Recently nominated for a Grammy award for Best Dance Recording for her track Both of Us, Jayda G’s success has been on a rapid upward trajectory since the release of her debut album on in 2019. For Jayda Guy – DJ, producer, and environmental toxicologist – the beauty of art and creating music rests in being centred within yourself and making it about whatever you want. This is channelled through her carefully curated sets, and after completing her master's degree a few years back, Guy has deployed the knowledge she accumulated to present a message within her music: caring for our planet.
With a reputation for incorporating a range of elements that culminate in a fresh take on house music, her new DJ-Kicks: Jayda G release – as well as her latest single All I Need – does not disappoint, and today we have had the pleasure of finding out what this new mix means to her. In it, Jayda grants us a peek into her own personality, with exclusive tracks mixed to fresh and uplifting rhythms. Although it seems like a lifetime since we were carefree on the sweaty space of the dancefloor, shoulders pressed against shoulders and toes stepping on toes, she still perfectly captures an intimacy through her music. While for now, the sticky dance floors remain a fragment of our imagination, a nostalgia that beats within our memories, soon enough we’ll be back, moving in time to Jayda G’s mixes. We can’t wait.
You completed your master's degree at the same time as steadily building a renowned reputation as an international DJ. That must have been a busy couple of years. How did you manage to prioritise each of these differing feats at once?
I barely got through it, I would definitely not recommend touring internationally as a DJ and finishing your degree at the same time. It was really difficult, and it actually prolonged my master’s degree. I would have finished the degree in maybe 3 years’ time but because I was touring so much it took me about 4 and a bit years to finish the degree.
I don’t know if I really managed to prioritise each of these feats. I was going by the seat of my pants to be honest and just tried my best. I would tour during the weekends and do my degree during the weekdays. The good thing about doing the degree at that point was that as I was doing my thesis, I didn’t have any class work to do so I didn’t have to be anywhere. I just had to be writing and reading and taking notes and all of the ins and outs that come into play when you’re writing your thesis.
When did the passion for producing and creating sounds begin?
I’ve always been really obsessed with music. As a kid I was always into collecting and gathering music and listening to it obsessively. I started teaching myself how to DJ around 2012 and then I started DJing out maybe a year or so after that, give or take a few months.
In terms of production, I guess that I started teaching myself soon after that, I was really helped by DJ Fett Burger at the time. He was really helping me with learning how to produce. I also just watched YouTube videos and kept being keen and interested in those things. I’d say around 2014 I was starting to produce, at that point I had just started my degree. It all starts getting blurry time-wise, but it was definitely around a similar time that I started my degree and started producing.
Congratulations on your recent Grammy nomination for best dance recording! Although the award ultimately went to Kaytranada, you were up against some of the biggest names in the business. How did it feel to be recognised in this way for your tune Both of Us?
I’m still flabbergasted by the whole thing. I never thought in a million years that I would have been nominated for a Grammy at this point in my career. I definitely dreamt of being nominated but I always thought that would happen years down the line. It feels surreal… I'm really honoured to be recognised. I was up against people who I really look up to like Kaytranada – he’s been doing his thing for over 10 years and he’s a fellow Canadian. I really respect his music, it’s pretty cool, I’m not going to lie. I’m still surprised, though.
There is a multitude of different elements to your music, for example you sampled lectures from biologists, and have been described in the past as bridging the gap between gospel and disco. What is the biggest influence for you when curating your musical sets?
I find it surprising that you think I’m bridging the gap between gospel and disco. I get wherever that was coming from but the biggest influence for me when curating my DJ sets is if I like the music or not. It’s really that simple. It doesn’t really go much deeper than that. It has to speak to me, I have to enjoy it and I think that’s something a lot of DJs overthink a lot. They end up wanting to play things that everyone else thinks is cool, or is well-known, but for me the song just has to make me smile and speak to me in some shape or fashion.
In terms of curating from beginning to end, I do like to always start with a warm up and that’s why I start with a lot of disco, I feel like it always gets you in the groove, it gets you moving and feeling in that positive place. Every DJ is always looking at the crowd and assessing where they are in the set, and what’s going to bring them to the next place emotionally and musically. That’s the mark of a good DJ, assessing in the best way so that everyone feels that sense of connectedness when they’re at a DJ set. That is always the goal for me, to play songs that I like and play songs that are going to connect everyone in that moment in time so that people are left with having a beautiful experience.
