STAY JAY: One on One with the Hit Making Machine
Ghana music can be equated to an open fire hydrant—the music is coming out fast and it hits you hard. Currently, some of the biggest hits in Ghana and Africa can be traced back to the harbor town of Tema, Ghana. Tema is the “Motown” of Ghana, home of the TOP hitmakers, including Stay Jay. Stay Jay, one of this year's biggest musical sensations and Tema native, sat down with me and provided an in-depth look into his life and musical career, which continues to go higher and higher. With mega hits like “Shashee wowo” and “Sue”, Stay Jay's music has “staying” power and he will surely be a dominating figure within the music industry for years to come.
1.Tell us a little bit about your background, how many siblings do you have and what is your real name.
My real name is William Kojo Johnson. I have 3 sisters and 6 brothers. I am the ninth child.
2.Where did you go to school?
I attended JSS at Tema Regular Baptist in Community 10 and Tema Methodist Day Secondary for SSS. Some of my school mates included Sarkodie, Yaw Siki, Ikonz(Zixu), Stonebuoy, Ruff N Smooth, and Vibz (Piesie), to name a few.
3.When did you decide to become a singer?
Singing has always been a part of me since birth, especially since my mother sang in the church. I used to rap on Dr.Duncan's show, “Kasahare Level” on Adom FM and I also used to rap at Bambara inside Community 9, where streets were blocked every Friday in order to allow musicians to show off their talents, “show what you got”. Doms Entertainment was in Community 4 and that was where we could go to a studio and the engineer would record songs for us for free. A guy named B4 was the guy running Doms Entertainment.
4.How do you classify your music—what genre is it?
My music is classified as “other music”. It does not strictly fit into one genre. You can not classify it as solely Hiplife or Twipop, because my music includes everything. My music has Twi pop, Hiplife, Highlife, Afro Pop, and more, therefore it is all blended....I call it urban music.
5.What's the first song you ever wrote?
“Style nu” with Sarkodie and Piesie. The next one was “Sue” and “Undercover Love”.
The 1st song recorded was “Yawa Boy” with Yaa Pono and Sarkodie.
I am managed by Jay Black and my producer is Unda One.
6.Who is the first producer you ever worked with?
7. How did you come up with the name “Stay Jay”? What does it mean, and is it “Stay J” or “Stay Jay”?
The official name is Stay Jay. The “Stay” stands for remain. The “Jay” stands for Johnson, my last name is Johnson. Together you have “Stay Jay”—it's like inspiration, to stay true to myself, to remain the same.
8.What other names were you considering before you chose “Stay Jay”?
9.Why do you like singing?
Music is the food for the soul and God gave me this talent to do his work. We, musicians, are like pastors. We carry our message out to the people. Our songs travel far and many people listen. I entertain to cheer up people's sorrows and lives... I don't do profain. I deliver for the fans and the people.
10.Are there any singers in your family?
My mother was a singer. My dad's side of the family is also into entertainment. CK Mann is my father's cousin and when it comes to acting, Adwoa P (the Actress) is related to my father as well.
11.What are some benefits you receive from singing ,and what's the negative side of being a recognized artist?
The benefits include traveling around the world, meeting people from all walks of life, being able to promote yourself, and being recognized worldwide.
In terms of the negative side of fame, there will always be people out there who are not happy to see you succeed. There are people who will do things behind the scenes to purposely try to make you fail. Due to the fact that they do not know who you are, and where you came from, they do not like you and they try to tarnish your image. But as long as God lives, I shall overcome that. I love Psalm 23 – that is my daily prayer.
12.When did you first realize that people recognized you as “Stay Jay”?
I first realized that people knew who I was during an interbattle in SSS. When I got on stage and starting singing “ you used to be my lover”, the crowd went wild. Everyone in the place was cheering and singing along with the song. My group won the show that day!!
13. You just released an album not too long ago. Describe the process that goes behind putting an album together?
I released my first album,Repitition, on May 7th, 2011. When I was choosing the songs to put on that album, I consulted with a variety of people. I had approximately 20 songs for them to choose, and I had them select their favorite ones. Once I had everyone's input, the final songs were selected for the album.
14. The music market is swamped with singers—what makes you and your style unique?
I am humble, a cool person, free, and respectful. Everyone is different and unique in their own ways, but these are the attributes which define me.
15.What's happening in Tema? It seems like all of the hottest music is coming out of Tema: Sarkodie, R2bees, Dr Cryme,Yaw Siki,Ikonz,Vibz, and many others—it's a hotbed for music, what's happening there creatively?
Tema has always been a hotbed for music. In Tema, you have generation music. Papa Yankson is from Tema, Highlife Ambule is from Tema, Joel Ackah, A.B. Crentsil, and Asabia Kropa—they are all from Tema. The guys who you are seeing in the music scene now, who also happen to be from Tema, it is like we are doing the rebirth. We have inherited and are continuing the tradition of music-making from the generation before us. Tema guys are united, unique, humble, and versatile—we make all kinds of music.
