To say 2021 has witnessed tremendous amount of thunderous releases in music industry, especially from solo artists, would be an understatement. Kicking off his new musical era under a new label, multi-hyphenate musician JAY B, short for Lim Jaebeom, dropped his solo album on August 26 leaving millions of fans breathless with his bold new sound, multiple features but keeping his authentic self at the center of it.
JAY B has had several stage names in the industry – DEFSOUL, JB, and now JAY B – but one thing remains consistent is the need to create stories through his daily observations and inspirations. He is genuinely engrossed in his music-making process and fans, for years have witnessed his growth. Almost a decade in the industry, JAY B is one of the most popular names and well, why not? He has acted in many projects and led the immensely talented group GOT7 for seven years as the leader and vocalist apart from being a songwriter and producer. After leading the Korean drama Dream High 2 and debuting as a duo with GOT7 member and actor Jinyoung through JJ Project, JAY B made his group debut in 2014 with ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’. In the past seven years, the group became one of the most popular K-pop groups of all time with 15 Eps, five full-length albums and multiple singles. Earlier in January 2021, the group’s 7-year contract came to an end and they chose not to renew it with JYP Entertainment. Instead, all seven of them have, since then, found representations for their solo careers but ensured they don’t leave the name GOT7 behind. JAY B is still their leader and will continue to be so. While the 6 of the talented members got their rep pretty early on, JAY B waited for a while until he signed with Hip Hop and R&B agency H1GHR MUSIC.
Leaving the idol world behind, he is now exploring the Korean R&B music which he has previously done with his side projects. Known for his satin-like vocals, strong hold on writing and producing, he began his new journey with the most sensuous song he has ever made – ‘Switch It Up’. The R&B song is a romantic track about two people wanting to spend time together. The lyrics say, “Baby, I wanna switch it up / All I see is you right now / Just like a wave / Baby, ride my body / Girl, nice and calm / Baby, I wanna switch it up / All I see is you right now / Just like a wave / Baby, ride my body / Girl, nice and calm tonight.” Towards the end of it, you see a dance break as he flaunts his smooth moves.
While the 6 tracks are available on streaming platforms, the seventh track ‘Paranoia’ is a CD-only track. The lead track ‘B.T.W‘ features JAY B smitten in love expressing his desire to be in the company of his partner. Keeping up with the theme of longing for love and beyond, JAY B expresses, “My heart for you / It might hurt me / But it’s okay I care about you / Get close to me if you want me / Graze my hands gently on your skin / Coming to you slowly / Always having good times with you / Engrave you into my heart tonight.” The R&B song features H1GHR Music’s CEO himself Jay Park during rap sections whereas the song is produced by ace producer Cha Cha Malone. The groovy vibe to it brings a fun flavour to it with JAY B getting into his star power element. The smooth choreography adds a carefree vibe to it.
Now, in his first ever Indian interview, JAY B sits down to talk about SOMO: FUME, his solo debut, the collaborations, mental health, his photography and sends a sweet message to the fans.
Congratulations on your solo album ‘SOMO: FUME’. Following the success of ‘SWITCH IT UP’, the album has been quite anticipated. When did you begin working on it? What is the inspiration behind the album title ‘SOMO FUME’?
When it comes to this album SOMO:FUME, I started working on it at the moment I joined H1GHR Music, I wanted to present EP right away because I tend to matter the album-unit. That’s how I started preparing the album, this EP, SOMO: FUME contains the meaning ‘I hope the results lightly smear to you like a fragrance, like a perfume, after I put everything I have’.
You dropped the track ‘SWITCH IT UP’. The song was a rage and pretty interesting that you went quite bold expressing your emotions with your first solo track under the new label. How did you know this is something you wanted to release first before your album?
First of all, the song came out so well, and from the beginning, I wanted to write a song that contains meaning of ‘I’m changing’ although it has ended up becoming a love song but it also contains my own meaning, so I got to release it as the first one.
From your Instagram posts about the album, it is clear that you are ‘rewriting your story.’ What is that story that you’ve always wanted to tell but waited until ‘SOMO: FUME?’ Is there something you learnt about yourself during the album-making since you also play with different genres?
First of all, I thought a lot that I’d show a lot of natural look of me. I thought it’d be better to show my hobbies and things I do usually in a natural way. I first thought of doing well-planned album, but then I thought an album that can reach out to people in an easier, comfortable way would be better. To add on, I found out that I should practice more while trying to record various genres. It’s because I found out that there’s a slight difference between the former music I’ve done as a group and the music I’m trying to do in hip-hop and R&B scene. So, I thought I need to smooth the difference which I have to work on, and I will.
