Jay Sean, the British Indian singer/songwriter, emerged in the American pop music scene a decade ago with his Billboard Hot 100 #1 single  ‘Down’. The pop music titan changed the game Stateside for both Asian and UK acts alike, hitting historical strides and breaking down doors as a solo artist. Incredibly, Jay was the first Asian artist in history to have Billboard #1 in America. He was also the first Asian and first British artist to have two simultaneous top 10 Billboard singles. We chatted with Jay about his new track with Imanbek, cracking America and his

You’ve been on a bit of a break from music for a few years, how does it feel to finally be releasing again?

I’ve actually released quite a bit of music over the past few years (“With You” Ft Gucci Mane, “Surma Surma” with Guru Randhawa and an entire mixtape album in my Mistress series and a couple of stand-alone singles as well). Most recently, however, and a lot of people don’t know this but I had a top 5 in the UK in 2020/2021 with “Ride it” (Regard remix). The remix that Regard did was my voice and my performance. We are working through the details now about how that actually happened and why I wasn’t credited. I’m thankful for that song regardless of the credit though.  I wrote the entire thing years ago with Alan Sampson. It’s amazing how older songs can come back as hits, right?

You’ve collaborated with some extremely prominent names in the US Pop scene, who at this point in your career would be your dream collaborator? 

 I have also worked with UK legends, not just US ones. Craig David, Skepta, Tinie – you name it–  we’ve made music together. As far as who’s next, it doesn’t matter so long as there is mutual respect and love for each other.

What was it that first got you into music, did you always see yourself being a singer-songwriter?  

I was a rapper first, but yes I always saw this for myself. You have to have a north star as an artist and focus on it. Otherwise, you get lost along the way.

 You’ve collated billions of streams over the years, which track would you say is your favourite?  

That’s like asking a parent who their favourite child is! It’s not possible to answer that question. I love them all for different reasons. The deep cuts with Lupe Fiasco (Say Yeah) or the big hits like “Make My Love Go” with Sean Paul or 2012 with Nicki Minaj. They all mean the same to me, they are just different paint colours on the canvas of my career.

Your new track ‘Gone (Da Da Da)’ with Imanbek is out now. Could you talk us through the creative process of the track, how did it come together? 

Imanbek invited me to perform at EDC with him. So when I did that we talked about making an original together. He sent me the track and I wrote it and cut it with some friends and that’s that.

Other than music, what are you passionate about? 

My family, they are everything to me. I’m also in the mid-development for 2 TV shows; 1 is a comedy, loosely based on my life and I can’t wait for that to get made and out into the world, and the other is a docu-series that explores the importance of Indian music and culture on the rest of the world. I’m the host on that one and I will be travelling around talking to amazing people about how our music and culture has inspired them to make art in their lives. That’s an important project for me!

Growing up in a Punjabi household, and music not being a traditional occupation – was it a difficult decision to pursue a career in music? 

Anytime you go against the grain there is going to be friction but my parents were incredibly supportive. The challenges didn’t come from within my family, but rather from the rest of the world. I was really the first brown kid to step into the R&B space and make a mark and there were lots of doubters along the way. But more than the doubt, there was just nobody else; there was almost no Desi representation on TV or mainstream media at all. We didn’t turn on the radio and hear ourselves or watch a show and SEE ourselves.  My journey was one of many, many firsts and where there are “firsts” there are bound to be mistakes and difficulties. I am thankful that today, when I watch TV or see a movie or listen to music, I see and hear so many other brilliant South Asian artists crushing it. It makes me very very proud.

As a musician from the UK, how did it feel landing your first no.1 in the US?  

To be the FIRST British Urban artist in history and the first Asian artist ever to have a Billboard #1 in America will always be an amazing moment for me.

What does the future hold for Jay Sean?  

Personal growth, gamily and of course music (I have a song with Martin Jensen coming soon too!).

What important lessons have you learned since starting music?  

You must know who you are. If you do not know that, you will become what everyone else wants you to be. You will be sad and miserable like that and your music, while potentially commercially successful, will never fulfil you.  Being true to oneself is the only path to stay on, everything else is a distraction. Some of those distractions lead you back to yourself and some lead you further and further way, but as long as you stay focused on who you are, you will always come back to the centre.