs?" Or I may ask them, "Is that the way I'm supposed to talk to them?" Then I would say, "if that was your daughter, is that the way you would want me to treat her, the way you suggest in your song?" Do you know?
Yes. That's a clever way of wording it, and I don't know if a five-year-old would be wise enough to word it that way, but at times, children can shock you with their bluntness and truthfulness. (laughs)
Yes, they do! (laughs) Yeah, that would make that artist think twice about what they projected because that exact thing pushed me in the direction of writing the type of songs I write.
Speaking of the type of songs, you're right. Can you tell me more about where that inspiration came from? What causes you to write the sort of lyrical content you do? Did you witness or hear anything you shouldn't have as a child? Uhm, yeah, I would say it was how my stepfather treated my mother when I was growing up. Through watching him, I was able to witness firsthand what responsibility looked like. At the time, I learned how what disagreements looked like also. As a result, I learned how to communicate effectively. Instead of arguing about issues, I learned how to resolve them positively in an adult-like manner. As a child, I witnessed them display the same behavior.
I was also positively influenced by the music I listened to growing up. Among the artists, I listened to were Brian McKnight and Babyface. They sang love songs. At that time, most of what you heard on the radio were love songs. Sadly, you don't hear much of that anymore.
As a songwriter, I understand the times, where we're going, where we're headed, and what people are talking about.
Because I'm both a songwriter and an artist, I study the types of artists that sing the kinds of music I'm drawn to. Being raised in a loving environment and hearing love songs on the radio influenced me to become the artist I am today. For this reason, I refer to my music as "Love Counseling."
The term "love counseling" can you explain further? Yes, I refer to my music as love counseling because no matter what stage of your relationship you may be in, dating, single, newly in love, long-term relationship, a long-distance relationship, ending a relationship, going through a breakup, heartbreak or betrayal, I try to write music that will be relatable to anyone regardless of what phase of their life they're in. I want my music to help them overcome those moments and help them to know that they are right where they're supposed to be as it relates to that experience. I want them to see that they're not alone regarding that type of thing. When it comes down to love and relationships, the ups and the downs, I write music for everyone.