You have so many featured artists on the album – MAMAMOO’s WHEEIN, JAY PARK, JUNNY, G1NGER, SOKODOMO. How did you approach each of them for features and how did you know who will fit which song the most?
In the case of JUNNY, G1NGER and Jay Park, I asked them first. I asked whether they could feature and thankfully, they all said ‘yes’. They are all artists who I listen to a lot, and fortunately, they all said yes, so it went well. In the case of sokodomo, he was next to me when I was working on the track and he did the verse by chance and we thought ‘wow, this is good’, and this is how we started. For WHEEIN, I thought WHEEIN would go well with this track so I asked for her feature.
You are known for your unique sensibility. Be it solo music, group music or collaborations – it is your sincerity that reflects in your music. How of much of your music is from your journaling and diaries you’ve written over the years? How often do you go back to them?
I don’t really refer to diaries, I keep writing diaries to see what I’ve thought at the moment after a year or two, but I tend to write a lot of notes. I note every idea and stuff on the notebook, and then among those notes, sometimes it pops up in my mind like ‘It’d be cool if I write a song with this content.’ So, I tend to get ideas from notes, not from the diaries.
You’ve been known in the industry for almost 10 years – through DREAM HIGH 2, JJ PROJECT, DEFSOUL, leader of GOT7, JUS2 and OFFSHORE. You have vast catalogue of music especially produced and written by you. How has each experience shaped you over the last decade?
I think I learned how much concentration and carefulness is needed to work in this industry and I’m still, continuously working on to figure out my color and how fast my gait is. I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I should express myself to public. What I’ve learned over the past decade is know-hows that help meet the venue or technical skills that I’ve got to know while working on a track.
Apart from music, you also did your photo exhibition which is also a form your artistic expression? What drives you to make such stories through your photos?
First of all, I take a lot of pictures while walking/wandering around. I take a lot of pictures of things what I wanted to capture or I consider it’s cool, and these days, and then these days, I collect all photos I took and make up the storyline and think ‘Wow, it’d be nice if I display like this.’
You’ve spent a lot of your musical career with members of GOT7. Did they happen to listen to your album?
After the release, to be honest, I slept early at night so I couldn’t check the messages, but when I woke up in the morning, there were messages in the group chats saying ‘Songs are great ‘and ‘Congratulations.’ Luckily, I got first place on the Genie chart and I posted it with gratitude, and members saw the post and congratulated me with direct messages. I was little surprised and thankful.
Do you feel the pressure since now you promote solo rather than with members? Or has it been liberating, in a way, to showcase more of your capabilities as an artist?
I think I’m a little scared. When there were 7 members, we each had our own part so it was okay. But now, I’m the only one to lead the stage vibe by myself for the whole 3+minutes song where is the part requires a new type of practice, which is definitely not easy. So, I’ve been thinking a lot about this, ‘how to make the stage look more energetic’ and ‘how to make the stage look full.’
You’ve been in limelight for the longest time and it ain’t easy to publicly talk about some of the personal struggles. But, your story with mental health truly encouraged so many to share their stories. Did you know that? How have you been doing since then?
When it comes to the ‘mental health,’ I still have up and downs. I try hard not to show it when working, but I still do have it. Even these days, I’m still struggling to overcome it whenever it happens. I couldn’t personally confirm whether it’s actually helpful or not, but if so, I’d be really happy and I hope a lot of people too overcome it.
What does JAY B like to do in his downtime? What is something that brings you comfort?
These days, when I have a downtime, I watch videos about psychology that I can easily watch on YouTube. Through that, I get healed but also take self reflection time at the same time thinking ‘Oh, my words could’ve hurt others’ feeling,’. I watch channel called ‘nolsim’ and most of videos are 15+mins long and I think it’s really good, so I watch it a lot.
India has waited for you to come here and perform with the group and as a solo artist. Would that be possible someday? Can you share a message for IGOT7 who always supported and loved you?
Absolutely possible, and as soon as this COVID-19 situation settles down, I’d like to visit India and perform. I’d like to learn India’s culture by travelling around, tasting food and visit various places. I’m grateful to the fans who’ve been waiting for me. Until the day I visit India, I’ll work hard and upgrade myself so that it can be more rewarding than the waiting. Thank you.
ALSO READ: JAY B carries in his own scent in triumphant debut with sultry SOMO: FUME – Album Review
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