Jay Carteré is a 21-year-old rapper, producer and songwriter from London. I sat down to talk to him about his new EP, The Love Story, his business plans, his advice for other artists and just about everything in between.
It’s a pretty long interview, so I’ve spit it up into the key sections covered.
What made you want to record a dance project?
Basically in my first year of uni, like everyone was listening to house and whatnot. Prior to this I fucking hated house. I was like “That’s disgusting. I’m not dealing with that”, but because all my classmates were so infatuated with it I thought “You know what, there might be something here. Let me check it out, see wagwan, see if I can get to enjoy it init” so I went home, searched for house and whatnot and I found people like Avicii, Calvin Harris… Stuff like that basically. I went back to uni, I was like “Yeah, house is sick. I like these guys.” They were like “No, that is not house. That is dance.” and I was like “You know what? Fuck house then, I like this dance shit” and then that was how I started making dance music basically.
I tried to learn about the genre a little bit. I listened to loads of dance music and just really got into that and immersed myself in the genre. I listened to all these artists just trying to get inspiration and whatnot. 12 tracks later I decided I was going to make and EP of like 7 of the tracks and one of them as a bonus and that became The Love Story EP.
What about dance made you want to make it? I mean you’ve been making rap for how long now?
When I was 13 I was making grime and I think it was when I was 14 that I changed to rap. it was a really hard transition because grime’s just… you just chat shit basically. It’s more aggressive. With rap you have to actually have a story. You can be witty with grime, but I felt that I needed to have more substance for rap. I needed to actually talk about my story and my life and stuff like that. At that time I really didn’t have anything to talk about, but I just jumped into it and tried to make the best of the situation.
Dance is so different. When you told me I didn’t think you could do it and I wrote that in my review.
I made a couple pop songs and shit here and there. Once you break it down, it’s quite easy. I felt that it was easier than making rap beats. Definitely.
Do you still find that?
I haven’t made a dance beat in ages, so I wouldn’t know.
Tracks like Drug Music make me feel like you’re a real g and all that, what made you want to make a project about love? Like, you’ve made songs about girls, but this is about love.
Well I didn’t wanna just make songs about girls. I didn’t wanna be that guy that just makes songs about fucking girls and stuff. I feel that’s tasteless and I wanted to move away from that. Everyone goes through love. Everyone experiences love and shit in their life – relationships and that sort of stuff – so it’s something that everyone can relate to. I guess that was the main reason.
Why did you choose your dance project to showcase such different subject matter?
Basically, songwriting is easier when you’re singing and love is just a universal topic. Not every song was about love and I made like 11 tracks and then I whittled it down to the best ones and I guess the best ones were about love and I saw that those 6 tracks in a particular order told a story init, so that’s why I called it The Love Story and made it into what it is. I wanted a cohesive project.
Are you going to make more singing songs now?
Yeah. The reason I want to make more rap songs is because I’m not comfortable singing in public and I’m just not comfortable singing, so I wanted to make more rap songs so I could perform them. I probably prefer making singing songs. I find it a lot easier. It comes more naturally.
Do you prefer the act of actually singing as opposed to rapping?
No. I prefer rapping because it’s easier on my vocal chords and whatnot. There’s less thought that goes into it.
If you’re just at home do you prefer singing?
I guess so because it feels like there’s pressure on me to be good when I’m rapping. I can’t just start rapping anything.
So you didn’t specifically sit down to write the project around one topic?
Nah it’s definitely not around one thing. I also wanted to make music that people can dance to because I realised that all my rap songs that I made… they’re low-key and you can’t really buss a skank to them init. I wanted songs that people can actually dance to because that’s what music’s for I guess. That’s what I felt was the purpose of music, to make people move their body and whatnot, and that’s what I wanted to do.
How does producing dance music differ from rapping in terms of the process?
Well, for dance it’s easier because the drums are very simple. Well the way I produce anyway, the drums are very simple. It’s just boom clap init, so that’s easy. Coming up with the melodies, like I kind of ran out of stuff to do, but it’s easier because you just basically use chords. With rap, if you use chords, it might sound a bit cheesy. It’s more melody based sometimes. It depends what kind of rap songs you’re making to be honest. They all differ.
