Music Stars Helping Rock & Roll Make A Comeback: Jay Elle
Don’t take authority for granted! People in power don’t necessarily have the answers. Though they would like you to believe they do and would love for you to trust them implicitly. It’s not because they are in charge that they know what they are doing. Challenge power to be transparent and accountable. It’s important to avoid settling for things and accept the status quo. If you combine laziness and fear you end up with people who would take you back to the Stone Age or maybe the 50s. That era generated great Rock & Roll music for sure, yet people faced major challenges. This, in part, explains the great music. Don’t fall for pretend nostalgia. Keep moving forward and challenge the system. Play rock and roll music loud and protest even louder.
Rock & Roll has been extremely popular from the 50’s until the 2000’s. But with the rise of Hip Hop, Pop, and electronic dance music, it has seen mainstream decline. But some observers have cited that Rock & Roll may be on the verge of a comeback. The frustration and turmoil of the past few years align well with the message of angst, protest, and rebellion that rock & roll conveys. In this interview series called “Music Stars Helping Rock & Roll Make A Comeback” we are talking to music artists, music groups, and music producers who are helping Rock & Roll make a comeback.
As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jay Elle.
Jay Elle is a rock alternative singer, songwriter and guitar player currently residing in New York City. He brings warmth and energy through “five star” guitar-driven melodic songs. His voice will uplift and soothe your spirits and his witty lyrics will provoke deeper thoughts about the world while sharing optimistic, positive, upbeat messages that will “have you carry on with your day with a smile”.
Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
You are welcome. Thank you for the opportunity. It is a wonderful series.
I was born in the French Alps, at the border between France and Switzerland near Geneva. I attended the Conservatory of Music of Geneva where I studied voice, guitar and composition. I played with rock and blues bands while in school. I came to New York City and dedicated myself to singing, songwriting and guitar playing. I worked with various bands and eventually started my own. I write and record songs and do everything I can to let the world know about them.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Music was always around as I was growing up. My parents had the radio on almost all the time, especially in the morning when everyone was getting ready to go to work and school. No one in my family played an instrument other than my cousin who had a couple of guitars and played for fun. Becoming a full-time musician was a bit frowned upon. Everyone knew it was a very difficult career path.
The more music I listened to, the more I discovered that I loved great songs. The songs that give you chills down your spine or goosebumps. I loved the energy I got from listening to great songs, the uplifting feeling of hope that came through for me. I gradually got more and more involved with music activities. Eventually, I decided to learn how to write songs to pass on that energy to others through my singing, playing and songwriting.
Are you able to share a story with us about what first attracted you to Rock & Roll in particular?
Most definitely the cool-looking and sounding electric guitars and the myriads of sounds they can make. For the longest time, guitars had their places in orchestras, and accompanying singers, sounding as they did coming out of their cases. Even when amplified, you had the nylon string sound, the steel-string sound and the electric pick-up sound without any effects. And I love these sounds too. There are four songs on my new album, RIDE THE WAVE, that have a classical guitar as part of the orchestration and eight others that use steel-string acoustic guitars. And of course, these guitars are combined with various electric guitars and their unique sounds. Rock & Roll guitars offer an amazing array of sounds.
As technology developed, you started getting sounds out of a guitar that was so unique and fun. You may still write songs on a three-chord progression as Eddie Cochran did in his song “Twenty Flight Rock” but you can make these three chords sound very different with every song. Listen to what Eddie Van Halen did with his guitar or Steve Stevens or Brian May. All three use different sound palettes playing great rock music.
As the sound possibilities expanded, electric guitars morphed physically from the basic shape of acoustic guitars. There are some beautiful shapes and colors. You can definitely express yourself and be true to your personality and moods by combining the sounds and looks you love. Of course, you can even match your guitars and your outfits if you feel inclined…
Can you tell us the most interesting or most funny story that happened to you since you began your Rock & Roll career?
