R&b/pop artist Jay Aquarious has beefed up his discography, expanded his team, and linked up with collaborators more intently this past year. A well-known performer in Buffalo’s live-show circuit since 2014, Jay’s progression as a singer and artist has taken on many unique challenges, but his current ascension as a developed talent is the result of hard work meeting opportunity. In the midst of the dreary, quarantined year of 2020, Jay chose to push his career into hyper-drive and ramp up his online presence and content on social media. Rolling out his sophmore effort, Naked this past August, a handful of visuals, and most recently a special edition of his project, Jay Aquarious is leveling up.
“These ten years I’ve been developing a lot more than releasing. This year you will see so much of me you may get sick of me,” laughs Jay Aquarious.
Growing a devoted fan base with his larger than life persona and firm interactions with some of the city’s up and comers, Jay Aquarious’s decade long music pursuit is gaining headway, but it wasn’t always easy. The confident, expressive entertainer most people know him as today, is a culmination of many experiences and career pivots he’s made during his humble growth as an artist. With songwriting at the core of his artistry, and his most natural output, Jay’s early pursuance towards music was a process of finding his sound.
Intent on being a rapper at first, Jay took heavy inspiration from TLC, particularly rapper Left Eye. Despite playing instruments and being involved in chorus throughout his childhood, the future singer’s interest for rap and music blossomed during his teenage years when he became obsessed with the 90’s girl group.
“I loved No Scrubs,'” Jay mentioned. “‘No Scrubs’ is what got my attention…they were very animated. Even personality wise, the way they dress, their videos, their actions – they’re very animated and I’m very attracted to animation.”
Deeply connecting to the imagery, spirituality and storytelling in TLC’s music, Jay emulated that in his earliest iterations. Rapping mostly with occasional singing, the entertainer was involved in a few talent shows and recitals before making his first major move as an artist. With an innate ability for writing songs, Jay started recording music at 18 – an experience he mentions he’ll never forget.
“I remember my first time in the studio…I had 4 hours there and I was not prepared at all. I was just not prepared. I did not know what I was getting myself into, what I was supposed to do. I was so not ready. I wasn’t even vocally trained yet. I had no vocal training experience. That was my first time even hearing myself on the microphone. I was so premature,” Jay exclaimed.
With little experience, Jay attempted to record a rap cover of Alicia Keys’s “Unthinkable,” not realizing people were listening to his session in the storefront barbershop of the recording studio.
“They were all roasting me,” Jay mentioned. “And I said ‘you know what I’ma switch gears and be a singer.'”
Shifting himself towards R&B music, Jay dabbled in a few more recording sessions before realizing he needed to develop as a vocalist. Briefly attending Finger Lakes Community College for musical recording and technology, Jay received some vocal training before dropping out to fully pursue music.
Recording more songs and releasing 2 singles titled “Destiny” and “Unpredictable” after coming back to Buffalo, Jay kept experimenting with his sound and training his voice. Connecting with a close friend who was a vocal coach and introduced him to gospel music assisted Jay in becoming a better vocalist. Also connecting to members of Alt-Hip-Hop/ EDM group Hooked on Casiophonics in the earliest phases of his artist development, Jay eventually started performing with the 3-piece and got his first taste as a full time performer. The group, made up of RockNutz, Pamazon and Miggie J, booked Jay for an event and added him into the group after his impressive performance at a birthday party.
Recording at Cold Narly Generation Studio while still involved with the band, Jay created a demo, music with Hooked On Casiophonics and his first EP titled One which he released in 2017. Performing consistently with the music group and gaining significant attention with his own music, Jay built his confidence up and learned how to operate as a singular entertainer.
“People knew the group and knew me in the group but they wanted to see some of the things we do on our own, ” Jay mentioned. “They heard some stuff from [RockNutz], they seen Pam do shows by herself, but they didn’t see too much of me on my own, so I decided to release my EP ‘One’…and you know, it got a good reception.”
Developing stronger into his own talent, the rising singer continued to align closer with his show name. Calling himself Jay Aquarious as a nod to his astrology sign, his nickname (Jay is short for Jordan, his real name), and his accidental misspelling of his astrology sign name ( Aquarious instead of Aquarius), Jay started to push his character further, especially when he performs.
“He’s (Jay Aquarious persona) very sassy, very sensual and very spiritual. I had to learn those things about myself and what I want to showcase to people through this persona,” Jay explained.
