Jay Stolar’s music is soul and R&B wrapped up in pop friendly boxes for lovers of ballads that pull you down into deep pools drowning you in cascading lyrics and luscious beats. His new album “More Than We Think” includes single “Like You Do” which has already been featured on the hit TV show “90210.” Jay Stolar’s cover of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (watch below) shows how the artist can take on a number one hit and master it like child’s play. When you get deep within his debut album the song “Holding You All Through The Night” will bring you to your knees the way only Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay” can do playing on repeat.
Jay and I spoke on the phone October 9, 2013 the day after his album release. He shared with me his writing process, shedding his past, how music keeps him together, his musical influences, thoughts on the state of music today and his favorite “mind blowing food.”
Nicole: I am loving your new album. Congratulations on the release!
Jay: Thank you so much.
Nicole: Does it feel like birthing a child when you put out a new album out into the world?
Jay: Yeah, I would say so. It’s been a pretty long gestation period.
Nicole: How long has this music been brewing inside of you?
Jay: It was a six month period of just only writing music, and then right from there I continued to write, but I had I think it was like a twenty-eight week [residency] of playing this at a place called Rockwood Music Hall in New York City.
Nicole: Yes, that is a fantastic venue.
Jay: We played for twenty-eight weeks straight and at the same time I was writing songs. I wrote about fifty songs during that time period and we got to try them out every weekend. By the time we got to recording the album, we had already tested out most of the material live for months.
Jay Stolar Plays at The Mint in LA November 22, 2013
Nicole: Jay, I can’t help but notice there is a lot of love and pain, a little bit of heartache and growth on this album. Since I know you write your own songs, I want to know what was going on for you when you were pulling the lyrics together for this?
Jay: A lot of this album came from the place that I was in essentially taking that risk to go out on my own and even write these songs and create this album under my own name because I had been in a band [Julius C] before that. I think that whole period of shedding my past and having the courage to move forward and try something new and take that leap, was a big part of the pain part of just leaving everything behind and trying something new.
Nicole: One of your line says, “I’m caught in the middle of who I was and who I am and there’s no comfort where I stand.” That is out of your song, “Leading Me Down.” Can you tell me who were you and who you are now?
Jay: Who I was, okay, so for me, now I feel like I’m the real me. I don’t try to be anything that I’m not and I just want to be honest and genuine and authentic and as real as possible at all times. I think in the past, when I was younger and especially when I was in my previous band, there were times where I would try to be something because I thought it was who I needed to be. …I think it also has to do with the music too, coming from being in that band and now being myself and that song was about a pretty tumultuous relationship that I had awhile back. It also had to do with that, thinking at that time I was changing and it was clear that the person I was with I should not be with them, but really, really hard to get out of that.
Nicole: There’s another song that I really love on your album, “Wondering If.” In that song your lyrics say, “When I look into a mirror, I see a younger man and it used to be me.” If you could jump into that mirror and tell that younger man one thing, what would it be?
Jay: Don’t worry so much. That’s an interesting story with that song. I wrote that with a guy named Adam Levy who actually lives in Los Angeles. He toured with Norah Jones for a while. He was the guitar player on the first Norah Jones album. When we got together that day, I had just met with a couple of my friends who were writing and making a movie. These guys had a concept where it was this couple that lives by a fountain of youth and they’ve lived there for hundreds of years and they’ve been young for hundreds of years because they lived with this fountain of youth. One day, the woman said to the man like, “I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to live forever anymore and I want to have children. I want to just live a normal life,” and he said, “Well, I can’t do that. I don’t want to grow old. I don’t want to die.” She just leaves and now he’s alone at the fountain of youth and he realizes that he’s made a horrible mistake and that he really does want to be able to find this woman.
The song was this period where he leaves the fountain of youth and goes to find her and he’s on that period where he’s searching for her, he can’t find her anywhere and he’s kind of like talking to this idea of her that he has in her head and essentially saying, “Are you going to forgive me for what I’ve done. Can I even be forgiven?” I look in the mirror and I see this guy that’s eighteen years old, but really I’m a really old spirit. There’s some literal truth to those lines. After we wrote the song because it was initially going to be for this movie, I looked at the lyrics and I said, “You know I think that there’s a lot more truth in this than just being about the movie. Would you mind if I put this on my album?” We were both into it.
Nicole: It’s a beautiful song.
Jay: Fun little fact.
Nicole: Fun facts with Jay Stolar, I love it. I think the sound of your album is really well-rounded. Your voice in the song, “Like You Do,” I sort of hear Marvin Gaye, then I move in to, “Holding You All Through The Night,” and I get to this point where–not to say that your voice sounds like Otis Redding–but that less is more with the music and you take on that a cappella moment in the song. Your album has that Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke vein and yet you throw in some folk and you definitely have some radio-ready pop songs on there. Can you tell me who you grew up listening to and how you feel like your sound is shaped by other musicians?
