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Jay Sean on Present Times: ‘The World Has Come Together More Than Ever’

The London musician talks about his new Instagram show ‘Basement Banter,’ being part of the I For India initiative, new music and more

David Britto May 15, 2020

English musician Jay Sean. Photo: Courtesy of Avian WE

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If you were hitting the clubs in the late 2000s and early 2010s, chances are you found yourself dancing to a Jay Sean track. The Indian-origin British artist made it his reputation to churn out one club hit after another from 2009’s banger “Down” to the following year’s Nicki Minaj collaboration “2012 (It Ain’t the End)” and 2016’s smash offering “Make My Love Go” among others, which he treated Indian fans to when he performed in Mumbai two years ago.

The musician – who recently took over Vh1 India’s Instagram handle – tells us that he’s currently in New York which is amongst the worst-hit areas by the current coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. “I am keeping well and healthy and I have been in quarantine for two months, shopping only for essentials,” he says over email.

In this exclusive interview with Rolling Stone India, Sean talks to us about releasing more singles instead of albums, joining in the I for India initiative to raise funds for those affected by COVID-19, some of his favorite moments on his new Instagram show Basement Banter and more.

The coronavirus pandemic has shaken the world. How have you been doing and what has kept you busy?

We are trying to be as vigilant as we can during this time. I have been focusing on finding the silver lining during all of this. I have learned to realize what is worth my time and energy, in terms of thoughts and people! We have also clearly learned what we can afford to live without, and what and who we value and cherish.

Congratulations on your Instagram live show Basement Banter taking flight. You have had some stellar guests on – tell me about some of the moments on the show that have stood out for you?

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Thank you. I am very excited about Basement Banter and it has actually led to a full podcast of the same name. I wanted to be able to talk to people from all walks of life, each with their own fascinating stories. From stand-up comedians such as Russell Peters to doctors such as the world-renowned Deepak Chopra. All of the guests were fantastic, but I truly did gain a lot of insight and enlightenment from a one to one with Doctor Chopra.

Your songs such as “Down” and “Make My Love Go” have gone on to become larger than life entities. When you record and release a song, do you have an inkling as to which ones are going to be well received?

It’s an interesting process because there are times when I’m recording a song that I feel so good and excited, I can almost imagine how I would feel like performing it on stage. This is a good indicator of how well I feel the song may be received by my audience. But there are other songs such as “Tears In The Ocean” [2014] or “Stolen” [2004, featuring Bollywood actress Bipasha Basu in the music video] which are slow ballads and evoke a deeper ‘feeling.’

There is no guarantee who will feel that same feeling that I am as I’m singing it. All music is subjective and up to interpretation.

What was it like being part of the I For India initiative – tell me about how important it is to encourage people to organize and be part of such events especially in these strange times?

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I think this pandemic has really taught us something – that even though we are all living in isolation, the world has come together more than ever. I For India was certainly an enormous event and I was so proud to be a tiny part of it. It was beautiful.

You recorded new material in Los Angeles back in February, can you tell me about the sonic imprint of the songs recorded? I know that you are not releasing albums and rather prefer to put out singles – why?

Yes, I am very fortunate that I recently recorded a large amount of music before the pandemic hit. This particular batch of music is more in the singer-songwriter genre – less focused on production, and more on the lyrical and melodic writing of the song. I’m very proud of this music.

As for the album versus singles argument, I just believe that times have moved on. The way that we consume media and content is very different now and I am simply comfortable catering to that change. I think people just want music from their favorite artist and as long as you can keep giving that to them I don’t think they would mind whether it all lands bundled together on a particular date in an ‘album’ or if you can give them that same content regularly, spread throughout the year.

Watch Jay Sean and wife Thara Natalie interview Deepak Chopra below. Jay Sean’s Basement Banter invites pop artist Badshah tonight at 9 pm IST. Get details here.


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