How did you go about learning to produce dance music? Did you research it or just go in and experiment?
I definitely didn’t just go in and experiment. I researched and watched a load of tutorials on YouTube about how to produce dance music and then I downloaded a tutorial series which I watched and that really helped me produce The Night and then from then I was just listening to loads of dance music and immersing myself in the culture. Like what the tropes are, what to do, what not to do I guess. I wanted to make songs that weren’t super long dance songs, like basically pop songs with dance elements, so I really focused on what Calvin Harris was doing because that was the kind of thing that I wanted to go towards. He was a big inspiration.
How do you go about writing? Do you pick a subject and then write or do you write and see what comes out?
It depends. I haven’t tried to write those sort of songs in a long time. The last time I tried to write a proper singing song was for my uni course and for that specific assignment you had to implement a theme. That made it much easier. I just thought of the theme and just wrote a song around it, like a love song around it. Sometimes I’ll just have a lyric that sounds good and I’ll try put it to a beat and just go with that. Sometimes I’ll have a subject I want to tackle and go with that. Sometimes I’ll just write because I’ve got ideas in my head. It’s different every time really.
The uni song, will we see it?
It’ll come out eventually. I don’t know when, but it’ll be out.
There’s been a lot of build up to this project. You made The Night in October 2013 and didn’t release it until August 2014. You’ve blogged and tweeted about dance music and there’s been a lot of build up. What’s the plan now?
I may release the extra songs that didn’t make it onto the EP and then start releasing rap songs and whatnot. I plan to release some rap projects this year.
During your love affair with dance music did you ever miss making rap stuff and is that why you put rap verses on your dance songs?
Well the main reason I put rap verses on my dance stuff was because I like rapping and I like the contrast between singing a verse and a rap verse. I wanted to show people I can rap, like I wanted people to be like “Oh he’s a singer” and then hear the rap verse and be like “Oh he can rap”
Did you miss making proper rap songs?
To the end of the project, yeah. I started getting really tired of making dance songs and doing the same thing. I just felt like I wanted to get back to rapping and making more harsh songs and that sort of stuff, so yeah I guess so. Eventually.
I feel like I can split your rap music into drugs and girls. Do you agree?
What do you mean by girls though? Any song that has a female in it?
Yeah like even going back to Snickers + Pringles. Posh Girls, Latino Chick…
Hoe Into A Housewife. Well what am I supposed to talk about? I didn’t wanna just talk about trapping. I didn’t wanna be that type of artist. My experiences was just with girls init.
Does that not subconsciously mean that this is what you think your life is? Girls and drugs.
No, it just means that those are the experiences that are entertaining enough to put on a song. If you listen to my first mixtape, Get Involved, which ain’t even online no more, I had deeper tracks about life and shit. it’s those kind of feelings. Certain stuff I just don’t wanna talk about and I don’t feel comfortable putting it on a track and just baring my heart out ‘cause then when I’m playing in front of someone or when I’m performing I just feel really uneasy and self-conscious.
Do you feel you have confidence issues? When you play me your new stuff you just look down.
Everyone likes different things. I feel like it makes for a dishonest reaction if I look at someone while I play them my stuff. I want your honest opinion.
Were you worried about how The Love Story would be received since it’s so different from your previous work?
Not really. I’ve got nothing to lose cause it’s not like there’s loads of people say “Ahh yeah we want your next rap project, don’t release a dance thing.” At this point in my career, I don’t feel like there’s enough people to piss off.
Are we going to see any more videos for the songs on The Love Story?
Well, Lighthouse is out now. I started making a video for The Night. It was gonna be an animation video. I wanted to keep it a surprise and then release it out of no where, but since that didn’t happen I’ll let you imagine what it could have been. It might come out one day, so I won’t tell you the exact concept. I don’t wanna spoil that. I don’t know if I’m gonna do more videos for my dance stuff. It’s much easier to make rap videos on the budget that I’ve got. It’s hard being a student and trying to pursue your dreams on limited funds, so I don’t know whether I can make and more dance videos. I’ve got ideas of what the videos could be like, but I just don’t have the funds to execute them.
