This interview originally appeared on EARSTYLE March 28th, 2010
Just trying to make it out here in this DC weather! (laughs)
It’s been crazy. Congrats on the success with Melanie Fiona’s “It Kills Me”! How does it feel?
Yeah, thanks a lot man. It feels great actually. Talk about a dream come true, you always think, “Man I want to have a number one song, I want to have a Grammy and all of that.” Even though she didn’t win, losing to Beyonce wasn’t a bad thing at all. You know what I Mean? (laughs) I’m very grateful and thankful to God that I can experience this in my life at this point. I’m very grateful.
I heard the record at the top of 2009 when I first found out about Melanie Fiona. It was my favorite track of hers and I was kind of apprehensive about it being a hit, because of the climate of the industry. Did you see this success coming for the record?
You know what, I feel as though if you look at the history of music…Music that truly came from the heart and when you capture that on record man people feel that. Those songs tend to become hits. That’s exactly what happened with that. As time went on, the label picked it up for Melody. I heard them talk about it being a single, but you never know, because anything can change. Plans change a lot in this industry. They came out with “Give It To Me Right” first and then “It Kills Me” was the second single. I’ll never forget when me and Mel had hooked up in DC. This was like when they were just releasing it. She said, “Man all the radio stations are going crazy over this”. I said “Are you serious?” When you hear that it’s so humbling. Men and women have come to me, black and white, young and old they have come to me and said that they love the song. It’s crazy to hear men say that, because the song is talking about what a man is doing to a girl. I’m just grateful for it all.
When was the first time that you heard the record on the radio?
People were calling me telling me that they heard the song on the radio before I even heard it. First time I heard it, me and my boy was going to one of our boy’s birthday party and we were talking actually. He’s a fellow producer so we were talking about music and the song. As I parked the car the song comes on the radio…(laughs).
Did you stay in the car to take in the moment?
Yeah I stayed in the car man! (laughs) It was crazy. In fact he heard it on the radio before I did. It was on XM at that. I’m constantly getting told they play that song all the time. Hey man, that’s a good thing. Thank God.
“It Kills Me” was a first taste for us for what you are doing. How would you describe the Jay Fenix sound?
I don’t know how I can describe the sound. I want to say my sound is hard. No matter if its a club track or not I just want you to feel it. I want it to touch every emotional fiber in your body. I want you to experience that in my music. As far as actual sounds, that’s only one dimension of me, because I am just a music lover. My sound as far as my influences goes all the way back to Quincy Jones producing “Off The Wall”, the old Motown era, the 60s, groups like Number 42, Genesis, Eurythmics, The Temptaitons, Four Tops, The Meters, all of those different oldie groups. Teddy Riley, New Jack Swing, the original Bad Boy era when he had the Hit-men. Bryan Alexander Morgan, Troy Taylor of course Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. I know that’s a lot and I forgot about Marvin Gaye and Donnie Hathaway but all of those people influenced my sound today.
You mentioned that you are from the DMV area. Do you tap into the Go-Go sound?
If it comes out that way, Yes. I can’t say that I am setting that agenda with bringing Go-Go to the forefront. That’s been done with the likes of Chuck Brown and EU when they did “Doin’ The Butt”. I know Wale is pushing his Go-Go agenda and of course Rich has had crazy success with what he’s done with “Crazy In Love”, Amerie, and he have Rich Girl now. I can’t say that bringing it to the front is my agenda. What I am doing is helping bring that real R&B back. I am not going to say we don’t have real R&B out today. I’m not going to say that. We don’t have many R&B artists. Most of it is a cross between R&B and Pop. That good music that makes you dance and cry…and music that stands the test of time. That’s where I can put it.
What do you think happened? Why can’t the people who are doing R&B survive in the industry today?
I feel as though there’s a space for everything. It also have to do with promotion and then you have to think that the labels and radio stations they are like the chefs. They feed the people what they want to give the people. In their buffet of music, figuratively, they have a lot of food to give, but are they doing that? No, they are sticking to the 1 or 2 maybe 3 or 4 different things out of 100 different acts. Somewhere the other 96 acts get lost in the sauce. I truly believe that R&B is still alive, because “It Kills Me” is quite evident that its still alive.
Monica is also doing her thing right now with her single, “Everything To Me”.
Monica! Exactly and I love that! I think that people want to hear that. Like I said,this world is big enough. There’s space for everything. I just don’t want it to be one sided. That’s good for today, but most of these songs…are we really going to listen and remember them like we do today with songs from the Motown era. What’s your honest opinion?
I agree. Most of the albums that have come out, especially in the early 2000s didn’t age really well. They were hot for the moment and don’t have the same effect when you listen to them now. There are some albums that are completely unlistenable now. Same effect. 2003 and can’t listen now. Albums such as “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” are still enjoyable today and you could release songs from that album and it wouldn’t even sound dated.
