Up Next: Jay Saint
If there’s one artist that performed during MOBIfest that I was personally impressed by, it was Jay Saint. He hit the stage with a vengeance and gave a high-energy show with even better choreo. His song, ‘Push Away’ has become one of my personal jams and until we sat down for this interview, I had no idea he wrote the chorus for one of Danity Kane’s early bops. He talks more about that and his early start in the music industry below.
Hi Jay! Let’s start with your background and what brought you to New York.
I was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. I lived there until I was 9 and moved to New York when I was 10. I was going back and forth from the D.R. to Haiti because my mom is Haitian and my Dad is Dominican. They were trying to figure out how to raise their kids because there was a lot of feuding between Haiti and the D.R. at the time. It was really bad so they decided to put us on a boat and we came here. People joke and ask, ‘did you come on a boat?’ and yea, I did. (laughs).
We went from Haiti to Miami. From there we moved to Brooklyn. The majority of my family that came from Haiti lived in Jersey so we moved there. I did all of my school in Jersey.
That’s a great story! I know the Caribbean can be very tough for gay and queer people. How was that dynamic for you?
There really is a crazy dynamic there. They’re really fixed on boys being boys and girls being girls. There’s no happy medium. A lot of times they’re fixated on you growing up to be a doctor and nothing else is really deemed as being successful or important. Many times when you see families leaving there to come to the United States, they want their kids to grow up and have those types of professions. Anything else doesn’t seem successful. Anything else is a waste of time. In terms of sexuality, that’s something I never thought I could talk to my parents about because I knew they would never understand. But times have changed! They are definitely more accepting of everything that I do.
When did you realize that music was your passion?
I have to start with my mom. My biggest fan is my mom. She’s always been team Jay Saint. She used to tell me that I was going to be an opera singer. She very much has a passion and love for the arts and for music. She didn’t push me in that direction, but she always supported. Of course there were differences between me and my brothers because my brothers were the athletes, so I was definitely the outcast growing up. Once my dad saw something in me, he was like, ‘he’s kind of good’ so he supported too. It was a team thing with the both of them. So anything I wanted to do, whether it was dance or music - they were all in. From there, it was we have a singer in the family! We have a performer in the family. It was really when I was 16 that it was really evident.
What was the moment when you first decided to do music?
My Freshman year of college I met a student that was a music major and I actually considered changing my major to music. I couldn’t because of my football schedule. My friend had access to the studio so he offered to work with me and lay some stuff down. I hadn’t wrote a song before, but I had wrote so many of my teammate’s papers! We went to the studio and I wrote a song and it just happened.
Tell me about the first music project you put out.
The first project I put out was a mixtape that I had worked on for 4 years. It was all original music. It was a lot of work. I had to put it on pause at one point. I left school and had to figure out what studios to go to. I had to come to terms with paying hourly for studio time because I had become accustomed to having it for free. I had to start saving money. That’s when I realized that in order for me to be an independent artist I would have to spend a lot of money. I had to invest in myself. Once everything came together it was so easy. I put the mixtape on DatPiff and paid $600 to have it featured on the front page for a week.
My mixtape was getting hit after hit after hit. They promoted it on twitter and people were re-tweeting it. The feedback was out of this world. It led me to a guy from J Records who was transitioning to Bad Boy. At the time, Making the Band with Day26 was big. I ended up meeting with him and I thought it was all bullshit at first. He had a new artist at Bad Boy named Wish that he was working with. She had one song called ‘Baby Daddy,’ and another song that catered to the gay community, and I wrote a few records for her. The label loved the records, but they didn’t love her. They felt she was too invested in the gay community. When I saw that, it was confirmation to not open my mouth and just stay in my lane. She lost the deal, but they loved my records. That’s when they asked if I wanted to write for Day26. They were airing the second season of Making The Band with Danity Kane for their second album and I told them I could write a really dope pop record. That’s when I started writing for the girls.
I remember going into a room and seeing all the writers. I had been studying all the successful writers and I remember seeing this one writer because she wrote Beyonce’s ‘Halo.’ She was talking about writing structure and how to draw in the audience; how the B section needs to climax into the chorus. ‘So if you don’t have a climax into the chorus, then you don’t have a song, honey!’ And that’s exactly how she said it. Every time I wrote in that environment I always thought about a climax - something that’s going to stick. That melody has to stick. If you didn’t remember anything, you would remember my chorus. She listened to the song that I wrote for the girls and she loved it! Everyone had a hand in it, but I remember her asking who wrote the chorus and of course I let her know. The chorus ended up being Danity Kane’s ‘Pretty Boy.’ I wrote a few other things, but that’s one of my proudest moments.
Wow! ‘Pretty Boy’ is my song! I love Danity Kane. That’s awesome! I remember you mentioning a music video you just shot in LA. Are you working on any new music now?
I’m actually working on an EP now. I hope to release it at the end of October. The vibe is definitely R&B with a lot of Island and Afro influences. Naturally, I sing that way. I grew up on Bob Marley and Stevie so it’s going to be that kind of mesh of artists that make up my sound. I love the way Tank writes and I love the way Brandy structures her records.
What kind of artist do you want to be known as?
I want to be known as an artist that was real. I want to be the real one. There’s a lot of stigma towards gay men in music. They’re supposed to look a certain way and walk a certain way. We’re supposed to look like Bobby Lytes. But there’s artists like Lil Nas X and Frank Ocean. We need an artist that’s just out and not fabricated. We need a man. I think that’s definitely a lane for me. I can be sexy, I can be vulnerable, and be myself and not be so pointed.
What can we expect from Jay Saint in the future?
You can expect a lot of shirtless pictures (laughs). You can expect a lot of content and great music. Great music with solid substance!