We catch up with producer and songwriter Jay Brown on her latest project – Amaroun. Songs about coming out, moving up and not being kept down, Amaroun creates a truly unique form of kaleidoscopic pop music for the 21st century. Read all about her music career to date and get an insight in to what inspires her music in our latest interview.
1) So, where did it all start with your career in music?
My career started in my head aged 15. I consciously decided that music was more than a hobby and something I wanted to do for the foreseeable future. I remember being in my first band Memphis and relentlessly writing songs, rehearsing and laying down the building blocks for the sound I have today. If anyone asked back then what I wanted for a career path, my answer was either ‘to be the first woman in the Premier League’ or ‘a musician’.
2) At what age did you learn how to sing and what inspired you to do so?
I don’t remember learning how to sing, I just remember loving creating songs and using my voice. Looking back I spent a pretty massive chunk of my life indirectly practising for what I’m doing now. Church every Sunday, assemblies every day at school, singing to the radio in the car on my way to school with my sisters. MTV was pretty much my singing teacher!
3) You’ve worked with some incredible artists, including Ellie Goulding, Ed Sheeran, Bastille and Kate Tempest. Which one sticks in your mind the most and why?
I’m going to pick two. Ed Sheeran sticks out most because I remember going to a gig at the Ginglik in Shepherd’s Bush – where I lived at the time with my sisters – and seeing this guy play who instantly captivated me with his performance. He needed a place to stay and I offered my couch. He stayed a few days. The plan wasn’t to write a song but we did. We spoke in the garden about what we wanted from our life and music. I remember feeling really inspired by the conversation. That guy deserves everything he has now. Persistence is key. Dan Smith (Bastille) and his team were also a huge support to me. They developed my demos and invited me out on tour with them. Their belief and the time they put into my music was invaluable. Beautiful guys!
4) You’ve recently released your single ‘Bed Bugs’. What inspired the lyrics?
‘Bed Bugs’ was inspired by the mental turmoil and confusion that followed my decision to come out in 2016. I like messing with metaphors and imagery in my songs, so the lyrics were shaped a lot by that.
5) You’ve expressed a lot of emotion in recent songs around your girlfriend’s absence during a period of her working in Sierra Leone. Tell us a little more about that time in your life.
I’m in a long-distance relationship and the absence breeds a lot of emotion. I miss her a lot. Naturally for me that morphs into songs.
6) You have some new releases coming up. What inspired you to write them and what’s the music style?
My most recent was released on February 2nd, it’s called ‘Made a Fire’. Every track is inspired by my coming out. ‘Made a Fire’ is about meeting someone special, having that strong connection and being excited about it. It’s quite an uplifting song and definitely has influences from my pop/rock days. It’s a fun sonic departure from where I feel my songs are heading, but it’s Amaroun nonetheless. These three singles I’m putting out on LGM are a narrative trilogy. You got to listen to them all to hear my story!
7) Do you play any instruments or just stick to singing?
I play piano, drums, guitar and I am very interested in production. All my songs start with my own production.
8) For women and girls that would like to go into music as a career, what advice do you have for them?
My advice is to really discover who you are as an artist and don’t let others define you. It’s easy to get (as my mum says) ‘tossed and turned like a salad’. Know what you want, and remain strong and proud of who you are. Making music is a beautiful thing and we need more amazing women and girls having their voices heard.
9) Who’s on your playlist at the moment?
I’ve got lots on my playlist right now! Romare, Bonobo, Stromae, Charles Watson, Bon Iver, Little Dragon, Damon Albarn, Homeshake, The Knife, Post Malone, Erykah Badu, Carole King and Princess Nokia.
10) Other than music, what else do you like to do with your time?
I run a small music gathering called Greenstone and I host monthly nights at the Strongrooms in Shoreditch. I write a lot of poetry and have recently started to paint.
11) Who are your role models and why?
My answer rotates between different people. Most of them are my family and friends. I like Grace Jones at the moment too – I’m reading her autobiography and her story is INSANE.
12) If you could use a magic telephone to call yourself at 15, what would you say?
I’d say this: “Some people will give you good advice: identify and listen to them. But most people don’t know what they’re talking about. Learn to distinguish between the two. Follow your gut and stay true to your vision.”
13) Who’s your celebrity crush?
14) Lastly, what are your New Year’s resolutions and why?
Have a few key objectives and see them through to the end.