16.Explain the Sue video—how did you come up with that concept?
Tema is a harbor city. So the idea was to find a way to show off Tema and the people. As a harbor city, many trucks/containers can be seen here, so we decided to use the back of the truck as a stage and have people gather around, as if we were doing a show.
17.Explain the Shashee wowo video—how did you come up with that concept?
Shashee wowo is a club song. A club song belongs in a club setting – that's the concept behind that video.
18.You recently went to the UK for a show after the Vodafone concert. Was that your first performance out of Africa for a show? Describe the experience.
Yes the show in UK allowed me to travel outside of Africa for the first time. UK was great. I went there to perform in the “Hiplife and Afro Beat Festival” at indigO2,in late September and the audience was amazing. The promoters did a great job promoting my music and it was great performing on stage and having everyone sing along to my hits. It was a great show with other Ghanaian musicians performing, including Kwabena Kwabena,Castro, Ruff N Smooth,Tiffany,Atumpan, and others. I look forward to performing in other regions of the world in the near future.
19.What's more important, your song playing on the radio or having a video on TV, or both?
Both, it keeps you going and encourages you to keep doing good work.
20.When you are not singing or thinking about music, what do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy playing football (American soccer).
21.What were you doing the first time you heard your song on the radio and where were you??
The first time I heard my song, I was in town with my producer buying items, running errands. When we heard my song, we were shouting and screaming!! We were so happy and thrilled. The song playing was “Shashee wowo”. I believe the song was playing through someone's car radio, no one believed that I was the singer of the song they were hearing.
Most people also don't realize that I had a singing part in Ruff N Smooth's popular hit, “Swagger”. There is a repeating line in that song which I did after Bullet's rap.
22.What's the best advice you have ever received from anyone?
The best advice I have ever received was from my dear late mother. She taught me to believe in everything that I do. She always advised me to be humble, respectful, calm, and quiet. If someone is arguing or there is a disagreement, she taught me to be still and to be calm. She also taught me about the importance of humility as sharing is caring. I love you mum!!!!
23. Were there any people who discouraged you from singing? How do you handle discouragement?
Yes, there were always people who tried to discourage me from becoming a singer, and there are still people who are trying to discourage me. But when you believe in yourself, it is important that you follow your dreams and ignore the distractors - do not listen to them. Faith in God is the most important thing. I am Monday born, so I always fast, every Monday, in the morning. Apart from that, before every performance, I pray with my pastors and ask for God's protection, guidance, and presence to go before me. I could not do any of this without God.
24.If you were not singing, what would you be doing?
I would be a professional footballer with the Black Stars or an international team abroad.
25.Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Rihanna and Justin Bieber.
26.Between now and the New Year (2012), what do you have in store for your fans : are you releasing new music/new videos, etc?
I will be releasing a new video within the next week for the song “ Twaame la la (Play Me A Song)”; I will be releasing a song I did with Sarkodie (beat produced by Guilty); and I will be releasing my second album within the next few months.
27.When you are making a song, what do you do first- do you write the lyrics or do you listen to a beat first??
I always pray to God to guide me and give me the ability to write good music .With Shashee wowo, I wrote the song first before adding the beat to it. When I am in the early stages of writing a song, it is very important for me to get the views and opinions of the people around me, especially the kids. I test my songs out with the local children. Many of my songs have a “call and response” chorus, so I test it out and see if the kids respond accordingly. If they do, I know the song will work. If not, I rewrite it.
FUN RANDOM FACTS ABOUT STAY JAY:
Favorite food: Jellof Rice, Salad, and Fish
Favorite Book: The Bible
If you were asked you to sing the National Anthem at a National event, would you be able to do it? Absolutely!!! God bless our homeland GHANA.. ( I hope the Ghana @55 Committee is taking note of this! )
Left handed or right handed: Right Handed
Favorite Ghanaian song (excluding your own): Oh there is a gospel song I really love. I do not know the exact title, but there is one song I really enjoy.
Favorite YouTube Video: Azonto – FUSE ODG featuring Tiffany
Most Embarassing Moment: Once I went to a club and I was there with a friend who was very popular, a very well known guy. However, for some strange reason, the bouncer would let me in, but refused to let in the famous guy. As a result, we turned around and went home.
Talent you have that no one knows about : I can draw.
Last time you cried: I just recently cried a few days ago when my friend Gabby Small died. We were just hanging out with him over the weekend and then we heard that he was dead. We just buried him and it was very very sad. Also, a year ago my cousin died in a car accident. So those are the last two times I can remember truly deeply crying.
Biggest fear: The sea. I have personally witnessed the sea carry away two of my friends. When the sea returned them to the shore 3 days later, they were missing their noses, ears, eyes, and other body parts because the fish in the sea had eaten them. I do not go to the beach at all.
For more on Stay Jay:
Download Stay J hits at itunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/repetition-shashee-wowo/id446020435
View latest videos on YouTube: type in “Stay Jay”
Facebook page is :STAYJAY
Twitter page is :STAYJAYGH