New York’s tempo may slow during the hot and sweaty summer, but the pace is only picking up for Jay Stolar. The Brooklyn poly-genre multi-instrumentalist has made a name for himself as a one-man musical enterprise, producing, playing, and songwriting for television and other artists in addition to composing his own music. A contempo brew of soulful pop-rock, his harmony-laden solo debut, More Than We Think, was released last year, unveiling a style and craftsmanship that earned him comparisons to Darryl Hall, Bruno Mars, and… Adele. More recently, he wrote and recorded “Just an Animal,” one of several new songs-turned-music videos inspired by a fortuitous collaboration and a resulting session at Flux Studios, a “brilliant recording studio on 2nd St. and 2nd Ave. in Manhattan.” In the midst of his summer-long residency at Rockwood Music Hall, Jay recently spoke with us about the story behind this hard-hitting R&B banger and life as a New York musician.
What was the inspiration for “Just an Animal?”
Just thinking about how powerful media is in our culture, and how everywhere you go, things are being pushed in our faces. If you’re a woman it’s a certain thing, if you’re a man it’s a certain thing, and people of all ages are just getting these sexual things thrown at them. And we have so many films about infidelity and people cheating on people that they love and all this stuff that’s come up in our society and has been there for so long, that I thought there’s a really powerful, raw emotion in this idea of not knowing how to love, and how I’m just an animal. Is it just who we are or is it a product of our society?
There’s definitely an issue of over-saturation and over-exposure in our culture when it comes to media consumption right now.
Yeah, that’s essentially it. Not just on the sexual side, but even how you can’t walk anywhere without something being thrown in your face, and then you sort of have to question, are your actions being affected by the things being pushed on you?
Especially in New York! How do you like being a musician here?
It’s the best. I can just do a radio interview in the morning and then write a song with a guy who writes top 40 hits in the afternoon, rehearse with my band, go to a studio in Staten Island and produce a track, come back and hang out on my roof with my friends at night in Brooklyn and just chill. You can’t do that in a lot of places. And that’s just one day. It’s a very electric place to live; it’s definitely not easy, especially if you’re first starting here but once you’ve become a part of the community that’s here it’s awesome. Especially in the summer. You gotta come check out my roof.
What’s the view like?
Well we have a bunch of plants up there and a wall that’s covered in seashells and some chairs… We actually just started something called a Brooklyn Cabana Session where an artist will come over and we’ll write a song and hangout in the area I call “the cabana,” and then shoot a live video of one of their songs, one of my songs, and us playing together; then we put it up [online]. We just started that actually like last week.
Are there any Brooklyn artists you’ve been stoked about collaborating with recently?
Just in Brooklyn, there’s a guy, Loren Benjamin, and I’m co-producing his EP right now and he’s fantastic. This girl Grace McLean–she’s done everything from off-Broadway stuff to festivals with her own music and plays at Rockwood as well–she’s really great. And then this band, City of the Sun–they’re one of the first bands I did a video with and they’re amazing, modern, like Gypsy Kings on crack. You should check them out. They actually busk a lot in the city and do really well and are starting to get some attention.
Have you ever busked in the city?
When I was first in college, but I’m not a huge fan of busking with an acoustic guitar and a vocal. I was thinking of working later in the summer on some solo loop pedal stuff, and if I had that then maybe I’d borrow a battery-powered amp and go do something outside for a little bit, but if it’s just acoustic guitar and vocals I feel like you have to push too hard, and then you’re playing the songs in a way they’re not meant to be played and the whole thing is off-center.
The etiquette and art of busking could be a whole other story! But those three different artists you mentioned just reaffirmed why being a New York musician is so cool–it’s so easy to collaborate with people from entirely different realms of the music world.
One hundred percent. Like, we’ll get off this call and I’ll go work on this EDM track I’m writing a top line for, and then go play a show with my songs on an acoustic guitar at Jones Beach for the One Republic show. So it is very cool to get to write a lot of different kinds of music, and then for my own music, how to find that specific color that I can call my own, and still have an influence of all these things that I love, you know?
Catch Jay Stolar performing with his band for the debut and live video release of “Just an Animal,” (and all the other Live at Flux Studios videos), at Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 1) this Thursday, 7/10, at 10pm. Free, 21+.