UK’s First Female Producer SJAE Opens Up About Her Next EP ‘First’ and More!
Mercury-nominated, British-born SJae (aka 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. A proponent and prominent representative for women in technology, SJae is proud to announce her debut 4-song EP, FIRST, set for release on March 22nd. Part one of a series of EPs, includes collaborations with acclaimed songwriters, producers, and artists, namely, Raphael Saadiq, Sam Sparro, Dria Thornton and Hilaire.
“The purpose of my project is to show woman can produce records, create more content and more visibility for us, so we can encourage other women to enter into the field. There are very few female record producers out there; in fact , I just gave an interview for a USC study funded by Spotify about why there are so few female producers in the industry. I believe we are haven’t been encouraged to be technical within the creative industry. The assumption is that women exist only as performers, singers and songwriters, the introduction of a women who produces music, ‘makes beats’ etc is met with surprise and a sometimes not so subtle air of disbelief, followed by much questioning on tech – ‘What software do you use?’ “Do you really know how to mix a really fat kick drum?’ etc.”
She continues, “I believe that if you don’t see yourself represented out there in the public media, you internalize the idea that you don’t belong there, or that there is no opportunity for you in that arena. I want to change that.”
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. 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 The Roots, Ricki-Lee, Booty Luv, Terri Walker, Mis-teeq, Mark Morisson, Pussycat Dolls, EXO, and Rod Stewart to name a few.
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 MTV’s Ridiculousness, Lethal Weapon and has placed songs on many 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.
Connect With SJae here:
Learn more about SJae in the following All Access interview:
Now that 2019 has started, what musical goals do you have for yourself and your music this new year? Did you make any new year’s resolutions?
I think my goals and resolutions are combined in that, I want to be focused on making music that I think is beautiful and moving, rather than chasing a trend, or churning out songs based on a style being hot in that moment. I want to be authentic in the emotion of a record, and create something that affects you in some way, even if that’s just making you get up and dance. I’d rather make 5 songs in a year that I feel are really great, than 50 that are average, just to satisfy the logical mind telling you that this is what’s selling right now, and doing that.
Growing up, how important has music been in your life? Can you recall the moment when you decided that you wanted to be a musician? Was it an easy or difficult choice to make?
Looking back, I realize that music was always a huge part of my life and my thoughts. My parents got me piano lessons when I was 4, because I was driving my next door neighbor nuts by banging on her piano all day in my pigtails! Learning to play piano at that young age, definitely defined the direction my life went in, I probably would have ended up being a lawyer otherwise! But I don’t think it was a conscious decision to make music a career path. I just made music within my everyday existence, and followed any opportunity that arose associated with that, and fortunately some great opportunities came my way. It definitely hasn’t been easy, but I think the self employed route in any occupation is tough, a sort of ‘feast or famine’ kind of existence.
Was there ever a time when you thought about doing something else? If you weren’t a musician today, what could you see yourself doing?
There’s been many times when the lack of stability and financial woes associated with doing music for a living, were really stressful. I think if I hadn’t pursued music, I honestly think I would’ve become a criminal lawyer! I know that sounds so far removed, but I love a good argument – or maybe we should say ‘debate’!
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all?
I’m mostly surprised by people’s reactions to it, people outside of the industry are so complimentary and seem to think it’s very cool and very ‘rockstar’ (I’m not sure what that means really!), and I never really understood the enamored reactions, until I realized that many people don’t enjoy their basic working hours. We spend so much of our lives at work, so to have to spend that time doing something that you don’t love, could be pretty torturous I would imagine. A welcome challenge for me, is that by nature, writing songs and music requires a lot of self examination and I think it’s saved me thousand of dollars in what would otherwise be spent on a therapist!!
How do you think you and your music have been influenced by your hometown and where you live now?
Wales is known as the ‘land of song’, and the Welsh do love to sing! People love soul music in Wales too, so there’s a big influence there – my dad was always playing Motown and Staxx classsics around the house. Also, we have an annual festival on St. David’s day, called an ‘Eisteddfodd’ (pronounced eye-steth-voth),which is a day of music and literature, that happens in all schools at all age ranges, so that encourages the creative spirit from a young age I think.
LA – I’ve always been completely in love with this city. It’s a spiritual connection for me I think, when you feel aligned in a place, you really open up that creative flow, and of course the weather definitely helps!
Let’s talk about your brand new single “The Avenue.” What was the inspiration for this song? What was it like working with Sam Sparro on it?
