JASON JOSEPH – NEITHER BLACK NOR ROCK, JUST A STYLE OF HIS OWN
Posted by Arjun Sekhri on January 26, 2010 | No Comments
This is indeed the age of the Indian American /Anglo Indian, musician. While across the pond called the Atlantic, Jay Sean is making waves, on this side, we have Jason Joseph, whose singles, One Man and Just Move, are quickly moving this one man, into the upper echelons of the American music scene. If it hadn’t been the case of getting bored doing his desk time, as a Computer Engineer, Jason might have been coding for a living, instead he chose to pursue his “other scholarship,” and IT’s loss was music’s gain. More power to that. Here we catch up with Jason, in Los Angeles (Jason’s music can be heard on his website at http://www.jasonjoseph.com/
How did music happen?
I started singing at a very young age, like probably 2-3 years old. I guess cause my dad has always been a music lover, not that they are musicians. The radio and records formed a part of our growing up experience. That was regurgitating in my ears when I was growing up and my parents encouraged on. Then I was singing for community and church events, so that’s how it all started.
So now the college experience, you enroll in Computer Science, this is prior to the dot com bust, a steady paycheck coming your way, and you decide to throw it away for music?
You know I barely worked like two months, I could feel the life getting sucked out of me. The thing that I enjoyed about programming and engineering, is the creative solutions to the problem, but beyond that in an everyday kind of situation it was very tedious for me. So I decided to go back into music, for which I had a pre existing scholarship in college.
So now that you are relatively successful, going on to further success, during this journey, during the initial struggle, anytime, did the thought occur, “that maybe I should not have taken this path?”
LA is an interesting place, in that there is a lot of glitz and glamour on the outside, but when you truly come here, I think it’s a hard place to start. Like in NY, it is very much in your face, people will tell you off. Here it is like, “you know that sounds good,” so you can’t really gauge from other people, where you are going. So when I first came here, my expectation compared to the feedback I was getting, was not in synch and this was definitely confusing. Like , “it sounds great” but I wasn’t really working. So the first year or two took a lot out of me, I did so many different things. I was trying to break into studio stuff, to promoting live events, working with other bands playing with them live, as well as writing, basically I overcame that struggle by doing anything that I could.
So why LA, why not New York or London?
I was in school in Boston, I was going back and forth to New York. My original intention was to go to NY. Then in my last couple of months in Boston, I got a call from a music producer, here in LA. So I come here to do some work with him and instantly I fell in love with Southern California. Especially the weather. Cause I grew up in Florida and coming from there, this weather was perfect. Also the vibe of the West Coast, which to me has the similarity to the South. The way of life and everyone’s kind of laid back. That won me over.
So now that you have your music up in the charts, how have things changed for you and when did it occur to you that, “I’m getting successful in this?”
The two songs that kind of stuck out were Just Move and One Man. Just Move, stylistically when I was recording it, all the tracks were in my head and I laid them down in probably thirty to forty minutes and while doing so, it felt really good , very different, it had a lot of my individuality on it. So I was like this is definitely going to resonate with some people. One Man, was written months before the Obama election. And even now when I play it, it is exactly right, the chords flow from one to another, when the lyrics flow it is almost a perfect song. When we wrote it we knew we had created something special.
Where do you go from here, now that you have “arrived?”
It’s a journey, so the next thing is more writing. The journey has kind of brought me to this place, where I do a Monday night event weekly and it has allowed me to play with some of the best musicians here in town. That has lead to this next phase where we are building this studio. For me expanding into music production with my own label and studio, would be the next phase of the journey, expanding the horizons of the people involved with me and also pushing myself in all frontiers of music. All the music that you write is a snapshot of where you are in life, so I look back and say “that was really relevant to where I was, now I find myself in a different political and social environment.”
Being South Asian American, any challenges that you faced in the music business, in the US?
It ties into when I first came here to LA, being an Indian I had to deal with unfamiliarity and ignorance. People would not know what box to put you in, “you’re not white, you’re not black and in a lot of musical people’s thinking those are the two boxes.” That’s what I had to deal with. Some people would hear me and say, “dude you’re black.” Then I’d start doing the rock thing and the black people would say, “dude we thought you were black?” For me it has allowed me to take the best of all, I grew up in both black music and rock music. Being South Asian I tried to embrace it and at the same time be true to myself regardless of what I am and not necessarily trying to make it an ethnic thing. Just assimilating the sounds of the things I have heard growing up. Part of that is definitely Indian music cause I grew up with that.
So if an offer from the Indian film industry came your way? In English?
I would absolutely love to do that. I’ve actually been fortunate enough to have acted in a few things here. I was in the Warner Bros film, Poseidon, done some TV and was in a Sprite commercial, that is going to be in India, had to speak in Hindi, was a very interesting process. My Hindi sounds like trash!!! If I was to leave LA, the three places I would go to would be New York, London or Mumbai. It would have to be the right thing though.
The balance between art and commerce?
Is hard, it’s a constant struggle. As an artist, people want to see you bleed, see that vulnerability. When you are an artist writing from that place and emoting from that place, it’s very hard to be objective. To think of it from a business point of view, you have to be completely objective. To be completely objective is very rare for an artist. I think I’m ok at it although I’m not very good at it. The key is to have people around you that you trust and people whose opinion matters, who know you, because of the time and relationship. Just who can give you an objective view. Ideally people who are involved in the industry and have some gauge. But then being a great artist is also about not giving a F*** about what everyone else thinks. So it’s almost as if the two forces are diametrically opposing. So when being an artist, behave like one, but when done, get the objective view of people you trust.