I was attending the Conservatory of Music of Geneva, in Switzerland. One night I went to see this band, Shakin Street in a club in Geneva. There weren’t that many people in the club. But, I clearly remember the half a dozen rowdy young punks there to support a local punk band that opened up for Shakin Street. After the punk band finished its set, these guys stayed in front of the stage, monopolizing the dance floor, thrashing around to the music the DJ was spinning while Shakin Street‘s crew readied the stage. I was nowhere near the melee. Just standing on the side. I process music slightly less physically…
The DJ welcomed Shakin Street to the stage. The lead singer was a young woman. I don’t remember anything about the band except for what happened to her right after she came on stage. The minute she started singing, the rowdy punks rushed close to the stage and started spitting on her! Screaming their heads off. Was their animosity rooted in something she said in an interview about punk music? It might just have been a “punk” thing. In any case, the punks just wouldn’t let up. They were at it as if they were never going to run out of saliva…
Had the stage been slightly lower, the punks might have tried to get on it. It was a good five feet high. They were good “spitters”. The lead singer couldn’t take it. She stopped singing and walked out in the middle of the first song, returning backstage. A few seconds later, this stout roadie came out from behind the stage brandishing a microphone stand that he started waving at the posse of punks. He was serious… It wasn’t a warning. He was cursing at them. “I’m from the Bronx motherf…ers…, let’s do this!” He was taunting them to get closer. And when one of the punks did step closer, he would swing the stand even harder, aiming at clubbing the “spitter” on the head. Undeletable images in my head to this day. As far as I can remember, things settled down eventually. I don’t have any other memories from that evening.
Fast forward a few months. I decided then that it was time for me to visit one of these cities, homes of vibrant music scenes. Paris didn’t sound that vibrant for the kind of music I was into. For me, the latest and greatest always came from the United States or England. I didn’t have any connections in England. Chicago was an option because one of my father’s cousins had moved there, but she did not want to be responsible for me. I would be going out to clubs, etc. Not something she wanted to deal with. A high school friend was finishing his college degree at Wagner College on Staten Island, NY. I took him up on his offer to pay him a visit. Plus, I figured, if that “skull-crushing” roadie was an example of the values held by New Yorkers, coming to the defense of a lady in distress, I was good with that. Let’s face it… I didn’t step up to defend Shakin Street‘s lead singer. Should I have been more courageous?
So, New York City was the place to visit first. It was late spring. While enjoying hanging out in New York City and going to clubs, I decided to answer an ad in the Village Voice. A CBS recording band, Sorrows, was looking to replace one of their members with a new singer, a guitar player. “What have I got to lose?” I thought.
The audition went well. It was fun. The drummer asked me where I was from. I told him I grew up outside of Geneva…
The drummer: “My brother was there a few months ago. He was the tour manager for Shakin Street.”
Me: “I saw that band in Geneva! These punks were spitting on the lead singer.”
The drummer: “Yes. My brother told me the story. He came out on stage and tried to whack these guys with a microphone stand.”
Me: “I saw him. That was your brother!?!”
And there you have it. Is that six degrees of separation? A few less? I was offered the job. I accepted. We recorded an album and then the drummer and I recorded another four albums and countless songs. It’s a small world…
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
Never, ever take “no” for an answer.
You are going to hear “no” non-stop, for the rest of your life, no matter what level of success you might enjoy along the way. You are going to experience rejection after rejection. It’s impossible to avoid being rejected. No matter what you do in life. Find what makes you happy and stick with it. Rejection is a normal part of life. I reject 99.9% of the products in my local supermarket. The shelves are full of products from successful, world-renowned brands. I still reject them every time, simply because I buy the few things I need. Your music is bound to be rejected by most. There is no point in trying to convince a classical music lover that he or she should switch to listening to Rock & Roll and nothing else. It’s not about converting everyone or even a percentage of the folks you run into. It’s about finding the people who appreciate music the way you make it. There are many people who love music but cannot make it for themselves. If you make the music they love to listen to they’ll be grateful. It’s not easy to find your crowd, your audience. And it starts with not being deterred by folks who say “no, not for me”. Learn to deal with rejection. It’s no fun to be rejected. It will always “pinch” for sure. But it’s bound to happen. You may as well get used to it.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
You are absolutely right. I could not agree more. And, in my case, not just one person but a village, a very large village. And everyone in the village played or plays a different part along the way. Putting together a great record and passing the word around is not something I could ever do by myself, let alone records after records.
