FROM WORKING WITH MAJOR LABELS TO TAKING CONTROL I HAVE A CHAT WITH ‘SJAE’ ALL ABOUT HER EARLY YEARS IN MUSIC,WORKING ON HER NEW DEBUT RELEASE ‘FIRST’ AND MORE, READ IT NOW!
Photo by JennStarPhotography
What is your name?
SJae (previously known as Sammy Jay)
What is your genre of music?
Soulful Electronic, with 80s and 90s influences.
Give us a little bio about you.
Mercury nominated, British-born SJae (also known as Sammy Jay) was the UK’s first female music producer who has been hailed in the US as ‘the best in the business’ by many of her peers including some of the world’s biggest music stars and producers.
Living and working in Los Angeles, the producer, writer and singer, has over two decades of experience in the industry and has worked with the likes of Raphael Saadiq, The Roots, Ricki-Lee, Booty Luv, Terri Walker, Mis-teeq, Mark Morisson, Pussycat Dolls, EXO and Rod Stewart to name a few.
Originally from a small town in South Wales, SJae was a graduate of London’s famous Brit School which bred world stars including Adele, Amy Winehouse, Ellie Goulding, Leona Lewis and Jessie J amongst others.
Def Jam gave SJae her first professional production gig on Terri Walker’s ‘Untitled’ album, and it was from that SJae’s career was born and she became one of the most sought-after producers in the business where she went onto produce albums for world-wide stars and rose to the top of her game which led to her move to LA after much European success.
SJAE has composed music for various tv shows including MTVs Ridiculousness, Lethal Weapon and has placed songs on many tv shows / films including Fox’s EMPIRE, CBS Flashpoint, STEP UP Miami Heat, Step up Up High Water. Most recently, SJAE worked with Raphael Saadiq on scoring the Netflix Movie ‘After Party’, starring KYLE and French Montana.
Not only has SJae worked on some of the world’s best-selling albums, but she’s also produced logo music for top radio stations, RTL, Bayern 3, and The Wave and her music can be heard in promo slots for FOX Sports, The NBA, Reelz Tv.
SJAE is currently Executive Producer for Howling Music, Nashville working on the music for global advertising campaigns such as Hyundai and Ford.
SJae’s work has been championed across the world and she has risen to the top of her game whilst paving the way for women producers in the industry by making her mark as one of the brightest stars in the business.
What made you go in to music?
I was classically trained in piano from the age of 4, and then became obsessed with synthesizers and programming music in my teens. I went to a school in South London, called the Brit School of Performing Arts, which allowed you to develop your music and and technology skills, while getting a formal education. I got a deal with RCA Records when I graduated at age 18. I’ve been in the music industry ever since then.
Are you a signed?
No. I am fully independent. I’ve been signed to major label and publishers in the past but I’m happy to own my music 100% these days.
Tell us more about your DEBUT Ep ‘FIRST’.
‘First’ is essentially a producer EP. After working in the industry producing other artists, for many years, I was encouraged to put out my own record. I realized that there was an incredible shortage of female producers in the music industry and that producer records were generally reserved for male DJs in the dance world. So I decided it was time to shake things up a bit!
What is the meaning behind the EP.
The title has a dual meaning in that it’s the first in a series of EPs from me, but also I’ve been told that I’m one of the first female producers out of Europe / UK. I’ve been doing this for a long time, so that was part of the meaning too.
In terms of content, I wanted to create something that inspired people, something beautiful but ballsy, that’s hopefully motivating!
Describe each track in two words.
The Avenue – Unity. Equality.
Acid Rain – Synthwave heartbreak.
On Repeat – Linndrum. Feel-good.
All I Think About – Soulful hybrid.
Grace – Hope Arpeggios
Queen – Empowering. Dance.
All I think About (Piano version) Score-like, atmospheric.
What was the recording process like?
Vaired. Some tracks came together really quickly, like Grace and On Repeat. Others went through various different versions before becoming what they are now. All I Think About, was so difficult to mix, as it’s such a hybrid of styles and culture. I tried so many mix engineers, but no one was quite nailing it, so I ended up mixing it myself.