Jay: When I was younger, like really young like one, two, three, four, the only music that I remember was music like Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind, & Fire, Stevie Wonder and that whole world of funk, soul, pop songs. That was just the music that I listened to like in my parent’s car and when I was home and I was really, really into that. As I got older, some of the artists that I like were a little more on the songwriter side, Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, I had a really deep Radiohead period, which I think just as a songwriter for thinking about form and lyrics and just craft as a whole, Thom Yorke is a brilliant songwriter.
Listening to [Paul Simon’s] Graceland and listening to some of his other works has just changed my whole way of thinking about the power of the lyric. I would say that dichotomy and dynamic between old soul music and funk and pop music with these just powerful, powerful songwriters and their lyrics and just the voice and an acoustic guitar. It was really what I wanted to capture with his album and what I want to continue to capture with my next one and just keep figuring out this world of sound, I guess, folk, gospel, soul and pop. The Otis Redding thing, my relationship with Otis Redding actually came pretty late in life. It was only about three or four years ago where I started listening obsessively to Otis Redding and watching videos of him, just watching this powerhouse of a man do his thing.
Nicole: I would say so. The direction of music today is really sort of spawning so many different genres. In fact, I was looking this morning at a sampling. The top five albums on the sales charts literally today are Korn, and in this order, Korn, Miley Cyrus, Cage the Elephant, Panic! At The Disco and Pusha T. I don’t think you could pick five more different albums to be top five in the sales charts. It makes me wonder when I talk to an artist like you, who reaches so far back for influence and reference and drawing from that old school music, what your thoughts are on the current state of what music is on the charts right now.
Jay: I think it is great that it is so diverse and that if you look at those charts in another week or two, they are going to be even more diverse. I think it is wonderful that a guy like Ed Sheeran just sold out Madison Square Garden for three nights in the fall. At the same time, you have artists like Fun. breaking out with really interesting top forty pop rock music that sounds like nothing else. Then you will have Sarah Bareilles with her emotional, “Be Who You Want To Be,” pop single that everybody loves that has a really intense message. Then you will have stuff like, “Wrecking Ball,” and Pusha T. There is so much diversity right now in music that I think it is wonderful. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I definitely have my guilty pleasures. I think, “Roar” is an unbelievable song. I am super in to it. I am a big believer in Justin Timberlake as a whole. I like a lot of the new music he’s putting out.
Nicole: I want to ask you also, the lyrics in, “Fall Apart” you sing, “Will we ever find a silence to believe in? A reason not to fall apart.” What I love about that lyric is it lets me ask you, what holds Jay Stolar together?
Jay: What holds me together? I would say the people that I love and that I have in my life and then music really. There is a reason that crazy people like me do what we do. It is not an easy game and even writing songs and producing songs can be incredibly painful and emotional, but it keeps me together. It is what I wanted to do from the moment I can remember wanting something. Yeah, people and music. I like food a lot too. I guess that is probably pretty essential in my business.
Nicole: Do you have a favorite food?
Jay: My favorite foods are not some of the healthiest foods. I try not to eat them too much because they tend to make me sick. I am a huge believer in macaroni and cheese.
Nicole: Is that because that is all you know how to make?
Jay: No, no, no, no! It’s just unbelievable, it’s mind blowing food that I really, really like and I can cook different things. (laughs)
WE ASKED JAY STOLAR
If you could choose one song title to describe your personality, what would it be?
Jay: “I Gotta Feeling”
What is the last album you purchased or downloaded?
Jay: I was listening to the new Haim [Days Are Gone] album yesterday and then today I checked out the new Amos Lee album [Mountains of Sorrow] which has been great. I am a big fan of Dawes as well. The Dawes album [Stories Don’t End] might actually be the last one that I bought.
If you could go back in time and see one, just one band or artist play live, who would it be?
Jay: Michael Jackson 1987 Bad Tour. I have thought about that one a lot. I just really wish I could have been there because I think that Michael continued to grow, but that album was his peak in my opinion. He wrote eighty percent of the songs on the record. The tour was crazy. In fact, another interesting fact is, the kick drum and the toms and the basic hardware for the drum set that we use to track drums on, seven of the ten songs on the album was from that tour.
Jay Stolar sings in mental health clinics and performs for patients. You can contact Jay Stolar when he is in your area to request him to come perform at a mental health clinic.
ON THE WEB
Music review and interview by Nicole Hanratty
Posted November 9, 2013