My new album “RIDE THE WAVE” was produced by Caleb “kbc” Sherman. He is a brilliant producer. He did a magnificent job. Michael Stover from MTS Management has been working tirelessly to reach out to the press and setting up radio interviews. And we are so happy with the feedback.
So many of my friends have helped out along the way and my family of course. My parents, my aunt who bought me my first guitar, my high-school friend Philippe Blin who taught me a few chords. So many musicians and producers who have shared their crafts like Margaret Dorn, John Dubs, Warren Schatz, Byron Estep and my friend Jett Harris, a fantastic drummer with whom I recorded a few albums as I mentioned earlier. Teachers. Other artists like my friends Mariell and Vivienne V. Mariell is a novelist. Vivienne is a photographer and has taken a number of pictures for my album covers and website. Laura Patterson who promoted my EPs, RISING TIDE and EASE UP. Laura has a knack for picking up singles. My manager Donna Bodden who is always so supportive. There are way more folks in this village and I apologize if I cannot name them all right now.
A most colorful individual, who was a great mentor, was the late Bill Aucoin who managed the band Kiss for the first 10 years of their career and then managed Billy Idol, Billy Squier and many other bands and singers. Bill was a ball of energy. There was never a dull moment in his company. Jett’s brother whom I mentioned earlier was a roadie for the band Kiss. Jett thought that I should try to connect with Bill Aucoin. I sent my music to Bill’s office but that didn’t land a meeting nor a response for that matter. A few years later I was at a club in New York City hanging out with a band during the afternoon soundcheck. The lead guitarist from the band asked me if I wanted to meet Bill Aucoin. I said sure. There he was, watching the soundcheck sitting at the bar nursing a glass of water. Bill was very friendly. We became friends and worked on projects together. I learned everything I could possibly learn about the business from Bill. He was just brilliant. His instincts were spot on. He was super smart, a quick thinker. I was most impressed listening to him during negotiations with record company executives. All I had to do was be quiet and listen.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
My new album RIDE THE WAVE was released on August 27th. So all my time and energy is spent doing everything possible to let people know the album is out. I also write songs regularly. It works best for me if I write often and on a steady schedule. The more songs I can write, the better.
Are you able to summarize the message of Rock & Roll in a sentence? Why do you think that message is more relevant now than it’s been in a while?
Don’t take authority for granted!
People in power don’t necessarily have the answers. Though they would like you to believe they do and would love for you to trust them implicitly. It’s not because they are in charge that they know what they are doing. Challenge power to be transparent and accountable. It’s important to avoid settling for things and accept the status quo. If you combine laziness and fear you end up with people who would take you back to the Stone Age or maybe the 50s. That era generated great Rock & Roll music for sure, yet people faced major challenges. This, in part, explains the great music. Don’t fall for pretend nostalgia. Keep moving forward and challenge the system. Play rock and roll music loud and protest even louder.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
This is such a great question.
Now, let’s be fair. I probably heard these 5 things back when I started. But I did not listen. Or, I thought that I would get to them later… Looking back, I was given some pretty good advice but I had my head in the clouds.
1 — Learn to listen. Really listen. Listen to others and to yourself. What is your intuition telling you? What is your heart telling you? Learn everything there is to know about yourself and what makes you happy. I eventually got to read some great books like “Self-Defeating Behaviors: Free Yourself from the Habits, Compulsions, Feelings, and Attitudes That Hold You Back” (Milton Cudney and Robert Hardy), “Trading in the Zone” (Mark Douglas) and “The Disciplined Trader: Developing Winning Attitudes” (Mark Douglas). I believe we do react pretty consistently to the world around us because we adopt habits along the way and they become part of who we are. They work for us and we rely on them to respond to challenges day in and day out. The trick is to take the time to uncover these habits and learn to control them. In some instances, you are better off doing something differently than you would normally. I am an introvert, without a doubt. I’d rather spend my time in a cool, dimly lit studio with my guitar than interact with folks. But that’s not how you get to meet people who can help you reach your goals. Did I want to stay home and write songs the day I went to visit my friends during their soundcheck when I met Bill Aucoin? You bet. But I forced myself to go hang out with people on that afternoon.
