Venturing into new territory can be daunting. It presents a new environment, challenges, and opportunities. After seven-piece group GOT7 parted ways with JYP Entertainment earlier this year, GOT7’s leader JAY B (formerly known as JB) signed with H1GHR MUSIC, an established record label co-founded by hip hop aficionados Jay Park and Cha Cha Malone. “I guess my goal should be to hear Jay Park say, ‘JAY B knows what he’s doing- he can take care of his own music,’” the 27-year-old singer-songwriter-producer told Kpopconcerts.com in an exclusive email interview.
In H1GHR MUSIC’s documentary video on the artist’s road to his debut, JAY B shared that he wanted to be like water, able to allow his creativity to flow freely without obstruction. Over the last nine years, the public has seen JAY B, born Lim Jaebeom, express himself through various personas. Under JYP Entertainment, he adopted the stage name JB as an actor in Dream High 2, a member of the duo JJ Project, the leader of GOT7, and a member of GOT7’s subunit Jus2. The name Def. was established during the singer’s pre-debut b-boying days before evolving into his producer alias. Not only is Def. credited on several GOT7 tracks, but also serves as an outlet for the artist to freely pursue his own personal musical styles. Now as the newest recruit and solo artist under H1GHR MUSIC, JAY B is working hard to switch up the public’s perception of him after years in the idol spotlight.
On May 14, JAY B dropped his highly anticipated sultry R&B single “Switch It Up.” The song was a label effort – JAY B shared that he worked alongside Jay Park to craft the song’s melody line while Cha Cha Malone oversaw the track’s overall production. Topped off with the stylistic rap verse by rapper sokodomo, JAY B was “very pleased” to have the song serve as his debut track under this new venture.
“Honestly, I was very nervous because I was afraid of how fans would receive my new music,” JAY B confessed. However upon its release, “Switch It Up” peaked at no. 1 on the iTunes charts in over 40 countries including: Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, France, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, and more. On top of that, JAY B also became the first Korean solo artist to debut on the Billboard R&B Digital Song Sales Chart at No. 6 and the third Korean solo artist to debut on the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop Digital Song Sales Chart at no. 18.
JAY B shared with us about his “Switch It Up” release, protecting his musical identity, and his creative approach to his music as he enters this next chapter of his career.
KPC: Congratulations on releasing your first single “Switch It Up” as JAY B of H1GHR MUSIC! How were you feeling leading up to the release and how are you feeling now that it’s out?
JAY B: Honestly, I was very nervous because I was afraid of how fans would receive my new music. However, I looked forward to many things as I started my new solo career. Most of all, I am satisfied with how well the new song came out. I’m looking forward to what is next.
KPC: An artist’s debut track is quite a big deal. How did you know “Switch It Up” was the perfect debut track?
JAY B: First of all, I really liked Cha Cha Malone’s track, and it seems like the melody line that Jay and I wrote suits the track really well. Also, Sokodomo’s verse played a big part in making this song great, so I am very pleased to have “Switch It Up” be my debut track.
KPC: You worked on this track alongside Cha Cha Malone, Jay Park, and sokodomo. What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience? Has working with them influenced you in any way?
JAY B: When I work, I try to think of it as a game and I like to have fun. Working on this track reminded me that I have a better result when I enjoy myself and work freely without putting too much pressure on myself. I also came to the conclusion that I need to be objective when judging the completed track.
KPC: The Ernest Hemingway quote, “The shortest answer is doing the thing,” appears in your single’s official description. What does this mean to you and how does it tie into this release?
JAY B: It just means that I want my actions to speak louder than my words. Please look forward to my music and promotions in the future.
KPC: What does music mean to JAY B and how would you define your musical style?
JAY B: For me, music is a game and a career at the same time. I do have fun with it, but it is still my job, so I need to take responsibility and make sure I am doing my job well. It is difficult to define my musical style with one word, but I want to try various things without being limited to a specific genre.