Exactly. It’s very few albums that you can think of that’s like that. Lauryn Hill? Classic. Maxwell the first one was a Classic! Biggie’s first album…Classic! That was R&B. They weren’t doing Pop. Everybody no matter if they were black, white, orange, or yellow..they loved it. I think that is why the industry is suffering, because we are still going in the same routine that we have been doing for the last decade. It’s 2010 and we’ve been doing this for the last ten years. Somewhere down the line it have to change. It’s crazy because I was at the SESAC brunch. Swizz Beatz was the honoree and he talked about that in his speech. He wants to bring back good music and hearing him say that, I know I am on the right path, because I have already been thinking that.
Where do you think it all went wrong?
When labels started focusing on singles. There was a point of time when labels were putting out singles on like the 45, you had an A single and you had a B single. It’s nothing new, but we started forgetting about the album. They forgot about the concept of albums. They forgot about hiving people a reason to go pay $10 or $15 to get an album. The albums are not good. There’s no cohesion, it’s just not good. Think about all the albums in the last 10 years that have been released..that’s a lot of albums. How many of them can we say are classic albums?
We can count them on our hands.
We can count them on our hands. Exactly! (laughs) That’s not good.
There’s no artist development either.
Barry Gordan to me was the greatest at artist development. That whole era that he created was based off of artist development. He strongly believed in that. That model succeeded during that time when they were also going through social issues. They were not able to perform at certain places, because of the color of their skin. Well…that’s a whole different conversation. I am not going to say we are totally eradicated of that, but it’s a slightly better time. Where as so he was able to succeed during that time with that model…Motown will forever sell and be played. Whether it is Karaoke or in the elevator, it’s going to be played. I think we need to start digging back in our history in how our music succeeded back then. Everybody thinks that YouTube is how you find out about the artist. Well OK, but its more than YouTube, twitter and those social sites.
You can’t even turn on your television to a music program on television anymore. I remember being excited to see Behind The Music and Fanatic.
Exactly! You know how Soul Train use to showcase talent…it’s crazy. If we were to have a show like that it probably wouldn’t be called Soul Train now, but we lost all of that man.
You’re right. All we have is 106 & Park which shows the New Joint of the Day. Takes us right back to the “Single” talk.
How do we change all of that?
How do you think we change all of that?
Wow man! Once I figure it out you will be the first person I call and we will sit down and talk about it man. (laughs) I’m not going to say I have the final solution, because this is years of stuff that we have to correct. I do think that apart of the equation is greed. Some people I’ve seen in some of the blogs, say that the greed of the execs in the older days, having these high salaries and bonuses is coming back on them. It’s kind of like you reap what you sow. That’s been said. I truly believe that Tower Records would not have closed and others have the labels or the powers that be have been realistic with selling records for $20 is ridiculous. You still eat. Why can’t the records be $10.
I definitely agree. Why not charge lower prices? It’s better than no profit at all. There are people who still enjoy opening up albums and checking out the booklet and stuff.
Yes I am one, because I did it last night (laughs).
Yeah, people don’t think that their hard drives can crash. Then you have to buy it all over. I love CDs, I use to love going to the stores and they would have the listening stations, and the magazines, it was just a whole experience that you can’t get while you are on the Internet. Even though its full of great resources and information it is nothing like going to the store and bumping it. Some married couples probably met at the record store going to buy an album. You know what I mean? Now that’s kind of gone man.
It’s sad, because how many years will it be before that’s gone? Right now most purchases come from stores like Walmart.
Right Walmart and Best Buy. Come on Best Buy y’all want to do everything. Y’all want to have musical instruments, y’all want to sell CDs, y’all want to sell home appliances. Come on man. It’s crazy. There’s enough for everybody.
So what’s next for Jay Fenix? I am sure that the labels hit you up after the success of the Melanie Fiona record.
Right now I am currently working on some stuff for Musiq Soulchild, Chrisette, and Fantasia. I am working on those projects and I am also working on some independent stuff, my own acts also. I have a surprise that I am working on too. It’s a surprise so I don’t want to speak too much on it.
What advice would you give to any aspiring producers who are trying to get in the game?
I’ll say what worked for me. Some people take it as advice or not-that was my strong belief in God. I keep him first in my life and stay committed to the dream and the vision that he gave me. I saw it coming I just didn’t know when. You are going to experience the pitfalls as well as the highs, but you have to stay consistent and dedicated to your dreams and goals.
How can people reach you?
I have a twitter @jayFenix and my facebook is Jay Fenix. Everyone hit me up!