If you haven’t heard the name Jai’Len Josey, we are sure you’ll be hearing it everywhere soon. This songwriter, producer, and all around entertainer is back with her new double-single ‘Conversations from A Payphone’, a small yet impactful glimpse into her new era of music. The insane vocals and storytelling found in songs “Mixed Signals” and “Playground” remind us of why we became fans, and why we will be fans for life. Since we last spoke to her, Jai’Len has also released her first EP under Def Jam titled ‘Southern Delicacy’ and was named M&M’s and Rock the Bells Artist On The Rise, both of which we were able to touch on with her. The vision she has for her music never ceases to impress us, especially now knowing how much effort, thought, and love she continues to put into it after this interview . We hope you enjoy reading about it as much as we love speaking to her about it. We talked to Jai’Len about the stories behind “Conversations from A Payphone”, working with Harold Lilly and D’Mile, what to expect from her debut album, and much more.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Tell me what’s been up since our last interview. I’ve been seeing you do little things like shows here and there, but I really want to talk about you being named M&M’s and Rock the Bells Artist On The Rise. I saw your face was on the M&M’s, this is like some next level stuff. So tell me how that’s been.
Jai’Len Josey: That was really fun. It happened over the past weekend. Me, Taryn, and my mom – we hiked up to Nashville, got there the day of and they were really sweet to us. It was a private event so it was for the kids, which was cool. In my one year of going to college, we had nothing like that. For me, it was kind of like a social experiment to see where the heads of the young kids is at. It’s crazy because I’m 24, but there’s definitely a difference in the headspace and the music headspace that these kids are in. It’s always cool to perform for a new demographic so I know what to and what to not do. They seem to really enjoy the stuff that I was giving so I’m happy that I’m not far off from where I’m supposed to be. It was really cool that my face was on an M&M,I met Cordaé and the stage was really cool too. It felt like I was on a Revolt Stage the way it was built. You could tell that M&M and Rock the Bells put real effort into it. It was really cool. I can send you one with my face on it *laughs*.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You know I would love that. I want to really dive into the music, but we’re going to touch on ‘Southern Delicacy’ a little bit later too. We didn’t get to talk about it since it was just about to be released when we first spoke. So, tell me about ‘Conversations From a Payphone’.
Jai’Len Josey: Honestly to talk about ‘Conversations From a Payphone’, we should get ‘Southern Delicacy’ out the way. That’s how fun it is. I want to tell you the timeline.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I’m good with that, lets do it.
Jai’Len Josey: I wasn’t able to talk with you about Southern Delicacy because when we interviewed, it hadn’t come out yet. The only thing that probably came out was “Good Soup”. Southern Delicacy is basically the story of this girl who’s just lost her grandfather. It’s about these experiences that come together to make this girl, to make this Southern Delicacy. All of these experiences that I’ve experienced, I put them down and I wrote the songs.
For “Pay For My Drink”, me and my friends went out to this bar. We have this thing where Taryn makes the opportunity, I get us in the room, our friend Tiana makes sure that we’re not in an unsafe environment and Tierra does the hook lines and sinks the bait or whatever. This time we weren’t really doing that. It just happened by chance that we were at the bar and this guy just wanted to get us shots, shots and shots. It kept coming, so I made him pay for my drink. It’s a longer story and a crazier story that’s attached to that, but I’ll save that for a personal time for you and me later.
For “Good Soup”… it’s like a double entendre. When my mom would come home sick every time around winter, it was almost like school break for me to get sick for a day and to take care of her. So, I would be leaning over in her face to intentionally get sick, and I would get sick. The next day she would make me chicken noodle soup. I turned that into a thing where it’s like I’m [caring for someone]. I like to take care of who I’m in a relationship with. I was basically saying, “remember when you was pretending to be sick and your mama would make you some chicken noodle soup?, I can do that for you and I have something else that will make you feel better too”. That’s “Good Soup”
“Man in Your Bed”: I’ve dibbled and dabbled on the other side of the spectrum. My first kiss was a girl and I’ve done my fair share of swinging my bat both ways. That’s basically a story about, me and an old best friend. I explain “Man in Your Bed” kind of too plainly, so if they really want to know about my personal life, they should just go listen to “Man in Your Bed”.
“Willie’s Interlude”, I wrote before my grandfather passed. I just knew it was coming at some point. It is one of the craziest songs that I’ve ever had to experience because last year was really detrimental for me. Losing him was like losing a big part of my life. He would tell me these stories, we would eat walnuts, mandarins, and this, that, and the third. We’d be in my grandparents’ den downstairs, and he would just tell me these war stories… he told me about different places that they would go and how they would have fun. I interpreted that and put it into a song and that’s what “Willie’s Interlude” is. It’s just basically Vietnam veterans after fighting, how they would have fun after. They would go to a hole in the wall and would dance till like the sun came up or until it’s time to go back to fight. I wasn’t able to play it for him while he was alive, but my grandmother played it at his funeral. So that’s all that matters for me.