KPC: What makes JAY B different from solo artist Def.?
JAY B: The difference between Def. and JAY B can be seen as the difference between a hobby and a job. Def. is a bit more free, and I put more focus on what I want to do in the moment, as opposed to worrying about achieving a certain amount of musical success. On the other hand, as JAY B, I try to have a sense of responsibility to create good music that can achieve some amount of success. In regards to changing my name from JB to JAY B, I wanted to feel more affection for my own name, and JB seemed a bit too simple because it was just initials.
KPC: Having started off in the idol system where individual creativity can be restricted, did you ever feel like you were losing yourself or your musical identity? And, in contrast, what is it like to explore your music as a solo artist?
JAY B: I have experienced the feeling of losing myself before. Because of this, I have worked on music until the early morning hours in the hopes of protecting my sense of identity. I tried to create a clear distinction between my own music and GOT7’s music. I did this by focusing more on what I “wanted” when creating my own music, and focusing on what “needed” to be done when creating music for the group. Now, as a solo artist, I am trying my best and I am looking forward to the future.
KPC: Could you walk us through or share your favorite moments in your songwriting process?
JAY B: There are times when I create a song from scratch, and there are times when I build on something that has already been started, so the process really depends on the situation. The area I put the most effort into during the songwriting process is the lyrics. This is because I think of a song as a type of poem. There are times when we use more metaphorical expressions, and there are times when the language is very direct. I enjoy composing, but I think the most blissful moment of the songwriting process is when I write lyrics that genuinely touch my heart in some way.
KPC: As an artist that continues to evolve, what have been some of your favorite compliments that you’ve received on your work thus far?
JAY B: When I was in JYP Entertainment, I once heard JYP himself say “You can trust GOT7’s music to Jaebeom,” and hearing that made me feel very happy and proud. But from now on, I guess my goal should be to hear Jay Park say, “JAY B knows what he’s doing- he can take care of his own music.” I plan to work tirelessly to make this happen.
KPC: Songs like “Tomorrow, Today” resonate with fans for their personable, reflective messages. How does it feel to know that your music can leave such an impact on listeners?
JAY B: I think of it very positively. Not only did I feel that way about “Tomorrow, Today,” but the whole album ‘Verse 2’ made me ask myself questions about life. There were times when that felt like a bad thing, and there were times when that felt like a good thing. Listeners may not feel exactly the same as I do, but if they feel anything at all, that puts meaning to the song, and I like that.
KPC: If you could produce a song for each GOT7 member, what kind of song would you give them? Which style suits each member the most?
JAY B: To be honest, all of the GOT7 members are doing so well with their own music that I don’t think it’s even necessary for me to make music for them. But, if I could make music for them, I want to give Bambam and Yugyeom a sexy R&B song. I would give Jinyoung an acoustic song, or a song that is about a more serious topic. I’d be curious to see how they would pull it off.
KPC: Do you have plans to pursue your other artistic ventures (photography, clothing line, etc.)?
JAY B: If I am given the opportunity, then absolutely! I think I can pursue other ventures when I feel that I am truly up for the challenge.
KPC: How do you want JAY B to be known as?
JAY B: A person who is persistent in his work.
KPC: What can fans expect from JAY B in the future?
JAY B: An album! I’m working really hard to prepare for it, so I think I will be able to reveal it in the near future.
KPC: Lastly, do you have any message you would like to send to your international fans?
JAY B: I’d like to thank the fans who always show me love and support. There is something that I often say- It’s not possible to be happy all day, but I hope that my fans will be the people who can find a piece of happiness in the day and cherish that happiness. Please stay healthy, and I look forward to meeting you all soon when COVID19 settles down. Once again, I want to say to everyone, “Love & Peace.”
“Switch It Up” is available now on all major streaming platforms. Stream the single on Spotify below and be sure to follow JAY B on social media accounts below:
The KPC Team would like to thank JAY B and H1GHR MUSIC for this interview opportunity!