This combination of science and music is incredibly interesting, and unusual. Music has always been an effective way to get a message across to a large audience and has often been a catalyst for sparking new modes of thinking. While for some, music is a purely hedonistic expression, do you think it is the duty of musicians or creators in more general terms to utilise art as a means of affecting change?
I don’t know if I would use the phrase ‘duty to bring about change.’ I do think there is a duty to use your platform to talk about things that mean something to you. Some artists may not go that heavy into certain subjects but they may still use their platform to talk about subjects that are interesting, meaningful, and important to them.
Art is a beautiful thing. It can be as intense, as light, as thought-provoking or as fun as you want it to be. I think that’s the beauty of art. You can make it what you want. But I think it’s more about using your platform to speak about things that you find are interesting and worth talking about because a lot of people have opinions about what is happening in the world and I think it’s important for your fans to know your opinions. It might inform them on something they didn’t know about before and maybe haven’t thought about it in that way.
I do definitely think that there’s ways of using and engaging your audience in social change or certain issues about the world, politics or the climate that can be done in a beautiful manner. I think it’s just all about what you as an artist are most comfortable with and what avenue that suits well for you.
Could you tell us a bit about your latest release, the DJ Kicks: Jayda G mix?
I've tried to put together a set that people could listen to everywhere. I kind of envisioned that we would still possibly be in lockdown when this came out, so I wanted people to be able to listen to the set in their own homes, in the car, in their headphones, if they're going for a walk, whatever... So ,it's definitely curated in that manner and I definitely used my sets that you would see me playing out as like a template.
For example, I usually start with disco, then kind of go into some headsy house music and then move on to more upbeat, uplifting, positive house, and that's the same you can expect for this DJ-Kicks set. It’s meant to make you feel good, I've chosen songs that give me a feeling of nostalgia. I picked songs that I have a personal memory to or a time and place where I was listening to that song that brings fond memories. Some of them are from when I was just starting to DJ, some are more recent and the same goes for the friends that I reached out to who gave exclusive tracks for this set. They're all people who I care for and have had fun times with and have had some sort of personal relationship with. It's a meaningful set.
What do you hope your listeners will take away from it?
Hopefully, my taste in music speaks to people and makes them feel good when they listen to it. I’m hoping listeners are able to get a bit of a set that they may have gotten when they were out but now they can listen to it in their own home. Going back to the question before; this is a little insight into who I am and musically and looking at my kind of range of taste as well and I just hope that it speaks to people, makes people feel good, makes people want to dance, makes people want to share experiences with people if they can.
You've spoken in the past about holding governments and big businesses accountable rather than the consumer, which is the way forward in creating a more ecologically conscious world. I must say, I absolutely agree with this idea to change not only the mindset of the individual, but also to build an understanding of the impact within your field of work, whatever that field may be. In your opinion, what does this accountability look like? Where must we begin?
I think there are a lot of places we can begin. I think the number one thing is informing yourself, reading the news, reading environmental journals, environmental platforms and just understanding what's going on in the world in terms of looking at the environment and our ecological consciousness. I really do believe knowledge is power. Once you know more you can make more informed decisions when you come up against them.
For example, if you didn't know what a wetland was then all of a sudden you learned what that was, whether it's through a DJ like me or through another platform, maybe you'll look outside and look at the environment and connect to it differently. It's really important that people have some sort of empathetic feeling towards the environment because, in the end, our environment is our home, it's the only home we have. We should be treating it like we do our family members, whether it is a sister, or brother, or mum, or dad. If we actually had that sort of emotional feeling towards our Earth we wouldn't be in this kind of predicament that we're in. That really comes from learning about things and then also voting. It's really important to understand what policies are being put in place and if there are any petitions you can sign for. I know that, for example here in London, I will be definitely taking part in putting in my vote because, even if it's not the Prime Minister or the President or whatever that you’re voting, all those other ways are super important. Everyone in those places have a voice and if you're able to pick someone who aligns with your values then your voice is heard, right?