“Behave” came about by chance. I was going through a horrible patch of my relationship and I just needed to lay it out plainly. Baheem Devaughn (Jabbar Stevens) is the guy who executive produced my whole EP and his connections. He knows D’ Mile, I guess they best friends or whatever. One of the craziest string orchestrations that I’ve ever experienced or ever heard. I’m very blessed for Bahi. I love him so much for making that connection.
“Take me Higher” is a crazy song. It’s about seeing a fine person that I wasn’t able to ever get their number because I saw them while I was driving. We were just making eye contact through traffic. This is a real, literally the whole EP is experiences that come together for me to make me every song or it’s somebody else’s experience that they told me. “Take me Higher” and “Willie’s Interlude” are the most subjective songs of how the air connects, musically and in the storyline. If we go back to my first EP, a lot of the songs are up tempo besides the mids. I don’t really have a ballad besides “Behave”. I want to push R&B so bad because for African Americans who aspire to do R&B it’s so easy to be caught in this square box that they end up putting us in. If we go to country or we go to pop there’s so many ways that you can branch off and to create your own path, but for R&B, it’s like you are black, stay with the status quo.
“Southern Delicacy” is about letting someone know what they have when they don’t realize what they have. They have a delicacy, almost like fine china that you just got sitting up in your antique box, Your grandma’s real good silverware. “Southern Delicacy” is specifically about me feeling like you really got a gem here. Use it, or you might lose it. In the real life case, they lost it.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You basically touched on everything I wanted to. What was working with Harold Lilly and D’Mile like? These are both some legendary people. How was that experience?
Jai’Len Josey: Harold is … he’s our modern day librarian. He’s a modern day librarian because he has so much knowledge of things that you wouldn’t even think that he has knowledge of. When he’s really invested in someone, he wants to know your whole story. He wants to know what happened in Genesis and what’s going to happen at the end. He wants to know “you”, and it makes the process all the more better because it’s hard to get to know someone. Say if you have a set time to be in a studio with someone and you have to get your project out, you’re not gonna know their whole story. He wants to get to know the things that you really want to know, the things that you’re not supposed to say, so he can know exactly who to put you with and how to get the project across. He makes me feel as if he’s the world’s librarian because we’re all books, we all have stories. He knows what’s going to happen on our page 89 and he definitely predicts what’s going to happen on page 100. He makes that so prevalent to me in the way that he writes and the way that he comes across with how articulate he is. He makes me want to be a better communicator. I feel like he has Virgo or Capricorn in his chart *laughs*. I don’t know what his chart is, but he’s really smart. I personally didn’t work with D’Mile. I was only able to get on the phone with him once or twice. All I had to do was relay what I wanted. That’s how cool he is. I want my music to come across as emotional and as passionate as classical music does. That’s what D’Mile brought to “Behave”, and to the whole EP. He’s that smart. I didn’t have to say much, you know what I mean? I’m very thankful for Maurice, who did the score and brought the orchestra (I think it’s the Detroit Symphony). He brought everybody together and really did it. I’m very thankful for him, and I want to use him on my next album. Working with them was almost like working with Beyoncé and Michael Jackson, just working with geniuses. Like working with brain matter, you know, just black Einsteins. That’s as best as I can put it, musicians who are also scientists.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Shout out to Bah for sure then because the production and the whole way it tied together is just amazing. Let’s dive into the new stuff and what’s coming up next. Why did you title this ‘Conversations from a Payphone’?
Jai’Len Josey: I envision a payphone because it’s so old. I feel like it is a way of time travel, and I use it as a way to time travel through ‘Illustrations’, ‘Southern Delicacy’, and what’s to come. I’m going to use it as a way to make people know that “Mixed Signals” and “Playground” are what I should have said to people that I did not say. It’s almost like the conversation that you have in your shower. The payphone teleports me to the place where I can actually say it to them one time only before I can move into the next chapter. I’ll tell you the story about “Playground”. So, basically this happened between me and my ex. I won’t say the severity of it, but basically I was dumped. My father was getting his knee fixed or something, and within that I was still dating my ex but we had no communication. It was rocky, things were already happening within our relationship. He just didn’t want to talk to me and he broke up with me. I was begging and pleading. I’m calling him like “please, my father’s going through this thing. I just need somebody to talk to.” I was not able to get him on the phone at all. So, I go to Twitter and somebody had been flirting with me for a little bit. I was like, you know, f*** it. I’m just about to tell you what’s going on with my life. I told him the issue with me and my ex from top to bottom. I felt really desperate and then ghosted the guy, which was my fault, so much chaos as a Scorpio. Literally a day later, my ex was like “let’s try to work it out”. I’m just like, why are you playing with my emotions? This is probably like the third time he had broken up with me while we were in the relationship. I come over to his apartment and we go out to eat. It seems like we’re back on good terms and then late in the midnight hour, he went through my phone and saw the messages that I sent to that guy. He woke me up at 5 a.m. and put me out. On the drive home, I was like, I’m going to write a song about it. I sat in my bed and wrote “Playground”. I wrote and produced Playground from top to bottom.
YouKnowIGotSoul: That’s crazy.
