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Slayjal Jain (Sejal Jain), a recent graduate from Westwood High School in Austin, Texas had a chat with us on starting fresh in the music industry. She will be studying business at UT Austin McCombs, but is continuing to produce music and write songs.
1) Tell us your story. How did you get involved in it and why is it your passion?
I have enjoyed dancing since I was very young and I have been part of choir for 6 years. It actually never even occurred to me to attempt songwriting and composition until a scholarship opportunity arose where applicants were encouraged to submit original compositions. I have learned now that more than people, thematic ideas and personal experiences are my biggest source of inspiration in terms of the topic for the lyrics.
I am most productive in short bursts during the witching hours! All I need is access to a piano, my notebook, and special pen. I spend the most time reviewing and making changes. My choral background comes in handy when trying to add layers of harmonies and effects to see what is compatible with the melody. I took music theory in school as a Junior, and it completely changed my perspective on my approach. Since then, I have been revisiting older projects and tweaking them to make more sense. I am passionate about songwriting, because it is my stress reliever, and I can express myself in a way that can be captured and relived many times.
2) What is your music style? How did you develop it? What did you have to work on to perfect it?
I started off with what I would call pop genre, but my upcoming song “Seeing Both Sides” has a bit of rap in it! I was a little skeptical when I was first introduced to the genre, but I have grown quite fond of it, bad words and all ;). So, I wanted to give these “sick beats” a shot just for fun, knowing that even if it didn’t go well, hopefully, it would crack someone up. In the future, I am planning to branch out to other styles instead of sticking with one. Why limit yourself?
3) Although you wish to keep songwriting as a hobby, do you see a career in the music industry in the future? Why or why not?
My current plan is to pursue business at UT Austin McCombs. As you mentioned, I want to continue songwriting as my hobby. However, I have learned that excessive planning doesn’t always work out in the end. If it happens, then that would be super cool and I’ll go with the flow! But I am content with just sharing. There are so many talented artists just within my friend group even, and I look up to them. For me, as long as I just stay involved with music, I will find fulfillment.
4) Who has been your biggest inspiration in your life so far and why?
I am so fortunate to have so much support from my friends and family, who encourage me to take risks and keep making music. But in terms of a constant source of inspiration throughout my life, I greatly admire artists like Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Shakira, Madonna, etc. I could go on and on… I aspire to carry myself with their level of confidence. Observing their performances and listening to their interesting choice of instrumentation leaves me in awe every time. I have learned that for them singing and performing are two very different things, and if done correctly, you can enrapture an audience.
5) If you could meet any singer/songwriter, who would you want to meet and why?
HANDS DOWN, SAVAN KOTECHA!!! He has been a huge inspiration to me knowing that he is also a Westwood alum and of a South Asian background. In past years, he visited a few times, but I was not able to attend for long. He sparked my interest in songwriting by sharing his experiences with the craft on music software. Hearing about the obstacles he overcame was also humbling. He said that the idea was simple, you just create what you wish you could hear on the radio! If I had the opportunity to meet him, I would love to have a workshop with him. I would soak up any advice he would so kindly be willing to share.
6) Tell us one challenge you’ve had to go through as a new songwriter in the industry?
One of the biggest challenges is learning to be patient while navigating the musical software. Due to COVID, I had to relearn a lot because the program I was using was not accessible at home. It was frustrating at first, because I had the tune, lyrics, and beat. But over time, I have come to feel more comfortable with the features, and that has motivated me to experiment with extra effects to “mix” the track. Slowly, the vision comes to life.
7) As a teen, a common problem has been caring too much about what others think about their work. How do you suggest fighting against this notion/stigma?
When I finished the first song, I was a little scared to release it. That would mean putting myself out there and being vulnerable. I am so grateful to have such supportive friends that encouraged me to just go ahead and share the song. I felt a rush of adrenaline once the deed was done and was really shocked to see the positive response. Of course, there was some backlash and there were times when I doubted my abilities. But I have grown so much in the process and I hope to keep learning.
My biggest pieces of advice are the following: develop thicker skin. This was not easy for me, but I took a step back and thought to myself: “some people don’t like my song… that’s ok. I don’t either!” What I take pride in is the amount of effort and time that I put in. It is easy to use words and judge, but can everyone put themselves in your shoes? Next, if you’re feeling down, just remember the reasons that you write music in the first place, and that it is for you. It doesn’t hurt to get feedback from strangers because you can count on their honesty and a new perspective. Lastly, set attainable goals for yourself. For example, if my music can make 10 people happy, then it has served its purpose. 🙂
8) What kind of issues do you see in the media/music industry regarding South Asian representation? How do you feel about it considering you are a rising South Asian singer/songwriter?
In general, I have heard that the music industry is tough, and there is immense pressure regarding appearances. This is disheartening because you would think that auditory and visual expectations would be separate. One example of South Asian representation that has been around forever but more brought up recently is the focus on fair-skinned women being more beautiful.
One would think that this toxic mindset would have changed by now, but sometimes the skin color gets in the way of a truly talented artist getting the recognition they deserve due to the visual and auditory expectations being fused as I mentioned before. I don’t think I just speak for myself when I say that being born to Indian parents but being brought up in America has led me to experience some confusion about my identity. There is the desire to fit in but I try to also stay in touch with my roots and be open to other cultures. In the future, I hope that my music is influenced by what I am exposed to.
9) Any last comments? Advice for aspiring artists like you? Thoughts on the current COVID situation?
Thank you for reaching out! I really enjoyed talking to you and sharing a little bit of the behind-the-scenes aspects. Your questions made me reflect deeply on what I need to work on to grow as a musician and as a person. To fellow music lovers, I would say to just go for it. It’s hard to deal with the uncertainty and easy to get caught up in the details. But you will never know how it will turn out until you try. A lot of us are in the same boat due to the COVID situation, but when you find a way to continue doing what you love, you enable yourself to be happier. Quarantine becomes more bearable. 🙂
First Single: Not the One by Slayjal Jain
About the next single: “Seeing Both Sides”, and it is homemade. Due to COVID, I no longer had access to the studio space, so everything was recorded in my closet. With some on my hands, I delved deep into the new music software and experimented with new instruments. I also decided to branch out in terms of style and add in subtle layers. The thematic idea behind this song is yearning for some freedom and independence, and frustration at the inevitable change in plans due to COVID circumstances.
For updates on Slayjal Jain and her musical journey, visit Urban Asian.
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