Interview: Jay James Picton
Published on April 16th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Five years ago, Jay James Picton was a physical training instructor and a player of representative rugby and footballer. One injury lay-off and a few time-filling online guitar tutorials later and he’s a soul singer working on his debut album with John Legend, Booker T. Jones and James Poyser, with Hal David and Roger Daltrey among those to express their admiration.
Rocksucker fired Jay over some questions and received back the following, wonderfully enthused set of replies; first though, check out his three-part music film series Heads vs Hearts…
How did the Rebecca Ferguson tour go?
Wicked, genuinely ace to get out gig and meet so many people. We played 22 dates in the space of four weeks across the whole of the country, so to connect with that many people in all areas of the UK was honestly an amazing experience. Was really good to perform too, it’s been a long time in the studio creating so it felt like a great release to finally be out and about expressing.
Heads vs Hearts is such an unorthodox project for a new artist to get involved in. What gave you the idea? What were other people’s initial reactions?
When I thought of the concept I felt so buzzed about creating it, I honestly wasn’t too fussed if anyone liked it or not. As an artist you get put in so many pigeon holes about who your like or what you should do or be, whether it’s unorthodox or not normal, but for me it’s about creating and expressing something special. The obvious hopes that people will relate or connect come later after the satisfaction of creating. Initially only a few people got why I wanted to do it, but after I had written the script, people were really really buzzed about it!
How does it feel to have someone like James Poyser singing your praises? How did you come to his attention?
James played on the majority of my album. Naturally I’m mutually a fan of his and his work. He is as humble as he is talented, and to hear he said certain things is obviously special.
How did you manage to rope in Booker T Jones and John Legend? And how did you go about the songwriting with each of them?
Booker and I are signed to the same publisher. The CEO at the time John Rudolph suggested we get together and after Booker heard some stuff he was well up for it. When I got back from Brooklyn recording the album I literally flew straight out to LA to work with B. The experience was insane, definitely a massive highlight in my career and life.
Whilst in LA I worked with an amazing producer called Malay; he had worked with John Legend on the Evolver album. Malay ended up spreading love about me and connecting with John, and we ended up doing “O There She Goes”. I’m a big fan of John so naturally I was buzzed!
Do you know yet when the album will be released?
Some time during the summer!
How long have you been singing for? Your bio suggests that you stumbled upon your voice by accident, but surely with a voice like that you must have been singing all your life, even if just to yourself.
I’ve been singing for just over five-odd years now. Genuinely I had no interest in singing, music or concern to express any forms of emotion! Its pretty strange for me honestly; the only singing I had ever done was probably aged 5 in school or chanting on the bus back from rugby with 17 others. The whole experience has felt like it’s happened for a reason.
Are you still a keep-fit enthusiast? Is it hard to find the time to exercise when you’re out on the road?
Not as much as I was. I lived and breathed sport and fitness my whole life! When I found music I suddenly had this different focus and way of expressing myself. Definitely hard to find time but I still workout two-odd times a week dependant on schedule.
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming artists that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
The 3 Point 0 Crew. Martyna Baker is amazing! Cinematic; check out “Fly”! Random Impulse is sick! Twizzle‘s going big! Naughty Boy‘s album is gonna be off the scale! Malay & 10! Collaborations album is also gonna be wild!! Stacy Barthe ! Malay produced the new Frank Ocean album – I hear it’s new level!
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?
Wow! Hard. Ummmmm… Nas, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Paul McCartney and Aretha Franklin. Classic and timeless!
Jay James Picton, thank you.