Taking deeper inspirations from not only Left Eye, but from powerful entertainers like Janet Jackson and Beyonce, Jay has experimented with a couple different personas that he plans to embrace in the future of his career. For right now, they play a role in helping him distinguish and discover the different parts of himself.
Referencing Janet Jackson’s Velvet Rope album as a major influence in helping him find sexual and spiritual liberation, Jay was so moved by one of the songs on Velvet Rope that he quit a side job he had. Hoping his music will push people to change and elevate like he did, Jay also recognizes how identity and experience can make it hard for people to have breakthroughs.
“I’m an artist that happens to be black, I’m an artist that happens to be LGBT. I will not act like I don’t acknowledge those things because, hello! It’s apart of me! So, I’m always gonna present that and always stand by it and just be here,” Jay explained.
Aware of the stigmas people may have against him as a black, gay man, Jay Aquarious music serves as therapy for many people, including himself. His sophmore project’s single “Try And Figure Me Out,” was a song that served as both an ode to Wayne Wonder’s “No Letting Go,” Roy Wood’s “Gwan Big Up Urself,” and Jay’s raw pursuit in finding happiness.
“There’s times when I’ll be anxious and…I’ll play the song and it makes me feel so fucking good, and that’s the music I wanna make,” Jay exclaimed.
In more ways than one, Jay Aquarious’s brand of music has been a soundtrack to the different phases of his development. “Try And Figure Me Out” was the first of a handful of songs that made up the burgeoning artist’s second EP, Naked, which was a project that tackled uncomfortable dreams he was having.
“’Naked’ was inspired by a moment when I was feeling really, really insecure. Feeling shy and hindered and not having as much confidence still…I was having a lot of dreams that were reflecting that. A lot of them were me just being naked in random places. I didn’t’ understand what that meant, like my clothes would just disappear as I’m working or something. Nothing sexual. It would just happen,” Jay recalled.
Originally titling his sophomore effort, We Make This, Jay changed the whole concept of the EP to combat the insecurities he was feeling at the time. Shifting the sound and narrative more personally explains the intensity of Naked. Whether it’s the steamy, trap-flavored “Rogue” into the pulsating, horn-assisted “Naked Intro,” rag-time inspired, alt-r&b single “Lips” or the vocal-led, minimalism of “Burns,” Jay’s 7-track project is both raw and sensual – an interesting display of his duality.
Also considering this project came out during the Covid pandemic deepens the message. Battling love, lust, distance and acceptance, Jay Aquarious’s Naked – whether intentionally or unintentionally – plays into the many woes of the current and ongoing societal fracture many people have experienced.
Along with Naked, the rising singer has dropped quite a few remixes and alternative version’s of arguably his most popular singles, “Try And Figure Me Out” and “Lips.” With both tracks having 2 additional remixes, Jay has been able to keep excitement and interaction going on between his music and his listeners specifically during quarantine. More particularly, Jay’s collaborations with up and coming rappers on his remixes for “Lips” makes him a unique musical force. Touching on hyper-masculinity, sexuality and mental health in his music, which are typically taboo topics in the Hip-Hop community, Jay has been able to break the proverbial barriers between different genres and lifestyles as it relates to music.
“When it comes to collaborations, I just try to go based off of who I believe blends best on a song. I’m like ‘okay I can hear this person on a song,” Jay explains.
Featuring “Lips (Tag Of Team Remix)” with rappers, Wave Williams and Ethan The Clever (which he is setting to drop a visual for) and “Lips (The Trojan Remix)” with rapper C-Saint (who is featured in his visual for the song), Jay’s collaborations are unique and represents the supportive nature of the younger, music community in Buffalo.
Continuously studying TLC, from the concepts of his music videos to his additional remixes, the rising singer has kept his emulations going with a special edition of Naked that dropped last month exclusively on SoundCloud. Also having 7-tracks, the special edition of Naked is moody and filled with more ballads. Specifically tracks 3 titled “Fill My Heart” and track 7 titled “…While it’s Hot” are deeply transparent and find Jay even more romantic than usual.
Working with multiple producers and beat makers, Jay Aquarious takes sounds from everywhere to build his eclectic r&b music. Currently working on 2 secret collaborative projects (one of them with consistent collaborator Wave Williams) and a holiday song for the upcoming Christmas season, Jay has countless songs in the vault and will be dropping new singles this Summer. Confident about his future and the unifying power of his music, Jay Aquarious continues to reach new levels. When he’ll take off is only a matter of time.
Be sure to tune into Jay Aquarious’s YouTube for acoustic performances of his music from the Naked album!
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