Do you plan to experiment with any other genres of music in the future?
I don’t know to be honest. Like I always wanted to make like a funk-inspired thing, but I don’t know if that’s gonna happen and Michael keeps on telling me to get into grime. I just want to focus on these rap projects that I want to release this year and see how that goes and then I’ll do whatever comes to me. I need to feed my core fanbase.
Do you have any other plans for this year other than your music?
Well I should be relaunching the JCMpire website soon which will be a hub for artists to get artist development, music videos, PR, web design, mixing and mastering and all that shit. It’s like a one stop shop for up and coming artists. I guess that’s what I’m gonna be trying to push forward.
You’ve been tweeting about a book you’ve been writing. That came out of no where. What’s that about?
You should now know that the title is How To Make A Song At Home, so it’s pretty easy to guess what that’s going to be about. It basically goes through the process of how to make a song, from production to writing to mixing and mastering. It’s just a brief overview of all that sort of stuff, so if you wanna save some money and don’t want to go to a professional studio you can make a song at home.
For an artist, you know quite a lot about the music business. You’ve studied it and all that shit, so what do you look for in a manager?
If they’ve got the same amount or less experience than me it wouldn’t be worth it. I need them to bring something to the table and to have knowledge that I just don’t know. The only thing I really want a manager for is connections and investment. Maybe I’m better off getting a board of directors.
Connections to do what? Get a record deal? You wouldn’t want to do stuff under JCMpire?
I would like to sign a deal so I have guaranteed money and extra pushing power. All I’d have to worry about is making the music and making the music as good as it can be.
You wouldn’t be afraid they’re try and change your music?
Depends on the label. I don’t think every record label is the devil. I don’t think everyone wants to sell something so watered down that even a baby can drink it. I think most labels just want a product that can sell and I wanna make a product that can sell. I don’t wanna make some super obscure type of music that only I like and no one else likes. I believe that’s selfish. I want to make music that other people can enjoy too. If the label had an idea of a direction that just wasn’t for me, I could write the song and give it to another artist. I’m happy to do that. Obviously though I want to make music that’s true to me and I actually enjoy. If I don’t enjoy it, it won’t get put out because it’ll compromise my character, my image, my integrity and all that shit.
I know you have writer’s block at the moment It’s like your yearly spring period. Do you not feel like by the time you get to a stage where you’re just putting out albums on iTunes you’ll have nothing left to write about?
Nah cause if I get money I can write about that. That’s what Jay Z does init. Having money means I can experience more stuff and live more life. Like experience more cultures and stuff, not just being a student in London and being broke and shit. And I could buy shit and rap about it. I could try out red velvet cake and be like “Mmm this is good still”. I’d invest. I’d push my businesses and hopefully that’d make money. I’d rap about my business ventures and how you can chase your dreams blah blah blah. Stuff like that.
Even now, there are many experiences I’ve had that I’ve never talked on.
Student Life, Advice & The World Of Work
You’ve talked about being a student and having a budget. In Love Of Money we saw how you budgeted your way to a music career. What would be your advice for other people trying to pursue music on a budget?
Well, if you want to sell drugs don’t sell weed sell crack or heroin or that sort of stuff. Personally, I feel it’s morally wrong to sell crack or heroin. It’s fine to sell weed ‘cause you’re not really hurting people, but there’s not money in it. If you’re thinking about selling weed you might as well get a 9-5 job because it makes the same amount of money and it’s guaranteed and there’s less risks. Hopefully your parents have money. If you’re parents have money, you can go through that route. If they don’t, then…
What if you can’t get a 9-5 job?
