In one sentence, “Who is Jaylien Wesley?”
Jaylien Wesley is a creative being that was sent to earth to make people feel really good and create awareness and positivity about God.
That was profound. For those unfamiliar with your blessed journey, could you talk about what brought you to your current home of Los Angeles?
So right now, I’m chilling in 60 degree weather, but I’m originally from St. Louis, MO. My Mom and Dad were both church musicians, and they were like the St. Louis version of (gospel legends) BeBe and CeCe Winans. [Laughs] My Dad learned how to play in church by ear. He could hear any song for the first time and five minutes later play the whole thing. My Mom is a formally trained musician. Growing up like that, either me or my sister was bound to catch the music bug. As a child, I learned how to play the clarinet and saxophone, but I joined the marching band in high school because I thought it was cooler. I played the quads during the season and also played sax, but to me music was still a hobby.
At that point, I didn’t think production would be my future. As I got through high school, I used to hang with the city kids that got bussed into our school. Most of my other classmates thought I was “too black” for the white kids but still “too white” for the black kids. When one of my friends said he needed beats, I thought it was my way in with the city kids. I told them I could produce but they didn’t believe me. One day I offered to give a city kid home if he agreed to listen to my beats. He agreed, and after he listened to my beats he was like, “This is hot. How much do you want for this beat?” I was shocked. I must’ve made $500, and thought I could probably make beats for a living if I could find more rappers to buy my beats.
After that, during my senior year I found out I was going to be a dad. I had gotten marching band scholarships and a track scholarship and still wanted to do design, but with a child on the way I didn’t think any of that was going to make money. I saw Timbaland getting $300 – $400,000 a track, and moved to New York City a month after high school to attend the SAE Institute to study audio. Living in St. Louis, I thought I was the best producer around, but after I moved to NYC, I discovered how bad I was. [Laughs] When I heard the music of more seasoned NYC producers, I knew there was a difference. I ended up interning for production company responsible for 50 Cent’s “Disco Inferno” and “Window Shopper.” Being around major players in the business, I dropped out of school, and after a few difficulties, moved back home to St. Louis. Moving back home depressed me and I actually quit music. To support my daughter I worked at McDonald’s and FedEx, and somehow being away from music helped me realize I still loved it.
By now, I was 21 and at a crossroads. I asked myself, “What if I gave it one more try?” I decided to move to Atlanta because it was close to home and ended up moving down there with a friend with just $400 to my name. I had a mattress and a box spring and was just making songs. All I could think about was making songs. I started imitating my favorite songwriters, like songwriting and production group The Clutch, and singer / songwriter Akon. Through a crazy coincidence of me hanging out in a Starbucks near the 12 Hotel in Atlanta, I met a man who asked what I did. He said he kept seeing me in the Starbucks with my laptop, and I told him I produced. I gave him a CD of some of my songs, and he said we’d stay in touch. The next day, my friend said a guy kept calling his phone playing like he was Akon. I ended up calling the number back, and it was actually him!
The following day Akon pulls up in a white Ferrari with another guy. We hit the studio the same night and cut a song, “Beautiful,” that ended up being the last song to make the album. That moment changed my life. I got a publishing deal with Universal and started traveling with Akon and even working on songs on his tour bus. I met a lot of people through him. Eventually though, Atlanta dried up. The city got saturated with a lot more people making music, so I moved to LA in 2011. There, I met the management for Lionel Richie and to help develop Cody Wilson’s tour, who had just gotten to the United States from Australia. In addition to show creation, I was still producing, and one day while I was in the studio, Will I. Am heard some of my records and said holler at me. That led to “Scream and Shout with Britney Spears.” Eventually, a stylist friend connected me with LL Cool J, and I ended up doing eight or nine songs on his album. With LL being a legend, every session would be full of other legends like Brad Paisley and Earth, Wind and Fire.
“BlessAndSee” is a phrase found everywhere from your e-mails to your Instagram posts. What does it mean in describing your journey from an aspiring artist to now getting40,000 plays for your songs on SoundCloud?
Being part of those kinds of great situations showed me I that knew how to make an album from top to bottom and that I could do work with major artists. I started to think about next steps. I wanted to do my own thing. I ran into a friend from St. Louis who had just moved to LA, and we kept in touch. He told me he liked what I had been posting on SoundCloud after the LL album, but I told him I was just messing around. As a director, he offered to shoot videos for my songs. After getting a good response, we became partners in creating a sort of incubator for new artists: BlessAndSee.
