Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist AJAY encompasses the best parts of modern production, along with the smooth, soul-drenched ingredients that defined the sound of Philadelphia for decades.
Equally comfortable with the nuances of Alternative R&B, Neo-Soul, Hip Hop, or Bedroom Pop, AJAY’s production and musical prowess blend seamlessly with his vulnerable, yet confident falsetto voice.
Recently, the Philly-based artist released “Phantoms,” a catchy, funky pop tune.
“‘Phantoms’ was self-produced, written and recorded in my bedroom two years ago,” AJAY said.
“It was a rough time in my life where I had to leave Philadelphia for a year and work a day job in my hometown, Harrisburg. The lack of interaction with people I identified with (young artists and creatives) caused a morbid sense of isolation. I was starting to notice how adults can get caught up in their repetitive, everyday lives and often let their social interactions be influenced by alcohol and happy hours.
“Musically, the song references the guitar tones and harmony of ‘70s soul/fusion, while the bouncy programmed drums and clouds of synthy textures shout out future electro R&B. The song is two years old to me, but will ironically relate to the mass angst of our 2020 lockdowns.”
PW recently caught up with AJAY to talk about his new music, the pandemic and more.
When did you discover your interest in music? Who were some of your early influences?
When I was really young (around 4-5 years old), my mom would always listen to BB King, Eric Clapton and a lot of classic rock in the car. I feel like I didn’t initially know I had a love for music until my brother taught me some simple songs on guitar at age 10. A lot of the very early influences of being a child before ever touching an instrument came rushing back, and I realized the vintage blues guitar sound is what I wanted to study. Throughout my early teens, I was super fascinated with Jimi Hendrix and older blues musicians before my interests shifted toward R&B and Hip-Hop in high school.
In an interview earlier this year with WXPN’s The Key, you mentioned The Roots were “life-changing” for you. How so?
I was getting really into ‘90s Hip-Hop in the eighth and ninth grades…Artists like Biggie and Tribe Called Quest made me fall in love with the genre, but I saw no place for myself in it being that at the time I was a guitar player. The Roots were the first time I saw Hip-Hop being performed by live musicians. Around 10th grade, I started to write rap verses and sing hooks over chord progressions I came up with on guitar.
What’s the Philly music scene like these days? Why have you chosen to settle here?
Being from Harrisburg, Philadelphia was the closest big city to reside in and find a real music scene after high school. The Philly music scene quickly introduced me to a lot of amazing musicians who are known as side men to some very famous, renowned artists. Among the generations of renowned musicians, I also found a community of younger, self-produced artists like myself who all encourage each other to keep experimenting and evolving our sounds. These days, it’s hard to collaborate, but time to reflect on myself as an artist and just a person has been a sense of value in a crazy time.
How have the pandemic and all of the closures impacted your career? How have you spent your downtime?
I lost all my gigs, as did most other musicians in the city. I’ve been trying to spend the time writing and finishing as much future material as possible. I go through waves of being ultra creative and just letting myself not be obsessed about productivity. There’s really all the time in the word, which is a little insane, but strangely comforting at times.
What’s ahead for you after the pandemic ends? Live performances? More work in the studio?
I’m already focused on more work in the studio and that will continue to be after the pandemic. I’m actually about to spend a few months in New Orleans at my friend Andrew’s spot, Neutral Sound Studio, learning how to engineer outside of my simple home studio setup. It’s what I feel like I really need right now – to advance the way I go about producing my own music – but also a good way to direct my skill set away from just live performances. I’d love to use these skills to do more work as a producer/engineer than as a bass player/guitarist for other artists. With that being said, it’s been so long since live shows that I can’t wait to perform again, whether it be performing my own music or not.
What are the best ways for your fans to keep up with you?
For social media, I would say following @ajay.music on Instagram. There, you can find links to my music on any platform you use including Spotify and Apple Music. All my music can be found for free, but if you want to directly support financially, you can use the link to my Bandcamp on Instagram to buy music/donate to my work.