2 — Make sure you stay focused. I am very curious. I can get lost in pursuing one thing after the other. I set out to learn about Spotify promotion and before you know it I am at a website considering starting my own coffee brand and selling coffee online. Curiosity is great when I am writing new songs. I will try anything or just about. “What about that chord here, or that note, or this word… etc.” The permutations are endless when you are writing. Curiosity might kill the cat but it certainly helps me write unique songs. At other times though, when it’s time to practice and record and stick to a project to get it done on time, it’s important to be disciplined and to stay focused. Read Brian Tracy’s books like “Eat That Frog”. They are very helpful in practicing staying focused.
3 — You will have to be patient whether you like it or not. Patience with the world at large, with people you meet and with yourself. Some folks are born with outstanding natural abilities. Most of us have to practice, learn, and work to develop the skills we need to succeed. I do my best to be in a constant learning mode. I may not use everything I learn over time. I make choices, of course. I try to get better at what I do to write better songs and sing them and play them better. It’s dangerous to assume you know enough and certainly to assume you know it all. Make learning a fun game for yourself and play that game every day.
4 — Pay attention to the details. I tend to be a “big picture” kind of person. I see the end result pretty clearly in my mind. I have a vision of what I want to accomplish and because it’s clear to me I tend to think that I am done much sooner than I am. The formula 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration is about right in my case. I hear the song in my head. I grab the guitar. I record the melody and guitar chords. Done! Not quite. It takes hours, days, weeks and the help of very talented people such as Caleb “kbc” Sherman, the producer of my last album RIDE THE WAVE, to bring it all together so that it’s ready for an audience to enjoy. Sketch your vision and your ideas but don’t forget to get to the details and spend whatever time is necessary to fine-tune your work until it’s really done.
5 — You can only control what you do. That one is a tough one to accept. You control very little in your life. You can dream big, have great plans, and work out all the steps in your plans on paper. But life will throw all sorts of challenges at you. Focus on what is under your control. Learn about yourself, stay focused, be patient, pay attention to the details and don’t waste time trying to control things that are not controllable.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Be nice. It’s that simple. Be nice.
You might get extremely frustrated, even angry at times. Being nice should be your first choice with everyone around you. Of course, stand up for yourself when it’s needed. Defend yourself if you have to. This is not about turning the other cheek if you run into bullies. But, start all situations and conversations in the nicest possible way. It’s a good way to get people to stick around and build a team of like-minded individuals. Make room for people having bad days and being stressed out by things in their personal lives that they don’t want to talk about. It happens. Criticizing is easy. We can all do it. Take a breath when you feel you are going down that path. Be nice.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Imagination rules the world” Napoleon Bonaparte. Combine that with “You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm” Colette.
Letting your imagination run and approaching life with enthusiasm is a very powerful combination. Dream big and throw everything you’ve got behind making your dreams come true. In my case, I made a big leap across the Atlantic Ocean to pursue my dream of making music. I left all of my family and childhood friends behind, learned a new language, etc. I kept imagining the outcome I wanted and put as much energy and enthusiasm into making my dreams come true. Of course, there are no guarantees and most of the time you will need to readjust your plans. But from the moment you get up until you go back to bed keep thinking “Enthusiasm, enthusiasm, enthusiasm…”
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
That is wonderful. Congratulations. I am not surprised. Your interviews are so fun and instructive.
Actually, I would love to have lunch with Nina Dobrev (@nina). Ms. Dobrev is an amazing actress. She starred in The Vampire Diaries TV series. She is very versatile and precise in the way she portrays characters. I would love to discuss how she prepares for her roles. She also does great work in support of animal causes. I wrote a song about her in my new album RIDE THE WAVE. The song is titled “Tequila Kiss”. It’s a funny, tongue-in-cheek song. I describe how, as a fan, I watch her shows and follow her on Instagram as she goes on with her life, traveling around the world, swimming with sharks, hanging out with her beautiful dog, Mrs. Maverick and her best friend Julianne Hough. I was very impressed with Ms. Dobrev’s work and how she expanded her business and her personal brand to be a very influential personality while remaining true to her craft as an actress.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Everything is on my website. The music, stories, news, links to social networks. It’s all there.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
You are welcome. Thank you for the opportunity. Thank you and continued success to you as well.