Jai’Len Josey: Very crazy. I feel like as a Scorpio, I just go through so many chaotic things. I can’t catch a break. So, “Playground” is definitely that. “Mixed Signals” is very recent. This guy that I really like, I really think he’s the cutest thing ever. At first, I didn’t know if he liked me or not, but I also can’t fault him for being wishy washy because I was still trying to get over my ex at the time. “Mixed Signals” is basically me telling the guy I don’t know if you really mess with me or not, but I really need to know now. That’s what mixed signals was and the payphone is basically the connector of what “Playground” is at the end. I’m going to have a whole video on this so it’s clear, but there’s going to be a payphone and then on the other line it’s going to be like, “this is exactly what I should have said”. “Mixed Signals” is exactly what the girl in “Playground” should have said to the guy. So I hope that didn’t make sense.
YouKnowIGotSoul: This is why I love your stuff because there’s always something deeper. Is there a new era that’s coming then? Is this connected?
Jai’Len Josey: Yes, the payphone is connected. Before I get to the big thing, which is my album, I’m going to put out four songs. The four pack will be where I explain to people that I write and produce. It’ll basically be broken down, so it won’t be the full production. It’ll be like how I create the song before I send it off to a producer. I want to show people that I create the music before I send it off to a producer. I really want people to know that I have a huge hand in my music before it goes off. I’m basically trying to get off some songs that have nothing to do with the new era… older songs that I should have put on ‘Southern Delicacy’ but they just didn’t make it. That might be an entity in itself. I can find a way to connect it, which I always do, but the storyline really connects through the album. I feel like I can confide in you, so basically the album is what happens after the payphone. All of the things that’s after this girl’s grandfather passes away. So after Willie’s interlude, the things that she does to grieve. She grieves with, with men, her vices, drinking, with music. All of these things are distractions for her, she’s still obviously grieving. The album is not about grief its about how we combat and how we get through the things that we’re unaware that we’re doing.I haven’t came up with the name yet, but it’s definitely about self worth, finding peace. It has a song called “Find Peace”. The album is more sort of like genre bending R&B. And I really can’t wait to show that. A lot of these experiences I’ve had that are being put into the story are fun, but then they’re painful at the same time. My thing in life is like, my highs are so high, but when I’m low, I’m low. I’m a complete water sign. I’m waves. I am completely a happy person and I can’t stay sad for long, which is why I really equate to the waves of the sea, regardless of if I’m a water sign or not. That’s how my music is. It’s like I want you to feel high as if we are going to be dancing, but I’m talking about something that’s really personal.
You won’t feel like you’re drowning with my music, but you’ll really have to read it. I really want people to be able to read the lyrics so they know exactly where I was and what space that I was in with this new music. I urge people to read my lyrics, like how Apple music has the thing where we can read it while it’s going. I urge them to do that. If you ever wanted to know my life, just read the lyrics. I cannot wait for this new music to come out. It’s just a big relief for me. Every time I put something out, it’s like I can finally bury that. I’m mostly excited for you to listen to it because I’m sure our next interview you’ll be like, oh my gosh, you told me this and this and the third. It’s almost like brushing it off my shoulder now I can move on to the next thing. That’s what happens when I get writer’s block, and I know God is sitting me down so that I can just go experience life. I won’t touch my computer until I have an experience. I’ve been sitting on this one song, so I’m waiting for the right moment to open up my computer. Usually if I open up my computer, the song comes down like that, real quick.
YouKnowIGotSoul: That’s awesome. I love to hear that. I love to see that. I can’t wait to speak about the new music, but something else I can’t wait for is next week to see your show in Brooklyn. Tell me how you feel just about the tour right now. Are you excited? Is this your first headline tour for yourself?
Jai’Len Josey: It is. This is my first headlining tour and I’m nervous like anybody would be, but live is where I thrive. Aside from sitting at home and creating my music, live music is where I thrive. I can finally show people that I’m not no studio singer. I’m really excited to come back to New York. I just want to see the scene. I lived there for a year, and it was totally different. When we were on the [Ari Lennox] tour, New York was different. Everything has changed. I kind of want to be like that. You know what I mean? I think everybody wants to kind of be like the New York aesthetic. I can’t wait to see you. I can’t wait to be on. I can’t wait to just do it. Not necessarily get it over with, but to say that I’ve done it. It’s one thing to open up for somebody, but then it’s a whole different thing where it’s yourself and it’s your work. This is it. This is the start. As cliche as it sounds, but *starts singing* this is the start of something new. It feels so right to be here with you. That’s a High School Musical *laughs* I just really hope that people can experience the tours before the music and the stuff gets bigger. I just want people to get on the bandwagon so that by the time that happens, nobody’s like, “dang, I wish I was there from the jump” because I feel like it’s going to be crazy.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Anything else you want to mention about “Mixed Signals” or “Playground”?
Jai’Len Josey : Yes, “Mixed Signals” has my first feature ever. His name is Matt McGhee. He’s from DC and he slays the house down. He’s not a new rapper, but he’s a rapper where I think more people should hear him because he’s so articulate and you can hear the lyrics. You can understand exactly what he’s talking about and what he gives. I love him. He’s my play cousin, but we got a lot in common, a lot of like family things. So yeah, that’s really all I wanted to say… also “Mixed Signals” and “Playground” comes out tonight!