We started with this girl Kacy Hill from Arizona. My friend had shot her for American Apparel and said she could sing. She had a notebook that she was always writing words and phrases in, so I helped her develop her songwriting. After teaching her about climaxes and harmonies, we started putting her music out online. The first 24 hours saw a lot of views, and Swizz Beatz reached out on Instagram. We put everything on pause and we went hard. Kanye West wanted to sign her and now she’s doing her thing with G.O.O.D. Music. As I started developing other artists, my Mom asked me when I was going to develop myself as an artist. I told her that it makes me happy to help someone else make their career happen. After a certain point, my business partner Steve said I like your stuff. I had a I long talk with God last September and told myself if I do it I won’t stop and won’t get discouraged. I prayed on it.
What have been your influences in fusing genres for songs like “Hotel Costes?” The slick blend of European club music and R & B gives listeners a more global experience.
At the end of last September we filmed a video for my song “Hotel Costes.” I was touched by my experience attending Paris Fashion Week and the song is a testimony to that. It’s hip-hop and R & B and also house and touches a lot of areas. I wanted to set tone for what people could expect from me. My manager James had a connect to [music magazine] FADER, which led to my song getting coverage there. Also, the great feedback from women went a long way. Every release keeps getting more buzz and the momentum is leading up the project is great.
How has being a proud father of a 10-year-old daughter affected your creative process? Do you approach songwriting differently? If so, are there any subjects you now keep off limits that you didn’t before?
Before being a father, I’m a Christian, so I have to be cautious of what I say. That’s why I say the name of my song “We Fcuk” differently because I didn’t want to say “We F**k.” We all have our own battles with spirituality, but I still know my mission is to be a role model for young guys and bring people to Jesus Christ. I believe if you bless others you will see the results of that.
Being a father affects my music because I don’t want to diss a woman, because I have a girl who will be a woman someday. I grew up praising women, because I don’t talk about it much but my Dad died when I was eight years old. I was raised by a woman and now I’m raising a future woman, and she has a good Mom. I respect women too much. I love women and think they’re goddesses and queens.
As a fashion conscious artist, how did attending Paris Fashion Week inspire you?
Paris Fashion Week inspired me because it was my first time immersed in the fashion culture I admired from afar. Here in the States, I stay in fashion store Zara and have even bought Givenchy I couldn’t afford at the time, but Fashion Week was the first time seeing pieces before they hit stores. I had been to New York Fashion Week before, but Paris Fashion Week is 20 times bigger. Paris made me think about creating universal music. They still listen to Kanye, DJ Mustard and A$AP Ferg there, but I would be at runway shows and events where they played a lot of FKA Twigs, which you don’t see as much in America. It inspired me to want to bridge St. Louis to Paris and continue making a soundtrack for those who like hip-hop but who also have unique artistic tastes. Plus it exposed me to the idea of having a whole new fan base. Being respected by fashion designers is a whole different world. If you’re not already there they won’t ask you to come. I got back home wanting to go extra hard.
A quick look at your sneaker preferences show a preference for Yeezy’s. Describe the effect you feel Kanye has had on fashion through his collaborations with Nike and now Adidas.
Kanye’s had the biggest effect on the game. He’s the prototype, the face and upper echelon of aesthetic. He has a smart design team, is a great designer himself and the only influential rapper I know that could collaborate with Louis Vuitton. As far as footwear, Jordan is his only competitor. From the extra-long shirts to the camo to all his shoes getting picked up by the blogs, I appreciate him opening doors for artists like me.
Speaking of Kanye West, his outspoken nature has sometimes overshadowed his musical genius. How do you feel about artists speaking their mind as they please on social media platforms like Twitter? Is it just self-expression or are there things that should be kept private?
When he and Wiz Khalifa went back and forth this week, I just laughed. But artists should be able to say what they want with the platform. In some situations though, there is a time and place for everything, but you should still honestly address things. It also depends on the person, because some people respond differently. I’m not mad at it though, because I’d rather them be who they really are than for them to act like someone they’re not.
Any last words for what fans should be looking forward to?
Expect more music and visuals coming soon: “Summer’s Over,” “We Fcuk;” seeing me on the road doing shows, and also a short film to go with the project. Just look forward to me being somebody my daughter can proudly tell people about like, “That’s my Dad.” I’m still working with artists, so a lot of fresh things are coming. For me, aesthetic is everything and branding is important, so I want to lead by example and continue to be blessed.
For any reader reading this please Keep God first. If you have a dream, never let the difficulties of life take you off your course. Pray & believe. Bless and See.
For more on Jaylien and BlessAndSee, follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and SoundCloud.