Go uni for the student loan. You can have shit grades and go to a shit uni and still grab student loan. I did BTEC at school and went to college. I tried to study psychology and a couple other things at Barnet and they were like “Nah, these BTECs don’t count as anything” so I was like “Ahh, peak times”. Instead I looked at a BTEC business course and I did that for half a year and then I realised that there was a music business course at Access To Music, so I bust out of that college and started an early course in the summer at Access To Music. Their qualifications are like Rockschool diplomas, which ain’t really A levels either. They’re basically BTECs again. When I was applying for unis, I guess that kind of limited me. I didn’t even wanna go uni, but I thought about it and I was like “Yeah I guess that will buy me some time and student loan, which I can invest in my career.” Plus, I studied music production at uni cause I wanted to get more into that, but I ended up teaching myself, so I guess the course became obsolete.
If you could choose to go back in time and grow up with the same family but more money, do you think you would? Or do you think your experiences with money have shaped you as a person?
It’s definitely helped shape me as a person as I’ve seen the struggle of having no money. I’ve had no money, I’ve seen my mum have no money and all that sort of shit. I’ve just experienced that and I know what it’s like and I don’t want to live like that.
I think if I had money though, I’d always have money and I’d have someone to teach me to have money, so I’d definitely pick that.
What if the money was from the lottery?
I’d pick that. I’d rather start life off with money.
Moving out so young, have you found it difficult to chase your dreams while knowing that you don’t have a fall back? Do you feel there’s more pressure? Is it good pressure?
Well, it’s definitely not good pressure because even if I was at home I’d still be working hard. Living at home would probably put more stress on me telling me to get a job and shit.
Your mum still moans at you telling you to get a job…
Exactly. I’d be hearing that and my mum says she’s proud of me because I got out and got my own place and all that short of shit. If I was still at home, she’d just be moaning at me and I’d have to hear it every day which is not the best living environment. It’s not good pressure, but there is pressure. The stresses do demotivate me sometimes.
If you had to get a job tomorrow, what would you be doing?
Social media management.
Twitter. I’ll do Twitter’s Twitter management because then they’ll get me verified init. Haha. Maybe I’d do social media for IGN and them sort of game websites because then I could write for them as well.
Would you not want to film stuff? Like for SBTV or whatever
Do I have to edit it?
No, I’d rather be in social media management.
What’s your favourite out of SB, Link Up and GRM? Where do you go to find the new shit
CoolCutFilms.com. For real, that’s where I go to find shit. I don’t have time to be searching around. I’m subscribed to all their feeds, but I don’t need to read their news articles. I don’t care about gossip. Michael selects stuff from all around the internet and it’s usually stuff that I wouldn’t mind checking out.
Do you ever think it’d just be easier to get a regular job?
I personally don’t know because I applied for jobs in the past and didn’t get them. I don’t really have anything on my CV. If I lie on my CV, I could probably get a job. Lying on your CV is the way to get forward in life. I don’t know whether a truthful CV would help me out.
Have you ever, in moments of despair, thought about getting a job?
Nah. The only thing I’ve ever considered is maybe doing some marketing on the side or I wanna get into writing and freelancing and stuff like that or working in a studio. That’s why I went to do this music production course because I thought if I get a degree, I’d be able to work in a studio if everything flops. But just getting a 9-5 job? Nah. I think that kills dreams, unless it’s something that you really love doing. You’ll just become comfortable and stop chasing your dreams at home. I’ve gone all in on my music career. I haven’t really given myself a choice. I don’t have a fallback or another option. This is the only way.
What GCSEs do you have?
English, Maths, Science, I don’t know. I got Food Tech in there somewhere…
What’s your favourite thing to cook?
It’s easy. Just boil the kettle and put it in there. I don’t like cooking. I guess steak, I can cook steak. That’s quite quick. Put it in the pan for two minute, flip it over for another two minutes. There you go, medium rare steak. Make a little improvised sauce in the saucepan. I don’t know, some ketchup, some BBQ sauce, some hot sauce, some honey, some syrup. Any weird stuff, mix it up. It tastes alright in the end. It’s perfectly fine. Make some potatoes with it, maybe some oven chips cause that’s less work than making potatoes. Happy days. Bob’s your uncle.
On that note, check out Jay’s latest video:
Lighthouse is taken from Jay Carteré‘s new EP, The Love Story. Make sure you grab that!