Ayoola Ogundeji, better known as Ayo Jay, might not be as popular as Davido or Wizkid on the home front right now but there is a reason he was the first Nigerian artiste to be signed to Sony Music RCA Records. His singing and song writing abilities were discovered at a young age but knowing education is key, he relocated to the United States after high school to pursue a college degree in finance and investment from Baruch College. In this interview with ADEDAYO ODULAJA, Ayo Jay, who is the first home grown Nigerian music talent to boast of Gold certification for his single, ‘Your Number’ by RIAA speaks on how it all started, collaborating with Chris Brown, his forthcoming EP among others.
What project are you working on that your fans can look forward to?
I’m currently working on my first EP titled Coming To America.
How has the journey been for you so far?
It’s been an incredible journey so far, especially in the last 18 months. The success of my single, ‘Your Number’ in the United States especially has really opened a lot of doors for me including being signed to a world-renowned record label, Sony RCA. This is particularly exciting for me as I feel my sound requires that global exposure.
How does it feel being the first Nigerian act signed to Sony RCA Records?
Being the first Nigerian fills me with a lot of joy and pride when it happened. It may have surprised many but it didn’t entirely surprise me or my team as we had major goals to break into the industry in the United States and establish my sound and the Afrobeat genre there.
I also felt and still feel a sense of responsibility to make our kind of music and sound popular in the United States and around the world. How much has been on the label helped your brand and craft? Definitely in many respects.
A good amount of money was spent to promote my hit single, ‘Your Number’ which turned out to be a big success. The label was also able to get me to perform at some of the biggest stadia and at some of the biggest music festivals in the world. This definitely helped my brand in terms of being very visible and there is a lot more to come from this partnership.
Knowing that you were signed to One Nation in Nigeria, how did you get a deal with Sony music RCA Records and what does it mean for your Nigerian label?
I got signed due to the amount of attention the song, ‘Your Number” was getting at the beginning of 2016. The number of views on YouTube were increasing at a very fast pace and it was getting very popular on the streets of New York, which is where RCA is based.
They noticed it as well and contacted One Nation Records to see if we could do business so it’s a partnership with all three parties. There was stiff competition to sign me due to interest from other labels like 300, Interscope, and Columbia but RCA had the most ideal plan for me and showed more belief and desire in wanting to promote this new sound so I went with them.
How does it feel to be the first home grown Nigerian act to have Gold certification on your record single, ‘Your Number’ by RIAA?
If feels really great to make history with the song. I’m glad be the very first to do it considering the fact that when I initially left Ebute Metta in Lagos for New York, it was just to go to school, obtain a degree, and earn a living with it. I was able to get that degree and create a bit of history too so it is an amazing feeling. I hope other artistes can achieve the same and even more.
As you are based in the United States, how do we get the Nigerian vibe that fans have come to love in the music of Nigerian acts?
In terms of releasing music and doing the usual promotional leg work, nothing has changed. Even though I am based in New York I still come to Lagos each time I am releasing new material. I still go on all the radio stations to do interviews and I still go on TV shows as well. As a matter of fact, a week after I dropped my latest two releases, ‘The Vibe’ and ‘Want You’ I flew to Lagos for a month to create awareness about the songs and also to keep everyone informed with my progress in America.
Has your label in any way influenced the kind of song you put out?
Yes, they do have a little bit of an influence, a good one though. My sound is already commercial so there isn’t much influencing to do in terms of the direction of the music but they do help provide beats and link me up with some of the best producers around.
Do you feel any pressure that new Nigerian artistes getting signed by major record labels in the United States are likely to break your record?
No pressure at all. With my sound and my style of song writing, I’ve always believed I’m in my own lane. I am the only one that makes my type of music so the only kind of pressure I feel is from within. From me knowing the potential I have and from me fulfilling that potential. I am delighted for the other Nigerian acts who are involved with major labels in America. Doors have been opened and I truly hope more and more acts get opportunities like I did.
With how saturated the Nigerian music industry is, what would you say set you apart?
My melodies, my voice, and the whole sound as a whole. I can pretty much come up with any melody you can and can’t think of.
As an artiste, how are you improving yourself?
I recently teamed up with one or two world class song writers to help improve my writing skills and my song writing thought process in general. I write every single one of my songs so I feel like another writer’s input could lead to even better music being written. I also try to study a lot about the laws of music business and other ways to monetise my music.
Taking note of your education, what would you be doing if not music?
I graduated in 2013 with a degree in Economics and Finance. I had a couple of internships a year before I graduated so if I didn’t go into music I would probably have gone into Investment Banking. I’m also a huge soccer fan and at some point I wanted to try and play professionally.
How soon are we expecting an album or EP from you?
I’m dropping my first EP, Coming To America in September.
Which international artistes would you like to work with and why?
I’d love to work with Drake, Popcan, Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, and Tori Kelly to name a few. I think they are all really good in their lanes.
How about those you’d like to collaborate with on the home front?
Wande Coal and 2Face definitely
What was growing up like for you?
I was fortunate to be raised in a stable home of six. In the fast paced hustle and bustle of Lagos, it was very important to have stability. I can honestly say without the support of my family and friends, I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. My family showed me the importance of education to my future and I was surrounded by good friends who taught me things and helped me stay out of trouble. No matter where I go or where I live Lagos will always be my home, my foundation, the start of Boy Wonder Ayo Jay.
How supportive are your parents towards your chosen field?
They are very supportive especially since I made sure I got my degree first. Plus the fact that I am making a living off music and I am able to take care of them so we are all satisfied and I am grateful to God for that.
What was their reaction when you opted for music?
They were surprised. Everyone, including my friends, were surprised. I didn’t make music growing up and I was really shy so being a performer or artiste would have been the last thing on their minds. I worked hard secretly on developing myself as an artiste before I declared to everyone what I intended to do so that the surprise would be a pleasant one.
You’ve been on a couple of songs with big names including Akon, Pitbull, Tega, Kid ink, Nico & Vinz and of course, Chris Brown but while is there no collaboration with any female yet?
I’ve collaborated with a few female artistes that aren’t really known yet. I love working with female artistes, they always have a unique perspective. On my EP, I plan to feature a female artiste very wellknown to everyone but we are keeping it as a surprise.
You have two new singles, ‘Want You’ & ‘The Vibes’ which are being well received at the moment. On which of these should your fans expect another surprising remix?
I have only remixed my song once. RCA remixed it the second time and put Chris Brown and Kid Ink on it.