Who did you work with on the Ep with?
Raphael Saadiq, Sam Sparro, Hilaire, Dria Thornton, Sven Atterton.
Will we see any music videos for any of the tracks?
Currently there are lyric videos up for the songs. And Grace has a video compiled of art work by Hitaste, whose work is incredible. I’m working on putting together a video for Queen this summer.
Do you have any shows coming up or a tour in planning?
There will be a few key performances in LA, but no tour just yet.
What else can we expect in 2019?
I’m currently working on music for movies and tv shows. By the fall, I will be working on the second SJae EP.
Do you have any collaborations coming up with any up coming artists?
No one confirmed, but, if anyone would like to be involved, or has any suggestions, hit me up on Instagram!
Would you be up for collaborations if other musicians wanted one with you? and who would they have to contact?
100% please do! Social media is the best way. Or you can contact Jason Ricks firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you play any instruments?
I play piano / keyboards.
Who are your influences?
Janet Jackson, or all the Jam and Lewis produced stuff from the 80s. But I’m also a massive fan of 90s hip hop and RnB.
How do you get inspiration to write songs?
The music always comes first, usually a chord progression or a beat inspiration.Then, I’l get a title or concept, based on that.
Where do you see yourself in 5 Years?
Hopefully producing more and more artists and scoring film and tv shows.
You also advocate for women in production, tell us more about how this came about and how you can help others.
I’ve had so many experiences, where being female in the lane of music production has been a hinderance. Recently, a friend of mine who used to represent me as a publisher years ago, was joking about how we used to have to pretend that I was a guy, in order to get me on sessions doing track, rather than just lyrics and vocal. As my name is Samantha, we would purposely make sure all pitches were labeled ‘Sam’ or ‘Sammy’. We had to let people assume I was a guy, because as ‘Samantha’, few people would (who didn’t know my work), would take a female producer seriously enough to let her lead a session with an artists as a producer. I have countless stories about the negative or inaccurate assumptions, questioning, and general disbelief associated with being a female music producer, that I realized I had to increase my visibility in order to force that door open. I was managing to get work through a small crack of the door, I was pretty sure other women weren’t, or didn’t even try to go into the field at all, so I needed to kick that door down.
When you’re not doing music, what do you do?
I’m really into Yoga and hiking in LA. I also make jewelry – see https://www.instagram.com/sampeploe/
What was the song you listened to most that influenced you to go more in to the music scene?
I don’t think it’s possible to pin it down to one song, but one of the first songs I learnt to program was ‘The Pleasure Principle’ but Janet Jackson. I was a trainspotter for album credits and I realized that anything produced by Jam & Lewis, or LA & Babyface when I was young, really influenced me.
What’s the best advice you have ever been given?
Raphael Saadiq told me once, as a rule, ‘just never do anything you’re embarrassed about!’ That pretty much covers it!
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians not about the industry and just as an artist?
Know yourself, figure out who you are, what your identity is. Build a strong foundation in what really feels connected at your core. Make the music you love – authenticity has to come first. After that, don’t be attached to outcomes, be open to possibilities and be progressive. Move with the times and keep learning new skills. Diversify your skill set within the musical umbrella, so that you can make a living.
What quote or saying do you always stick by?
‘Never put a wishbone where your backbone should be’
Where in your hometown is a must go to visit?
Llandegfedd Reservoir, Pontypool, South Wales, UK.
Your coming off tour;
1/ Where do you go first? To the spa!
2/ Who do you see first? My dog Tux.
3/What do you eat first? Vegan Tom Kha Gai soup from H.O.P.E. Restaurant.
When you are at a gig, what are 5 things you cannot forget?
Whether the sound engineer is doing a good job, why are the vocals never loud enough?
Vocal chops that exceed the performance on the record.
How long the artist made the audience wait before coming on stage
Do you have social media accounts so your fans can follow you?