Courtesy of Will Jay
Lots of people say things like "follow your dreams!" but it's hard to know how exactly to go about transforming your dreams into your reality. TWIST asked singer Will Jay to share his story about his journey in the music industry and his best tips for breaking into the business – and the words he shared in his new essay below hold true for any passion you want to pursue!
I'm Will Jay, a singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, California. For 4 years, I was in IM5, a boy band known for our mashups and original songs as well as the viral video "Disney Dudez." Since then, I competed on The Voice of China, making the Top 20. I recently released the music video for my song "Gentleman", which is the first single off my EP coming out on May 16th.
From my experience, here are the 5 things you need to know if you want to be in music.
Today’s a great day to start that YouTube channel you’ve always wanted! Whether it’s covers of songs you like or original material, you can reach so many people around the world & you don’t even have to leave your house.
That being said, any opportunity to perform in front of people is a good one. Community theatre, choir, and open mic nights are all a great way to hone your skills onstage. If you’re dealing with stage fright, trust that that will go away with time; those nerves will turn into excitement! It’s important to develop what I call an performer’s “itch”; it’s an itch to perform at any given moment when there’s a stage & people to watch you. You never know when opportunity will present itself!
It’s very important to surround yourself with like-minded people who share the same goals as you & can motivate you to be the best you can possibly be. The Internet, as vast as it can be, is a great place to find these kinds of people. If you come across another up-and-coming singer or songwriter that you respect, reach out to them! Seeking out performance opportunities is a great way to meet these kinds of people, whether it’s fellow artists, songwriters, producers, or even potential managers and music business executives.
The music industry is all about who you know; for this reason, it’s important to network as much as you can & get your name out there. You might very well meet someone who is going to change your life tomorrow.
To me, writing songs is everything. It’s not easy at first, as you hold yourself to a certain standard & the songs you write just aren’t cutting it. However, if you keep writing & learn to love it, your songs will be quite something. One way to improve is to simply listen to great music! Taking the truly great songs and analyzing what makes them great, whether it’s the emotion of the lyrics, the rise & fall of the melody, or the rhythm and music behind the song will help you with your own writing tremendously. Start having an ear for the ideas you can turn into songs, whether it’s a word or two you hear in conversation with your friends or even a passing thought about how you feel that day (inspiration is all around!). Improving also comes through collaboration; you can always learn something from writing with someone else and seeing how they approach songwriting. If you like writing lyrics, find someone who prefers melody and work together; a lot of the greatest songs ever written come from similar collaborations.
Getting to know yourself as an artist is the most time-consuming; that being said, it’s also the most important. When you walk into a meeting, you want to leave no room for interpretation. From personal experience, I know having someone else’s hand in your artistry is not where you want to be. Some of the questions you need to ask yourself are: What message do you want to come across in your music? Who do you sound like? What’s your image/ clothes you like to wear? How do you want to present & brand yourself online? What do you stand for as an artist? Are you a solo artist or do you want to have a band? Do you like performing with an instrument or having the freedom to move around? These questions will all be answered with time & experience, both onstage and behind the scenes.
Those are two words I know no one wants to hear. Believe me, I’m still in the same boat about wanting things to move faster and feeling like I’m not progressing. However, instead of worrying about the time that’s lost, make good use of the time you have. All of the above requires hard work and dedication; there’s no getting around writing countless songs, performing countless times, and spending countless hours developing your artistry.
Everything will happen as it should; you will meet the right person at the right time when you’ve had the experience & time to back it up. I’ve found that having a balance of impatience and patience is key: impatience in the sense that you don’t get complacent & actually get things done, but patient in the sense that eventually everything will fall into place.
Written by Will Jay