Utah has been known for producing some of the biggest artists in alternative music. Jay Warren is determined to break that pattern and to be the first R&B artist to come out of the state.
In his newest single, “Take It Higher,” Warren creatively blends a catchy melody and flirty lyrical exchange into a track that is sure to make a splash on the summer R&B/pop charts.
ECHO had the chance to chat with Jay Warren about his new single, his musical influences and his upcoming debut album due out September 18.
What inspired you to write “Take It Higher”?
I think I start all of my songs by sitting down at the piano and messing around with some chords until I find something that I like. Once I find a chord progression that I enjoy, I just start humming some things trying to find a melody that I like. With “Take It Higher,” specifically, it was the first part that came to mind first. Once I found that melody, I was like ‘ooh, I really like that. Let me take a step back and try to think of some words that fit within that.’ The very first lyric was, “if you want to take it higher, let me take you there.” Once I came up with that first lyric, it wasn’t so much a matter of I really have this topic that I want to write about, it was let me figure out what’s the story that this lyric is the first line to. I was kind of building the story around that first lyric I really liked. It’s a pretty flirtatious song – basically saying let me be the man that I think you need -kind of pretentious, but fun.
If you could set fans up in the perfect environment to listen to “Take It Higher,” what do you imagine it looking like?
The perfect environment to listen to “Take It Higher” would be getting ready for a date – getting ready to go out Friday or Saturday night. I think that’s it.
How did you first get interested in music?
Since I was tiny, I’ve been singing. Really early on, I think my parents realized, ‘oh he’s a pretty good singer.’ I just grew up in school choirs and church choirs. Like a lot of singers, I grew up singing in church. I genuinely just grew up always doing it. I don’t ever remember a time that I wasn’t singing or I wasn’t interested in singing. I have this very vivid memory from second grade. We were doing one of those little shows that you do for your school. The teacher that was leading that, she heard me singing “You Are My Sunshine” and she was like ‘oh you’re a really good singer. That is going to be your solo.’ That’s my first memory where I was like maybe there’s something to this.
Do you remember what other types of music you listened to growing up and did it influence your sound today?
My Mom is from Trinidad and Tabago. My Dad was born and raised in Jamaica. Growing up, we listened to Reggae, Calypso, Dance Halls, and Socal. I only knew of two American artists: Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. It wasn’t until Middle School, when you start listening to your own music, that I realized there are other artists other than Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. Michael Jackson absolutely influenced my sound. I think the first album that I bought was 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin‘. I don’t know if it influenced my sound, but I loved the hell out of that album, I know that.
How do you feel living in Utah has influenced your music?
Utah is interesting because, fingers crossed, previously to me the biggest acts to come out of Utah have been alternative: Neon Trees, The Killers have really strong Utah ties, Imagine Dragons, and The Aces who are on Red Bull Records. So alternative music has had a really strong presence here in Utah. So genre wise not too much because I’m more of R&B/pop. But what is really unique about Utah is the entrepreneurial spirit here. I’m not sure how many people are familiar, but Utah has what is called the Silicon Slopes. So there’s Silicon Valley in California and there’s the Silicon Slopes here in Utah. It’s a huge startup and tech community in Utah. Everyone, if I were to describe the culture, is trying to build the next startup. Having gone to school for marketing in a really business conscious community, I’ve applied a ton of that entrepreneurship to my music, to the business side to the industry side of things. It hasn’t influenced the sound so much as the way that I pursue music business.
You have a podcast with your Wife, The Internet’s Mom and Dad and your new YouTube series, Questionz. What inspired you to start those?
The podcast was my Wife. She’s been telling me, ‘Babe we need to start a podcast. We need to start a podcast.’ It wasn’t until the Quarantine started that either of us had the time to sit down and actually start it and really put the time and energy into it. I have to give 100 percent of the credit to my wife on starting the podcast. We’re interacial and especially considering the current climate that we’re in in terms of race in America, It’s been really interesting to have conversations between her and I on race and our different backgrounds and how we grew up and how that has affected the way that we perceive race and racism. It’s been a lot of fun. Questionz– that I started because I was tired of the same old video interview. We decided that if we’re going to do a video interview, let’s at least make it a little more interesting by talking to other artists about really anything. It doesn’t have to be about music. Let’s just talk about some random questions that I wrote that come out of this bowl. It was really just a desire to connect with other artists and have more conversations about things other than just the music.
What can fans expect from your upcoming album?
My musical goal with this album is to keep people surprised by every song. As I’ve been writing this album, again I’ve been really thinking about a lot of Michael Jackson’s music in the 80s, not so much the sound but the fact that he seemed so multifaceted when it came to genre. He was categorized as pop but there was soul and there was R&B and there was pop. There were ballads. He just seems to be able to do everything. There are 8 tracks on the album and there is a sonic center. We weren’t afraid to go a little bit too left or a little bit too right from that center point – trying to push the boundaries more than they currently are.
Is there one quote that you’ve heard or that you go by that you want to ECHO out to the world?
I have this little whiteboard in my office and it’s always changing depending on what I need. At the top, I have what I perceive to be my life purpose and it is, “purpose is to teach others to lead a fulfilling life by helping them understand the importance of worthwhile goals and caring for others.” I genuinely think we get the most out of life, whether it’s through music or family school or work or relationships, when we have a goal and make plans to work towards it. As we are working toward this goal, we show the most amount of love for the people around us. For me, I think that’s how we can lead the most fulfilling life. It’s all about goals and showing love. Maybe that’s why the album is called, Give Love. I never thought about that.