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You’ve moved around quite frequently over the course of your life, beginning in Canada then Berlin, and now London. Does this changing space translate into the sound you create?
I don't think so. I think my music still sounds the same from when I lived in Canada to when I lived in Berlin to when I'm now living in London. I'm always deriving from my own personal experiences and what influences me. I do think to a certain degree some of your physical environment definitely partakes into your creative process, but overall I don’t think it has. I really do believe I derive from my own values, my own inspirations and the things that interest me to kind of inform my music creatively. I'm a person who has moved around a lot – I've moved a bunch of times in my adult life aside from just Canada, Berlin, and London. I think finding a sense of self and being centred within yourself is number one when you're moving around a lot and I think I bring that to the table when I'm working creatively.
Berlin is known for its prolific DJ and club scene, and you lived there during the time your career really took off. Would you say you are settled in London now or are you thinking about moving on to a different place?
Oh no, I'm not moving anywhere. I needed to move out of Canada in order to tour constantly like I was. Being in Canada it's just really hard to do that, it's at least a 12 hour flight from Vancouver to any major European city, and that has a toll on you when you're doing big tours or 8 to 10 shows a month. I have family in Berlin, so it very much like, “Ok this place is quite cheap to live in, and also have family here so it's easy for me to kind of pick up and go to this place and figure things out there.”
Moving to London was also a similar thing: my whole team lives in London, my record label with Ninja Tune, my manager team, my fashion team... Then I was working with the BBC a lot back in 2019. I've always loved London since I came here when I was a teenager, and I just never thought I could really do the move and kind of afford to live here. But once I started looking into it, I realised I could make it work and I'm so glad for it. I know this is going to be my home for a very long time. I don't think I will be moving anytime soon. It fits well with the type of person I am culturally and creatively. I think this is going to be a long-time home.
This last year has been an immense blow for dance music, with live events coming to a complete halt. Without the space for shared experiences and live listening we’ve had to find different ways of interacting with sound, and the necessity to readapt to the way we consume music has permeated our listening. How has that change impacted your work or even your creativity?
In terms of the pandemic and not doing live events, I'm not touring, which is a big blow for everyone who is a DJ. But, at the same time, I am also a music producer and so that's been a huge help. Frankly, I had a really big year in 2019, I did over one hundred shows, which for me is a lot, and so when the pandemic came like I did need the rest, I did need that time off. I've been taking this time to recharge, then also be able to put my energy and efforts creatively in a way that I haven't really had time for in the last few years. The changes impacted my work and creativity in the sense that I'm able to give more time to my productions and kind of think outside the box and feel what is going to be the best next step for me.
It's been a blessing in disguise, it's definitely been hard and everyone has really struggled with it in different shapes and fashions, so I'm not trying to diminish that. But I think that, overall, I'm a positive person, so I always try and have a more a positive outlook to things in what I can do to make this work for me. Being able to produce a lot has been really good and has actually sparked a lot of ideas and a lot of things to come that I'm excited for.
What do you think the music scene will look like after we return to ‘normal?’ Do you think we will see a permanent impact from the past year or so?
Honestly, I don't know. This whole pandemic is going to be one for the history books, obviously. I think there definitely are going to be lasting impacts, sociologically speaking, in how we manoeuvre ourselves throughout society. There is also such a hunger to be around people so I think there will be some caution, and then initially people will want to go back to normal, whatever normal is at that point in time. We will see an impact in how we look at ourselves, as we've spent so much time alone. It's been me, myself, and I within four walls for a lot of people, and having to maybe look at certain things in their life head on that when you're moving a million miles per minute you're not able to really do. The lasting effects will be how people maybe approach their lives, and how they value certain things in their life. Maybe people don't want to be running around super fast at full speed all the time or maybe people really prioritise that and they really want to go back to that. I think that work life balance is definitely going to come into play as the years go on after this pandemic. It'll be interesting, I'm really curious to see how it all works.
Finally, what are your plans for the future?
To remain healthy and happy, keep creating music and hopefully start DJing after this pandemic is kind of coming to some sort of resolution, whatever that looks like. I want to have a more balanced life between touring, being creative and giving myself the things that I need to be healthy and happy.