Sitting in a garage that has long been converted into a recording studio, we follow singer-songwriter Will Jay as he walks us through the evolution of his music.
Music has been a part of Jay’s life from an early age, and Jay cites the time his uncle taught him piano in his garage at 5 years old as the genesis of his love for the performing arts. Jay’s love of singing and dancing eventually led to his debut in the multicultural boy band IM5, and later to his solo career in which he has established himself as an accomplished singer-songwriter. And as Jay has evolved from a teenybopper idol into a sophisticated artist, so, too, has his music and why he writes it.
After some time exploring genres different from the R&B-pop sound of IM5, Jay changed his focus to writing songs that show his perspective. “When you’re [starting] in the teenage age and most of your fanbase is young teenagers, you want to maintain this level of relatability,” Jay explained, “and I kind of grew out of that and realized that I’m never going to make anything super, super compelling if I don’t insert myself into it.”
Once he reached that epiphany, Jay wrote more about his personal experiences, using his platform to tackle more serious topics, like Hollywood whitewashing with his single “Leading Man.” “People don’t want to be yelled at. They don’t want to be talked at, but if you can write a song that perhaps opens their perspective, that’s a powerful thing,” he said. He also notes how times have changed since he first wrote “Leading Man” back in 2017. “Now we have Henry Golding, who is a literal movie star, and we have Simu Liu who is in ‘Shang-Chi’ … And it’s interesting because as a result, my main emotions for why I create music have shifted. It’s less about trying to change things and being fed up, and it’s more so, ‘Okay, how do I tell a story? … How do I capture the Asian American experience in a compelling way?’”
Jay also embraced his personal nostalgia of his youth as inspiration for his latest releases, like “Glory Days” and “Was It Even Real?.” “I’m looking around and I’m not recognizing things, and my parents are getting older and I haven’t talked to friends of mine in 10 years now,” he said. “[For] ‘Was It Even Real?’ [I was] looking at old photos of myself and I don’t even recognize this person. It feels like a different life. And it’s the complicated emotions that really inspire me.”
Jay isn’t afraid to show his heart either, exploring the idea of “unconditional love in a confusing and ever-changing” world in his newest song, “i would rather die than live forever,” which he co-writes and sings alongside his partner and songwriting collaborator, Sam Creighton. The pair pose the question of what they would do if they were offered immortality but their loved ones were not, showing listeners what the singers truly value in life and that they aren’t shy about being open with the rest of the world. “The best art is vulnerable,” Jay said. “And [songwriting] is how I can be vulnerable.”
Watch the full video and check out “i would rather die than live forever,” out now via Repost by SoundCloud.