Sam and I wrote ‘The Avenue’ after the Orlando nightclub shooting. We wanted to convey how important unity and love is, it felt so unbelievable that there was so much hate, anger and prejudice in the world. Little did we know, it was about to get much worse post 2016, so I think the song is relevant now more than ever. But, on a positive note, with a love of all things 80s synth pop, we can hopefully get this message across in a really feel-good way!
How do you think “The Avenue” prepares listeners for your debut EP “FIRST” which will be out later this month? What was it like putting this collection together? Did anything surprise you from the overall process?
There are two other songs on the EP that draw from the 80s synth vibe – ‘Acid Rain’ and ‘on Repeat’. But the rest of the EP is pretty different! There’s a U.K. garage record with Raphael Saadiq that just came out, which is a really different lane for him, but kind of exciting to hear him on a dance record. I was a little concerned initially about the EP being so eclectic, but I make a lot of different kinds of music! For example, you’ll hear a piano and string version of ‘All I Think About’, which is completely different to the original, it sounds more like a movie score. I don’t really like being boxed in to one thing as a producer, but I have been told that I have ‘fingerprints’ on records, where people can tell I’ve produced or written something, so hopefully there’s a sense of identity within the diversity.
Can you talk about how this is just part one of a series of EPs?
There’s so much music I want to put out, that represents my production in all kinds of ways, I needed to spread it out over a few different records. Also if I say in print that I’m making more EPs, it kind of holds me accountable to getting it done and not procrastinating!!
I would love to know what it has been like composing music for so many TV shows? What shows stand out the most to you?
The thrill of hearing my music against picture never gets old, I absolutely love it! There was one scene in particular that was extremely emotional, the music supervisor did an incredible job with the way my song was used. The song was called Start Again, it was used at the end of a scene in the TV show ‘Flashpoint’, where two kids got kidnapped during a custody battle and held at gunpoint, oooh it was super tear jerky!
What project that you have been a part of over the years has truly meant the most to you? What about it made it so special for you?
There’s been a few, but years ago, an artist named Terri Walker was working on her 3rd album. She’d been through a scenario with her label where she’d let people lead her down a creative path that didn’t suit her and she was determined to be true to herself on the next record. She asked me to co-write with her and produce the whole album, so we camped out in my studio in London for a month – every day non-stop – and knocked out the whole thing! I really loved working on that. It was so pure. Plus we drank a lot of Veuve Clicquot!
What has it been like keeping up with your social media accounts and all of the different platforms? Is it hard to stay up to date on it all? What would you say is your favorite way to connect with your fans now?
It’s such a love hate thing. Some days I want nothing to do with social media, because it’s so time consuming and so easy to go down a click rabbit hole into an abyss of negative content! BUT, creatives can now share there ideas and work with people on a global scale, which was never possible until social media. It gives you autonomy. But it needs to be balanced, I don’t believe it should dictate your life, or that you should feel the need to document every little thing you do with your day!
My favorite platform right now is Instagram, it’s the most interesting in terms of artistic expression in my opinion.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
Growing up I loved Janet Jackson and everything Jam and Lewis produced. Whole all the kids in my school were listening to the Charlatans and Happy Monday’s, I was obsessed with Anita Baker! 90s hip hop and RnB were massive influences for me and then contrastingly I’ve always loved Sheryl Crow. So it’s pretty eclectic! I currently love a lot of the new alternative RnB, artists like H.E.R. and SZA are doing some really great things at the moment. I’d love to collaborate with Anderson Paak, Syd from The Internet, Christine & The Queens, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, gosh there’s so many!
Where can fans see you perform next? Do you have any kind of a 2019 tour scheduled yet?
Nothing planned just yet, but keep an eye on Instsgram!
If you had an unlimited budget and your schedule was free, what would your dream music video look like?
I’d probably have Shonda Rhimes write the story, Richard Branson provide aerial footage and have Idris Elba, Bradley Cooper and Charlize Theron feature in a message about saving Orangutans!!
If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island, what musical item would you take with you and why?
Piano. It’s my solace in any given situation.
If your music was going to be featured on any TV show that is currently on right now, which would you love it to be on? Or if you prefer, what is a movie that you love that you wish your music was featured in?
‘This is Us’ without a doubt! Let’s just aim really high and go for the next Avatar movie! (Even the trailer will do!)
At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?
I just want people to feel good. Whether that’s happy, strong, or emotional in a way that gets them through, over, or out from under something!
Would you like to share anything else with our readers about your music?
Just to say thank you for giving me a chance, and I hope they will continue to do so!